Our travel idol and fantasy paramour, Anthony Bourdain, happened to make a stop in our tiny Pennsylvania hometown last weekend for his tour: No Reservations: An Evening with Anthony Bourdain. His final words of wisdom were what really struck a chord with us: “Don’t over-plan your adventures. Some of the best memories will come from situations that were unplanned or experiences that have gone awry”…or something to that effect.
It got the three of us talking about our most memorable adventures together. We noticed a common thread to each ridiculous memory and inside joke that never gets old – they all come from the result of poor planning or misguided decisions:
It was a late night in Rome, there were three girls, one pub crawl, no maps and a taxi driver who had no idea what we were talking about. We didn’t know exactly where our hostel was but knew it was close to the train station, so after some botched attempts at Italian we decided that that was the best drop-off location. The walk from the hostel to the station had been so straightforward, how bad could the walk home be?
We had participated in our first organized pub crawl earlier that night, which happened to be the same night Italy was playing the USA in the World Cup. All bars were impossibly crowded, so we spent a good part of the night in the street with the crowd that spilled out of the bar, standing around a small fuzzy tube set TV plugged into an extension cord. Don’t ever get in between a European and one of those TVs, especially during the World Cup. It was a fun night though, filled with gelato, goofy photos, new friends and bonding moments… and also several shots. Finally, we found ourselves ready to go home to the hostel, hopped in a cab and the rest is history.
Back at the train station:
L: I think we go right here [down the dark and dirty-looking alley].
K: Um, I’m pretty sure it’s a left [toward the better lit road].
L: I’m nearly positive we came from that [dirty, dark and scary] direction…
KB: Weeeeee! Tequila shots and Italian men!
K: KB, what do you think?
KB: Less go to tha lefff! [said with the stubborn confidence obtained only by imbibing too many tequila shots]
As always with our trip, we went with the rule of the majority. It seemed the safe decision, especially because K and L were not the most reliable with directions, but KB was always spot-on. When sober, that is. That night was a different story (more about our adventures in Rome on the Buca Book).
Halfway around the train station, we encountered not the road to our hostel but what appeared to be a sleeping colony of homeless men. It took a minute for the realization that we had stumbled upon 15-20 rough-looking vagabonds camped out behind the station to sink in. One exchanged look of shared panic was all we needed to sober up. The best option was to continue on our path, passing the men and praying they did not stir. We linked arms and walked as quickly and quietly as we could.
To our horror, a deep voice bellowed out “Principessa!” as we tried to sneak past unnoticed. The slumbering hobos began to stir.
“Mar-ry me!” said another, reaching out with a bottle in hand.
K (in a frantic whisper): Ah!! What do we do?
Flight, not fight, kicked in and we hightailed it around them and around the entire train station, back to where we started. Looking behind us, we realized none of the men had followed. But we weren’t giving them time to think about it. We prayed the dark and scary alley would take us to where we needed to be.
There may have been singing from the heavens when we saw the yellow illuminated sign of our home, sweet hostel that night. Once safely inside, our breaths caught, we found ourselves unable to control our peals of laughter.
It is the uncomfortable, unfamiliar situations that make for the best laugh-til-you-cry stories upon safe return home. So throw caution, but not common sense (as exhibited by reckless example above) to the wind and enjoy yourself (while avoiding alleys at night, even if they are well-lit). Forget the guided group tours and following your itinerary to the T. Venture off the beaten path, leave the heavy guidebook in the hostel/ hotel, drink in the experience and create your own memories.
We like to laugh, a lot, so we would love to hear your most memorable misadventures.
Though I (maybe luckily) don’t have a misadventure to report about it, I have a similar memory of running around the train station in Rome looking for my friend, Alli, who was going to meet me there after my Ryan Air flight from Portugal. It was…at least one or two in the morning, and I distinctly remember the people around the station late at night and how I was so very relieved when Alli finally found me! Oh, Rome!
There is something about those Italian train stations… like the one in Turin where I was waiting for a friend to pick me up around midnight and my phone ran out of minutes. I have never given the evil eye quite as much as that evening or felt as confident in my ability to stare down anyone with a killer glance.