I’ve had this post saved in my drafts for about two months now, and I’m revisiting it at a time when I personally need to take my own advice. Hopefully, other travelers out there can benefit from this as well.
No matter how many alarms you set or how many times you check that boarding pass, it’s inevitable that your plans, at some point, will fall through. This happened to me multiple times this semester, but ultimately, some of my favorite moments happened as the result of previous failures.
My weekend in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, sticks out as the most significant (and fun) change of plans that has occurred thus far. Originally, I had planned on visiting Krakow, Poland that weekend. I was going to take a night bus to get there. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that it was “May Day” that weekend, so the busses were completely booked.
At first, I pouted. I was upset that I couldn’t visit the city I wanted to go to, and I thought that meant I’d have to stay home all weekend. Instead, I remembered that I had yet to visit Romania, and began looking for train routes from the Budapest station. After a 12-hour journey, I found myself lugging my backpack up the stairs into the Transylvania Hostel at 2 am, with a plan to see all the most recommended spots in the area.
The next morning, I woke up with an invitation to a “May Day” barbecue in the hostel’s garden. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go or not, after all, TripAdvisor didn’t mention anything about barbecues. I went anyway, with the intention of staying for an hour and then leaving to go sightsee. I ended up staying for several hours and ditching the sights, and this will forever be one of my favorite memories from my time abroad.
About 15 travelers came together for cheap beer, mici (a Romanian type of meat) and grilled vegetables. Sitting around the table were people from New Zealand, Sweden, Romania, Norway, Australia, Denmark and France, just to name a few. We chatted for hours about just about everything. When the coals finally went cold and we had eaten all the food, a hostel staff member announced that we should all go to a concert in a nearby park. Again, this wasn’t part of my original plan, but it turned out to be a phenomenal night. I even got a new favorite band (Moonlight Breakfast) out of it!
Ultimately, I extended my stay in Romania to spend more time socializing and barbecuing, and I made some truly awesome friends. This experience taught me a very important lesson: traveling isn’t always about seeing important historical sights, it’s about meeting people, sharing stories, laughs and ideas—and maybe having a cheeky beer or two in the process.