As I continue to travel, the modes of transportation I have used are increasing, too. Rome by train; private charter bus to Pompeii and Napoli; Capri and Ischia by ferry. Of course, a plane was quite necessary to arrive in Italy. There is a big – I’m talking mammoth, colossal even – difference between an orderly international flight and the travel experience I had this past weekend. That’s right, I did it, I went to visit my Roanoke friend Evelyn, by my lonesome self…with Ryan Air.
If you are not familiar with this flight company, consider yourself blessed. For cheap college students like me, Ryan Air offers some bargain flight prices – often as lows as €15. With your inconceivably cheap ticket, you are also guaranteed a bumpy ride and no space. Tacked on fees, delayed flights, and head injuries are likely.
I’m being a little hard. After avoiding all of the rent a car, get a tour guide, reserve your seat financial traps online, I managed to buy a reasonable ticket a few weeks ago. I double-checked the airport bus pickup, woke up on time, all packed and ready to go. Good so far. I get to the bus stop, and then it hits me – I don’t have a ticket! This is a seriously elementary travel mistake, but I had become so accustomed to buying my train tickets at the station that it hadn’t crossed my mind. Because the primary ticket office was closed at 7 am, a ten-minute period of internal panic set-in.
I can’t even get myself out of Perugia! And I’m planning on going to Brussels?!
By the time I returned to the bus stop, a few more people had arrived, and they assured me that I bought the ticket on the bus. Whew.
Honestly, traveling by myself intimidated me more than I anticipated. If I messed it up, I was screwed, and that almost happened before I got out of Perugia. I learned that I am much more outgoing and confident with strangers when I have a group to return to. At the airport and on the plane, I kept to myself, and it was lonely. Traveling solo no longer has the appeal it once did.
Italians haven’t quite overcome the anarchy of previous government systems. Today, this is most evident in their lack of lines. They swarm. All sense of civility and manners apparates just like wizards in Harry Potter. This behavior is further complicated by Ryan Air’s free seating policy. There is no consecutive, orderly calling of section one followed by section two. No, no. The airport gate was a giant mob, and my inner Italian came out and jostled by way as far forward (which was still very back) as I could.
Sitting in those seats with bright yellow plastic backs, we took off and flew and landed, and I am alive. The fact that I must announce the latter part of that sentence is reason enough to suspect this is no normal flying experience. I was resting peacefully until BAH-BOOM-BOOM-SCHREEEEECH! That landing was so unsettling. There was applause. And music that sounded like it could be from Barney celebrating our arrival. “Ryan Air is proud to have a 90% prompt arrival rate. We look forward to your next flight with us.”
I’ll be praying in advance for that.
I guess I didn’t pray hard enough, though. After a lovely weekend in the perfect college city (it can only boast beer, chocolate, and fries [and waffles]) with Evelyn, my trip back was horrendous. An anticipated five hours of travel turned into thirteen hours of…well, it wasn’t really travel. We weren’t moving very often. Pisa had bad weather, so we turned around and had a rocky landing in Genoa. We wait. Ryan Air announced it would provide a charter bus to Pisa. While other air companies board their detoured passengers swiftly, we walk to the parking lot and I meet some American students. We wait two hours. Finally! A bus! Three hours cramped next to an old woman who smells like mothballs. I am exhausted and frustrated. By the time I arrive in Pisa, I’m just worried about making it to Perugia.
Things began looking up, though. Not really because of the transportation, but, once again, because of the people. I spoke to a woman who helped me get to the right train track. Later on, when the train stalled because of technical difficulties, it didn’t matter so much, because an old Sicilian named Valentina and I were an hour into a conversation in Ita-lish. My head was hurting from speaking so much, but I could also sense myself improving. Before we arrived in Florence, she said if I already missed the last train to Perugia, I could stay in her hotel that night. I love the Italians. Fortunately, there was one last train, and she waited with me to make sure I had everything straight.
One two-hour train ride and a €10 cab later, at a quarter ‘til midnight, I finally made it home. Yes, that’s the word I want . Charleston is my forever home, but after all the travel this semester and the urban, standoffish feeling of Brussels, the quaint love of the town is an abode. I am settling in here in a way I never have at Roanoke. Sunday’s extended travel was not fun, but it was a first. I grew up just a wee bit more, I had yet another “first” in Italy, and I realized just how much I love Perugia. Your flight attendant may recite an automated Thank you for flying, but for these, Ryan Air, I must thank you.