This past Monday goes down in my book as one of the most frustrating travel days of my life, topped only by the The Great Switzerland Train Mix-up of 2002, and the time a lady thew up on me on the flight home from Istanbul.
This latest particular travel adventure started at 8am, when I woke, showered, and gathered my things for the yoga workshop I'd be giving. I ate a leisurely breakfast, sipped tea, and went through my list to be sure I had everything.
I was dropped off at the train station, and took a deep breath. Considering the last solo train trip I did ended in disaster (I was 18, an au pair en route to meet my family, and accidentally got off in Basel instead of Geneva with no way to contact them), it was only natural that I was nervous. Training it isn't like flying. With a flight, you get on the plane, close your eyes, wake up and you're at your destination. With a train (especially in a foreign country), you need to pay attention to the announcements and be sure you don't miss your stop.
I climbed up the stairs into the train, and was pumped to see the large leather seats and the huge leg room in the near-empty car. Then I realized I had entered first class. The car I was supposed to be in was at the very end of the train. So I hauled myself, my yoga mat, and all my equipment for the workshop through something like ten cars until I got to the entrance of my car.
A man in a plaid shirt was blocking the walkway.
"Sorry," he said, "But you can't go in there. We are filming a movie."
"But I paid for a reserved seat, and I've been assigned a seat in this car- what should I do?"
"Sorry, i don't know."
Huge sigh. I turned around, found an empty seat and settled in. I pulled out my headphones, and pressed play, looking through my notes for the day's workshop.
To my right, the large window let in the most delicious golden sunlight, warming my whole body- a welcomed warmth, as I have been dealing with a couple joint issues due to the cold. Behind the sunlight, vibrant rolling fields passed by, dotted with white houses with textured caramel rooftops. No trees for miles, just these picturesque paved roads bordering the pastures.
It's not often I get a chance to just sit and appreciate the scenery, and I smiled to myself, taking it all in, feeling immense gratitude for the life I have, and the traveling I get to do. I got lost in those thoughts, watching the land go by, listening to the most beautiful songs.
Four hours later, the train stopped. I had one more stop to go before my destination. The man seated across from me waved to get my attention. I took out my earbud.
"I heard you say you were going to Ingolstadt?" his kind blue eyes sparkled.
"Yes," I smiled.
"The announcement they just made said they are sorry but they will not be stopping in Ingolstadt as scheduled, so you have to get off the train and find a new one."
"What?" I asked, beginning to panic.
"I'm sorry, I don't know why...."
I thanked the man as I gathered my things and hurried off the train along with a number of other disgruntled passengers. After talking to an employee, I found out the next available train would get me in town an hour late. We had a room reserved at the gym but the reservation time couldn't be changed, and I would be too late getting in. I called my contact person, and we realized we had no choice but to cancel the workshop.
In yoga, we talk about being an observer of your body. Instead of getting sucked into whatever thoughts are going on, we're encouraged to take a step back and notice the thoughts/feelings and let them go. Whether it's happiness, annoyance, whatever- you acknowledge them and let them go.
Let me tell you how hard that was for me.
I walked to the platform for my train back home, and noted the sign said it would be delayed about 40 minutes. It was freezing cold, my joints ached, it was 3:30pm and I hadn't eaten since breakfast. I stood there in the middle of the track, with people bustling around me, and it took everything I had not to break down in tears.
Forty-five minutes later, the train arrived, and I heaved myself and my bags onto the train and sank into an empty seat. By now it was dark, and I could only make out the outline of the bare trees as we flew by. I tried to find that happy place I was in a few hours prior. I squinted, trying to make out more of the beautiful landscape I knew was there, trying to find that sense of gratitude, but I couldn't help but feel like my entire day had been wasted. At the next stop, I was asked to move my seat, and there weren't any open ones. So I stood for a bit, rocking back and forth slightly with the train as it balanced itself along the tracks.
It was nearly 8:30pm by the time I got home. I dropped my things with a thud at the door, and rushed to my bed. Tears of exhaustion and frustration lined my eyes and spilled over. And then reality set in. Yes, I had spent a total of seven hours on the train and gone no where. But the train wasn't derailed (I had a friend tell me today how she was on a train that had derailed when she was 13!!!!), the scheduling issue wasn't my fault, I didn't get hurt or lost...it could have been much worse. And I still got to see the beautiful German countryside. So, there's that.
PS- If you ever find yourself on a train passing the most beautiful countryside, here are some songs that will make the moment that much better.PPS- More songs here.