Plan Ahead

If you’re like me and some of my friends, we tend to just wing it when we travel together.  We don’t make definitive plans and tend to just choose an area in which to spend a day.

This can be good and bad.  For one, it’s very freeing not to make plans, and it allows for much more flexibility.  You can explore freely and discover interesting, new places and things.

However, if you, for example, suddenly decide to do something, it can be difficult if you haven’t made much preparation for it and don’t give yourself much flexibility in terms of time.

When I was 18, I visited my friend Jenna in Oregon.  She was going to school in Salem, and her family had moved to Portland.  We had plans with her new friend Olivia, who she had met at school.  Olivia was from Portland and was going to show us around the city.

We did a lot that day, which is a story for another post, but one thing I will never forget is when we were on the train at night and trying to figure out where to get off.

I don’t honestly remember what we were doing – whether we were going somewhere else or were returning to the station so we could take the bus back to Jenna’s family’s home – but the three of us were discussing which stop was ours.

We arrived at a stop.  The doors opened, and we were trying to figure out if this was the one we wanted.

Suddenly Olivia and I realized that yes, we needed to get off, but the doors were about to close.  So we jumped up and ran and barely made it through before they closed behind us.  We were out of breath but proud of ourselves for getting off at the right place.

Until we turned around.

We met the eyes of Jenna, who was standing on the other side of the door.  She was still on the train.  And before we could do or even think anything, the train took off.

Olivia and I traded shocked looks before we started laughing hysterically.  I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed so hard.  We couldn’t believe what just happened, and we were halfway between panicked and entertained.

Naturally we called her and discussed what to do.  She got off at the next station, switched sides, and boarded the train coming back toward us.  She wasn’t exactly thrilled with us, and I wouldn’t be either, especially since she and I were not locals and were not familiar with where we were.

If we had planned better, we would have known which stop was ours on time rather than two seconds before the doors closed.  We were also young (18 and 19 years old), and if the next station had been farther away or if our cell phone batteries had been dead, we would have been in a bad position.

Ever since this happened, I have become obsessed with printing out directions, carrying maps of subway and train routes, and ensuring that I know exactly where I’m going when I travel.

If there’s anything I learned from this experience, it’s this:

Always plan ahead and do not separate from your group.

And it’s also good to laugh at yourself sometimes.

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