Name two things you have learned in the last three weeks. 1. I’ve learned the most effective way to run with a suitcase. Unfortunately, there isn’t a graceful or good way to do it. Just keep dragging it along and don’t worry about how stupid or clumsy you look. Trust me, it’s an awkward item to run with. 2. Making a seven minute layover train switch is easy but a 70 minute layover is nearly impossible. Why is it that when we have only seven minutes, we can unload from one train, move across to another gate, get all luggage and people on board, organize the luggage, and sit down, but when we have over an hour, a decent number of us have to sprint to even make it on the train. Of all the unexpected aspects of CR before the trip, travel remained at the top of the mysteries. I had no idea what the European travel system looked like or how we would be navigating the cities. Now that I am sitting on my 10 hour flight headed back to Nebraska and have time to reflect, I realize that several of the most memorable moments happened during transit.
The trains, especially when they took us from one big city to another, gave us an opportunity to reflect and rest. For the past three weeks, I would consider our time on trains to be the only down time available. While we still generally sat next to people we didn’t have the closest relationships with, most people utilized the time to think about what had been happening, journal, blog, listen to music, or sleep (I definitely took a majority of the time on trains to sleep). Even when I intended on writing during the travel, I often found myself nodding off. My body just couldn’t pass up the chance to briefly shut down during the 3 weeks of constant exhilaration that surrounded the rest of the experience.
When the trains between cities allowed me to sleep, the trains within cities, like Berlin and Munich, definitely challenged my directional understanding and ability to navigate a city. Considering these were the first two destinations, I am beyond grateful I had a group of stellar individuals to help lead me through the confusion of the U-Bahn and S-Bahn. Looking back, the amount of time it took us to assimilate and feel comfortable using the intracity transportation was significantly faster than I expected. I actually find that to be one of the biggest surprises of the trip. Moving forward, I feel confident I could figure out how to navigate almost any city in Europe and I know I could figure it out if I had a couple other CR members with me.
No matter what type of transportation, however, the most impactful and memorable aspect was the crafting of genuine relationships during the travels. Whether the conversations occurred during a walk through a park, on the night train, walking along the river during a night adventure, or on a plaza overlooking the city, inseparable relationships formed were formed during travel. I’m not sure why some of the best conversations happened then, but they repeatedly did. Even though the trains helped the group move from one place to another, gave us an opportunity to reflect, and let us watch the environment change on longer rides, it was the people who made the travel special. The conversations, the growth, the care, the love, and the relationships cultivated made my time traveling some of the sweetest of them all.