Repetition leads to routine and this easily slips into a comfortable rut, which is hard to break out of. Having routines and being comfortable with life isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does tend to act as a barrier to new and unknown activities. Our trip to Italy was filled with chances for us to break out of being comfortable and try new things.
On our trip we:
Rode buses around Florence
Visited more than one city in a single trip
Bought train tickets five minutes before the train left
Learned a few key phrases in Italian
Visited a city with no metro
The only reasons we didn't do things like this in Athens or Cairo are because it made us (mostly me) uncomfortable and seemed too hard to do.
In almost every case we were wrong; they were relatively easy and added a lot to our trip.
Riding buses in Florence really made getting around easier and saved our tired feet on more than one occasion. It was pretty easy to figure out where to get off the buses and finding bus stops was doable, although a bit harder.
Splitting our time between multiple cities ended up being a great idea. While we easily could have spent the full nine days in Milan or Florence, seeing both provided a more well rounded experience of Italy. Milan was much less touristy and was much more big city feeling whereas Florence was probably prettier than Milan, but the tourism was obvious and everywhere.
The train tickets ended up being a bit of a funny story too. I was trying to navigate the ticket machine while Steve bought stamps from the train's newspaper stand, when the machine just froze. At that point I figured we were stuck waiting for the next train, when the machine kicked back into gear and acted like nothing was wrong. By the time the tickets printed we had less than five minutes to make our way to the train. All of the trains between Pisa and Florence do not have assigned seating, but the machines do sell 1st and 2nd class tickets. Since we'd spent all day walking around Pisa, we decided to get the 1st class tickets so we'd have more space to spread out. So not only did we have to rush to the train, we also had to rush to find the first class car.
Basic logic tells me that if first class tickets are sold, there must obviously be first class seating. Not true. We ended up hopping on almost at the last minute perterbed that we weren't able to find the first class seating. After we got back to Florence, Steve walked the length of the train and realized there wasn't any to begin with! For future Florence to Pisa travelers beware of the first class tickets!
Picking up on words like ciao, buona sera, grazie, and other simple phrases made it just a bit easier to talk to people and it made it more fun. It didn't take much to get the hang of it, although this was much easier to do because we have experience with French and Spanish, which seemed to help a lot. This would have been (and still is) much harder in Cairo for example with Arabic.
Finally, visiting a city with no metro had me in knots. I had no idea if it would affect the quality of our trip, resulting in seeing fewer sites because we'd have to walk more, but in the end this was great. Florence was small enough that it really didn't take long to get from one place to another, and it inspired us to try out the buses.
Not every trip can be packed full of new and exciting things to do, but adding a couple in definitely spiced up our trip! We (I) got over some silly travel worries and realized that almost anything isn't actually that hard to do.
I don't know what kind of new adventures we'll strive to have on our next trip (in May!) but I know that we'll try and fit in some new and some old travel activities.
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