Our Journey to Italy… Sucked!

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain couldn’t have said it any better! So you’re probably asking why did our journey to Italy suck? I mean it’s Italy, right? Well grab some popcorn and let me tell you why? I’ll also give you some guidance and tip on how NOT to travel!

Continuing onto my trip through Europe and dealing with more travel issues. We just found out that we are about to visit Italy during their strike month, May… Tip: check your airlines for any special events or activity that might happen during your travel. Apparently, May is a popular strike month for Italy. If you need to catch up a little bit on what has been happening on our trip. Go ahead and visit my previous journal entry, The Happiest Place on Earth. It has been a long few days for me, sleepless nights trying to figure things out on the phone with my travel agency and sorting things out with the airline companies on two different time zone across the world are NOT fun! I probably had a total of about 8 hours of sleep during the last 3 days before arriving in Paris. You can see our adventures in Paris through here, When in Paris…, and some beautiful portraits of Kim here, MON AMOUR À PARIS.

Now back to my story about why our journey to Italy sucked. It’s 2 AM in Paris and I am in my hotel room on the phone with the Air Italia trying to fix our flight delay issue. Our flight was scheduled for 6:45 AM departure out of Paris to Florence with a planned arrival time of 1 PM. There was an overlay in Rome, which is fine since it was only a quick 1-hour overlay. The only problem is now the second leg of our flights from Rome to Florence was delayed and would push our new arrival time to 5 PM. Why is arriving on time so important? We had planned our engagement session on the same day we arrive in Italy. This means that arriving at 5 PM would be way too late for any photography. I finally got approval, after talking to the supervisors at Air Italia until 3 AM in the morning, to just to get my checked bags and leave from Rome without taking the next leg flight. Here’s something you should know: If you have checked bags you cannot get them even if you cancel your second leg flight. It’s all or nothing. Either your bag goes all the way to the final destination or you completely cancel your flight and purchase a new one. You can’t cancel half of the flight. I don’t know why, but it just doesn’t make sense to me. I wasn’t even asking for a refund or anything, I just wanted to get off! If you travel with only a carry-on, you’re in luck! You can hop on and off at any time. This is because your bags are always with you. I finally convinced the airline to release my checked bags in Rome after an hour of battling. A victory for us! Now we just have to find a way to get from Rome to Cortona. I quickly booked a train ride and was scheduled to arrive in Cortona at 2:00 PM. Perfect! Things were looking good and we were going to make it just in time for our engagement photos! It’s now 3:45 AM and I barely had any sleep the previous nights. I began to wind down and shut my eyes for a good hour or so when our morning alarm suddenly goes off and I am back up at 4:45 AM to pack our bags and head out to the airport. We arrived at the gates and I was completely relieved that everything was going as planned. I am terrible at sleeping on planes or strange places, it’s just hard for me. I jealously watched Kim sleep on the plane and train ride to Cortona as my brain refused to shut down from all of the stress and anxiety. It also does not help that this is a completely foreign country to us and the fear of missing our stop had kept me up the whole train ride. I tried so hard to catch some sleep but couldn’t get my brain to commit. We heard the conductor announce our stop and quickly got up to gather all of our pieces of luggage to roll it close to the exit door. Now keep in mind this is our first time in Italy. As we approach the stop, I patiently waited for the door to open automatically. The train slowly stopped and I was ready to exit… Nothing happened. I started to panic and was confused because everything was in Italian! WTF?! I thought. There was a lever that was painted red and looked like an emergency exit lever. I was afraid to pull it as I didn’t want to cause any irreparable damage to the train. The train started to slowly move again and it felt as if all of my hopes and dream was just slowly passing away and there was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING I could have done… At this point, I literally felt like breaking down and crying. I quickly sent a text message to our friend Silke of Weddings by Silke to tell her that we were going to be late. I looked at the train map and saw that the next stop was 15 minutes away, which means heading back was going to take at least another 15 minutes. This delayed our time for another 30 minutes or more. I quickly yanked the door open at the next stop and left the train cart.

***Note to all travelers using the train, observe how the train doors are open a few stops before your own to ensure you know how to exit properly. 

As we pulled our luggage across the platform to the returning side, I started to hear thunder rumbling. “You got to be f*cking kidding me….,” are my exact thoughts as we sit on an opened platform and waited as the raindrops begin to fall on my head.

gif lights suicide eyes white street water rain road wet Raindrop going crazy in my head depresse a war inside i find peace in the rain getting bad again Sitting alone

This was exactly how I felt at this point…

We finally hopped on the returning train and I didn’t even bother buying a ticket because none of the terminal kiosks was working. We arrived in Cortona and rushed out of the train to meet with Silke. We came back to the Villa Montanare, where our engagement session was going to be held. Kim and I quickly jumped in the shower to freshen up to get ready. We managed to finally make it to our engagement session and the clouds started to slowly disappear and things were starting to look brighter. We finally caught a break.

So what did I learn? Don’t schedule events too close together. Plan for delays. And most importantly of all, find a day at the beginning of your trip to just relax and catch up on sleep!

Below are some photos from our pleasant stay in Cortona after all of the catastrophe! Other than our travel issues, we ABSOLUTELY LOVE, LOVE, LOVE ITALY!! Was all the stress worth it? You bet it was! Would I do it again if I had to? Yes! The food, the culture, the people are just AMAZING! The backdrop of Italy at every corner is just like a fairytale. As Kim would describe it, it’s like being in a  Disney movie every day in Italy. Oh yeah, we had gelato at least 3 times a day – it’s that GOOD! Enjoy our travel photos and stay tuned to see our engagement session in Tuscany.

Sincerely yours,

Viet Le

Digital Images Processed with Refined Preset @refinedpresets

Film Processed and Developed by Richard Photo Lab @RichardPhotoLab

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