A year ago today, my aunt and I set out to explore Venice. Venice, Italy.
Despite the fact that my aunt and I are full and half-blooded Italians, respectively, neither of us speaks the language or culture of the country. Yet we allowed our rarely-indulged adventurous impulses to launch us on the train from Florence to Venice. Set out on a blind adventure to a foreign city because, come on, how many opportunities come to take a day trip like that?
First, please understand that I am a planner. Not a very good one, but one with a near-compulsive need for some sort of structure that includes a plan that will at least promise a safe return to… safety. Keep that in mind.
We spent the day absorbing the incredible sights, sounds, and history of the ancient floating city. As twilight began to settle across the water, I felt the delightful weight of adventure on my heart—and feet. It was time to settle back into a box car that would return us to our safe little apartment in Florence.
As we stepped back into the Venice Termina, we were replaying some of our finer moments of the day, laughing at several of our faux pas. Pulling out my small notebook to check the number and departure time of our train, I stopped mid-laughter. And froze. Our train to “Firenze” was listed on the terminal screen as “Roma Termina.”
Wait, our train is heading to Rome??
Where’s the train to Florence?
Where’s the train that will take me back to the one place in Italy that I have some semblance of established comfort? The place I know I can go from A to B without blatantly offending someone or being intercepted by gypsies?
Immediately, I began blaming myself. I was the one who booked these tickets. Clearly, I made a mistake. I chose the wrong train; wrote the numbers wrong; got the wrong time. My anxious questions and eyes were met—and matched—by my aunt’s as I failed to communicate our dilemma with a sense of composed serenity. It was late and already dark. We were exhausted. The departure time was nearing.
(Some of you more experienced travelers may already be laughing—like we can now.)
If we were entirely confident in our train expertise, we might have thought it through and realized that the trains do, in fact, stop at stations along the way to their final destination.
But clearly, we were not yet experts.
Tired as I was, my body defaulted to my auto-pilot “swan mode” (inwardly frantic, outwardly a swan—up a creek!). I walked to one of the computer ticket stations but as we had opted for ticket-less entry, it didn’t offer much help. Quickening our step, we proceeded to the ticket counter. I couldn’t help but think how the woman must have thought us just another couple crazy Americans. I slid my notebook on the counter toward her and leaned in to urgently direct my voice through the hole in the glass:
“This train—it goes to Florence?”
“Sí, it stops in Firenze.”
Only then did it occur to me. Of course it goes through Florence—on the way to Rome. Recalling our trip down—which ended in Venice, so it was thus labeled—we had made several stops where people got on and off.
In case you were wondering, this is how trains work. Makes sense, huh?
In the end, nothing was hurt but my own pride. Lesson learned. But I was exhausted from learning so much in one day.
This just happens to be one of my more exciting examples (seeing as anything that happens in Italy naturally holds more intrigue), but stuff like this happens to me all the time.
Can I get an amen?
No one likes to be told they’re wrong—obviously. But how else do we learn?
Most often, I do learn something from these experiences. That is, as long as I don’t let my pride get in the way. When I choose to sit, sulk, and dwell on such silly misunderstandings, I take nothing away but a fresh batch of bitterness. Most often that bitterness is directed at myself; sometimes at other people.
In recently studying Proverbs with some pretty amazing women, this is a theme that keeps coming up. In order to reach wisdom, discipline and correction must be embraced. “Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.” -Proverbs 10:17
I doubt God was referring specifically to train navigation for the simple-minded when he prompted Solomon to pen this Proverb but it works. I can now travel via trains in Italy without eliciting a heart attack (score!). But if I had allowed my pride to win and ignore my own misunderstanding (read: shortcoming), we might still be stranded in Venice today. (Not that there aren’t worse outcomes…)
As in all things, I think God used it to bring me that much closer to wisdom; and an understanding that any adventure worth taking involves risks. And any risks are liable to result in life lessons.
Take them with humility, friends and I promise, you will come to a better understanding of wisdom; thus bringing yourself closer to Home.