The train stopped on the tracks 200 yards past a rural station.
We were about an hour into a Praha to Vienna trip and as my computer clocked continued increasing I ticked down to 0 from the 7 minutes I had to make my connection back home – the last one for the night. I glanced out of the window and saw conductors and then passengers start to meander past.
My tummy rumbled and I thought again of the somewhat-past-prime vegetables I had removed from my bag in the morning. At the time I thought “I’m going to regret this later.” Indeed. An announcement in German was of little assistance and so I turned to my fellow cabin mates.
“I’m sorry but do you know what is going on?”
“Something on the track ahead… we have to wait.”
“Did they say how long?”
Over the course of the next hour plus, between getting fresh air, stretching on the segmented gravel, and a few picture opportunities, I learned of the accident at a crossroad on our track. I said a silent prayer for the person, family and friends who were all having a much worse day than I. An 140 minute delay is naught compared to life’s other wreckage.
Sitting back in my computer as we slowly made our way down the tracks I mentally prepared for changing arrangements. Again, glancing out of the window I breathed deep for the beautiful sunset over russet trees and fields of green.
My inner voice sighed contentedly, “relax, appreciate what you have and enjoy the journey.”
I could have gotten flustered and worried about a place to stay, my expiring Eurorail pass and 1001 other details to be cavetched over. Instead of concerning myself with logistics outside my current control, I mused on the opportunity.
I was to have an unscheduled bonus day in Vienna. Such is how the rest of my relatively unplanned Fall break had progressed. As we neared the station in the dark my stressors raised a tick but somehow I stayed calm.
I just have faith that all will work out well, as it should.
To nerd out for a second, I’m concurrently writing a paper for Grad School on Information Seeking behavior. I have a “optimistic-cognitive” attitude towards search — that is I believe in the order of things and through my own information seeking I can make sense of my world and life.
“Serendipity” is actually also an established Information Science term for the happenstance, fortuitous finding of information not directly sought (Case, 32). Think about discovering a book in the library close to the one you actually were looking for or hyperlinked rabbit holes that lead you to illuminating articles and writings you would never have found should you not have clicked that particular link.
Life can be like those kismatic journeys of discovery… if we allow the process to flow.
Click the link. Take the train. Follow your feet and your intuition. Believe. Go.
I didn’t let a little busted lip or lack of schedule derail my trip. I dared go and throughout my travels I was the beneficiary of many a serendipitous moment and meeting because I was open to what was to unfold: Roberta the U-bahn angel who guided asked if we needed help and then guided us to our destination recommendations from tour guides for the best meals I have had in Europe; “Why not?” decisions to stay the extra hour, walk round that corner only to find a vista, get on that car only to meet a friend, buy a ticket to the concert with a nose-to-toes goosebumps rendition of Ave Maria in a centuries old chapel; wait in line for Van Goh despite the rain and wind to have a conversation with an incredibly storied woman who did NGO work in Ghana; a split-second decision to bust through subway doors to find myself on the right and last car to make my fast departing train… the list goes on…
Made for Walking
I trucked through rain, over cold cobblestone streets for 2 days in Amsterdam before the hole in my Vibrams just became too much. Stores by that Sunday night were well closed but for one corner shop where I was able to purchase 10 Euro red sneakers that would at least suffice. What I wanted – what I needed – was boots.
Then I had the best — most fortuitous — day.
The sun finally broke through and I wandered about on red-clad feet, soaking up the rays and whatever might become of my last day. I found a place to serve me fresh juice, delicious coffee, and another with the best pumpkin soup I have ever had. Then, in search of a coat, I went into a vintage/thrift shop and poked around.
And there I found my boots.
I saw them tucked under a shelf and thought that perhaps I had hypothermia afterall and was hallucinating. No way they were my size. I snatched one up and compared it to my foot. It looked right. No way.
I put one on as quickly as possible and I swear my adrenaline dumped. Absolutely perfect.
“They are just what you described to me last night,” my travel companion said.
“YES! Yes, they are.”
I paid for them as quickly as I could (they were a relative steal but I really I didn’t even care). I fairly bounded out of the shop. Feeling like Cinderella, I took the next opportunity to slip into them, adjust the laces, and find my feet in broken-in-with-love comfort.
Even now I wiggle my toes with glee.
As Simple as Shoes
This isn’t a story about consumerism, it is a story about finding: My parable about discovering because of an willingness to wander down an unfamiliar street, open a strange door, poke under a shelf, and try because – against all odds – it just might fit.
Travel and life should not be about what was missed but what was embraced.
My 140minute delay turned into a phenomenal day of history, beauty, chocolate, chestnuts, spices, art, and a sunset I’ll never forget. If it weren’t for the boots, that bonus day would even best the best day ever in Amsterdam. But Vienna has time to yet win out – I know that was just a taste and I will be back.
I have faith I was meant to have that sampling and am compelled to go again.
Serendipity, clad in sunsets, music, missed trains, smiles, or yes, even boots, surrounds us.
We simply have go – with eyes optimistically open to her charms – to to meet Kismet where she waits.
Serendipity is the provider of inspiration, the information, the intentional enjoyment… be open.
Be IN always,
Please share your serendipitous story in the comments below! And for more pictures and stories of my journey check out my photo a day project.