Loud noises consisting of people yelling in all different languages filled the Italian train station as I took cover from the excruciating heat. I had nothing but my ratty purse, well spent from traveling, and a backpack for my weekend trip to Barcelona, Spain. Written down on a piece of binder paper were walking directions from my Florence apartment to the train station, and from the train station in Bologna to the airport where I would meet up with a group of other traveling American students.
I was standing by myself with my backpack and purse held tight. I leaned up against the wall so that the zippers couldn’t be accessed without knocking me over. I was nervous and very concerned for my safety. Never in my life have I wandered off in a foreign country by myself, and I’m very sure it showed all over my face.
Then, from behind my overgrown side bangs, and out from the corner of my eye, I saw a young man approach me. He stood directly in my blind spot, and I started to quietly panic.
“Hello,” the man said in a bit of an accent. He seemed as though he could have been a black Parisian, but his almost perfect English accent with intermitted accents of other countries threw me off.
He looked up at the train station’s departure and arrival board where I was staring. “Where are you heading?”
“I’m taking the train heading toward Milan,” I said nervously. Of course, soon after, I thought to myself, now he’s going to jump on the train I’m getting on and murder me in front of all the passengers, because I was thinking in such a logical manner.
“Oh cool,” said the man. “Do you know if that train stops in [insert some other Italian city here]?”
“I don’t think so, but I’m not for sure.”
It was then that we exchanged names and spoke for a bit. I started to ease up a little about the whole rampant serial train murderer idea, and smiled when he complimented me. I looked up at the departure board again to check the time and whether or not I should end the conversation and get going.
He smiled at me again, “Hey, can I get your phone number?”
“Actually, I’m not using my phone while I’m traveling. I don’t have International data.”
“Oh, so do you have a Facebook?”
“Um,” I thought back to the last few guys on my trip that had other intentions in mind and decided to not give my Facebook out.
“I would really like to get to know you,” the man said with a smile. “You know, one of the best parts about traveling is meeting knew people and communicating.”
I left the station that day wondering if I totally missed out on one of those “once-in-a-lifetime” romantic run-ins with a potential partner. I knew if it hadn’t have been the first time that I was ever traveling anywhere completely on my own, and if I hadn’t have met the few sleazy guys who had more of a fondness toward my appearance than my personality, that the situation would have been totally different.
However, it was too late. Our trains left the station in different directions and I was left with just a “what if.” I looked out of the window and decided to make a promise to myself. I would try never to pass up an opportunity to meet new people, try new things and travel to new places, and so far I have mostly kept that promise.