“When it comes to adventures,” I wrote in a 2013 blog post, “the only thing you can really count on is the unexpected. You go on an ordinary high school field trip and get bitten by an irradiated spider, giving you special powers. You’re running for shelter from a tornado, and the next thing you know, your house is dropping on a witch. You’re starting a typical day with the family, and flesh-eating zombies overrun the planet. We’ve all been there.” The post then went on to explain why we had to postpone that year’s big railway trip, the one that eventually took us over 6000 miles through 13 countries and became my memoir Adventures of a Railway Nomad: How Our Journeys Guide Us Home.
And now — what are the odds? — it’s happened again.
Over the past few days, as Rich and I were happily ambling around Seville shopping for toothpaste and a few other final sundries to pack for our Balkans-to-Baltics railway journey, a series of worrying emails began to arrive. Rich and I read them with increasing concern and soon it became clear that family matters required our presence in California — not immediately, but soon, and for a while. The train trip would have to be postponed.
I felt as if someone had dropped a house on me.
But then I remembered what Rich says in moments like this: “Breathtaking changes are to be embraced, not endured.” After that there was no more time to linger over philosophical musings; the logistics of shifting gears demanded our full and immediate attention. Our San Anselmo cottage had been rented to friends for the month of April, so the first week of May was the logical time to return. While I sent off a flurry of emails, Rich began to research plane fares.
On top of everything else (and I know that this pales in comparison to a family crisis, but still…) we had already paid for two overnight ferry berths and two hotel rooms. We like to travel spontaneously but had felt it was safe (and wise in light of infrequent ferry service) to make these few advance bookings. Over breakfast this morning Rich was gloomily outlining what had to be done to see if we could get even partial refunds. And that’s when our houseguest (readers of Dancing in the Fountain know him as L-F) said, “So why don’t you go?”
“Go? Go where?” I asked blankly.
“On the first bit of your trip. Leave Friday as planned, take the train to Barcelona and the ferry to Sardinia — have a little fun before you go back. Otherwise you’re just going to sit around Seville for two weeks being depressed and grumpy.”
Rich and I looked at each other in awe. My God, the man was a genius! Or at least able to state the overlooked obvious, which often amounts to the same thing.
Rich began to nod. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, that could work.”
And with a speed so dizzying I still have mental whiplash, Rich and I changed course yet again. We jumped into final travel preparations with renewed frenzy. The apartment began to echo with shouts of “Where’s the — oh, here it is!” and “What did you do with my — ” and “Why aren’t there any clean socks?”
Barring a zombie apocalypse or the bite of a radioactive spider (at this point, nothing would surprise me), Rich and I are now planning to leave Friday morning as originally scheduled. We'll head for the Seville train station taking our little roll-aboard bags, tickets to Barcelona, and ferry passes to Sardinia and Sicily. At the end of two weeks, we’ll meet up with digital nomad pals in Napoli then hop a flight from Rome to San Francisco. With luck we'll arrive in California feeling rested, refreshed, and ready for what is shaping up to be a very long summer indeed.
As far as I’m concerned, Friday marks the real start of our Balkan-to-Baltics railway journey. Like all great adventures, it’s beginning with bumps, detours, and a tornado blowing the plan radically off course. And that, of course, when things tend to get exciting.
I’ll let you know what happens next.
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Winner of the 2023 Firebird Book Award for Travel
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I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain and my home state of California.
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