In July, my sister Jane and I took the trip of a lifetime-a two week tour through Italy. Most people, when preparing to go to a foreign country and spend a whole bunch of money on such an expensive vacation, might spend weeks or even months planning out every detail-places to visit, hotels to stay at, transportation, budgets, etc., but not us. We were pretty last minute in everything. I mean, who has time these days to plan out a trip to Europe?! Definitely not two twenty somethings, who live at home with their parents, have no kids or family to take care of, households to maintain or real adult responsibilities to take up their time. We were ACTUALLY busy. Jane was halfway through The Office series on Netflix and I was trying to power through the last season of Nurse Jackie. Plus, if you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute! That’s our motto! So, a few short weeks prior to our departure, at about 11:00 p.m. on a Tuesday night, Jane and I decided to finally book our flights and throw a couple of grand at a tour company we knew really nothing about except that they plan the trip details and logistics out for you, so we were sold.
We were pumped for this new adventure but our dad wasn’t 100% thrilled that his two youngest were leaving the good old USA and traveling abroad together. When he’s not calling us “Millennial snowflakes,” he often refers to Jane and me as “two little lambs”- young, naive, and too trusting of the world. “Oh great, you two will be traveling together,” my Dad said sarcastically. “I can just imagine you two walking down the streets of Italy ‘La-de-da life is beautiful, hey where’s the beer?! Where’s the party at?!’ I’m going to need to pray extra hard you two don’t get kidnapped!” I quickly tried to reassure my Dad and remind him that I was a young business woman with TWO SUCCESSFUL business trips under my belt, not one, but TWO. So I was pretty confident I could manage a trip abroad while caring for my younger sister. He had no reason to fret. Was I worried about spending every single moment for two weeks with my sister? No, not really. I have known her a pretty long time and we’ve vacationed together a few times before-Michigan basically every year and Disney World once in the late 90’s with the family-so I knew we would get into some extremely stupid fights, but we’d both come back alive. We travel well together for the most part.
After days of planning out our outfits and figuring out how to fit everything we needed for two weeks into two tiny suitcases, the day finally came for us to depart on our big trip. Our Dad drove us to the airport all alone because apparently our mom doesn’t love us and thought it was more important to go couch shopping with her other daughter. Being a gentleman he made sure we got into the airport ok, said goodbye and then left us at the terminal. We checked our bags and then got in line to go through security and that’s when we ran into the first few hiccups of our travel journey.
“Uggghhh man look at this security line, airports are the worst am I right?” I said. “What are you talking about?!” Jane responded. “There are like two people ahead of us, this is the shortest I’ve seen it in a a long time!” “Ugh well my carry on backpack is so heavy I’m getting tired of standing.” I said. “Hey wait,” Jane said. “Do you have room in there for the shampoo? I had it packed in my suitcase but thought it might spill so I took it out last minute and don’t really have room in my carry-on.” Well, being the selfless older sister I am, I responded, “Yea sure, let me just move around some things.” I took my backpack off and started to rummage through my items and rearrange them in my backpack. While doing this I pulled out the huge jug of contact solution I had in my backpack. I looked up and noticed Jane was looking at me like I had just pulled out a bomb. Before I could ask her why she was looking at me with such a frightened look on her face she whisper yelled at me, “What are you doing with that?! You can’t go through security with that!” I was still confused, “What are you talking about?! I need contact solution for my contacts! Not all of us can have perfect 20/20 vision, JANE!” Stupid healthy Jane, I thought to myself, always rubbing in that fact that she’s perfectly healthy and I’m not. “No you dummy!” she responded “Liquids have to be 4 ounces or less! You can’t carry that on the plane!” “Oh shoot!” I said, “I forgot that was still a thing! Ugh darn! Well, I’m just going to have to risk it, I’m not throwing out this jug of contact solution, I JUST bought it from Meijer and it set me back 15 dollars I am NOT just going to throw it out!” Even though I said this with confidence, internally I began to panic and question everything I knew about airport security. I started to bombard Jane with my questions as if she was head of the TSA. “Shoot Jane, can I go through security with my watch? What about my earrings do I need to take them off?! And my ring?!” She politely told me to shut up. A few minutes later, as we moved up in the line right before we were about to take off our shoes and put our bags on the conveyor belt, the TSA officer monitoring our line looked over at the two of us and called Jane over. Oh no, I thought, he knows about my jug of contact solution! To my bewilderment though he simply asked Jane how old I was. We both looked at each other confused as to why he was asking Jane about MY age. Especially since a lady NEVER reveals her age. Turns out he was asking because people traveling with children 12 and younger can skip taking off their shoes and go through the express security line and he thought I was 12. He was absolutely shocked to learn I was 27. Jane could not stop laughing. “Oh shut up Jane! You’ll be jealous when I’m 40 and still look 12!” Karma caught up with Jane though and her bag got flagged going through security and had to be searched. Turns out it set off the alarm because her bag was too “dense” most likely, they said, from having too many books in her bag. When the TSA agents told us this I laughed and said, “Haha Jane you dork!” I don’t think this helped my case in proving I was NOT a 12 year old but it was worth it.
Once we got through security we had plenty of time to kill because our flight was two hours delayed! So we found the nearest bar and posted up there for a while-making our dad proud! After what seemed like forever, we finally were starting to board the plane. While waiting in line Jane’s passport photo caught my eye and I became frightened, as I thought I might be traveling with a potential serial killer. “That’s interesting,” I said to Jane, “I had no idea they let people use their mug shots as their passport photos too. When did you do time in prison, Jane?” She gave me a shove and claimed they wouldn’t let her smile for her photo, yet I was allowed to smile for my passport photo? Very suspicious, JANE! Perks of being a 12 year old forever I guess-you get to take a smiling passport photo. She also assured me she never did any prison time so I’m glad we got that squared away before we were about to board a plane together.
We got two seats together, put our carry-ons in the overhead bin, and settled in for a very long flight. Jane immediately began to inflate her travel neck pillow like an 87 year old woman and passed out in seconds. I, on the other hand, knew I would not be able to fall asleep on this flight so I perused the movies and decided to watch the movie “Lady Bird.” I was excited to learn more about the life of former first lady, Lady Bird Johnson in this film until I discovered “Lady Bird” was not about Lady Bird Johnson at all! After I realized I had gotten my movies confused I kept waiting for Michael Keaton’s character to come on screen but THEN remembered he was in the movie “BirdMAN” and not “Lady Bird.” What is with all these movies with “Bird” in the title, sheesh! I finished the movie but honestly could not tell you what it was about because of all the bird mix ups.
Later on they served us our delicious prepackaged and preservative-filled microwave airplane dinner. Jane rudely began to eat her dinner before I had even gotten my tray-had her parents not taught her any manners? She was nice enough to keep ordering and giving me her waters and juices. I’m literally thirsty all the time and those airplane cups are like shot glasses so I was tossing back the liquids left and right! Luckily, Jane is like a camel and can have a little bit of water and be set for days so she had no problem giving up her water and soft drinks to me. After our bellies were full we remembered the first item we forgot at home-Tweezers! We were both devastated that we forgot this major necessity. “Oh great!” I said sarcastically. “We’re both going to come back to America in two weeks looking like Bert from Sesame Street without any tweezers!” God forbid we actually buy a pair in Europe.
After what seemed like days on that airplane we finally landed in Rome. Me and prison Jane sailed through customs, grabbed our bags and then realized we did not know how to get to our hotel. We were told we could take the train to our hotel but figuring that out was a little harder than we thought. Jane and I mainly specialize in calling Ubers back home but we could not do that in Italy so trying to figure out public transportation was a bit of a challenge. We are south side suburban bumpkins, we are no city girls! We must have looked lost in the airport because a young Italian man came up to us and asked if we needed help getting somewhere. We told him we were trying to take the train to our hotel and he informed us the train workers were on strike but he had a shuttle service that he could arrange to take us right to our hotel for only 20 euro! “How convenient!” we thought. What a great idea for two young girls in a foreign country who have no idea where they are going and don’t speak the native language to take a ride from a complete stranger! So we agreed and he made a bunch of suspicious phone calls speaking Italian, then he passed us off to another Italian man who led us to a black van with tinted windows in a parking garage. Scenes from the movie “Taken” were flashing through our minds as we began to worry that maybe we were being kidnapped. We did notice other people in the van though so instead of running away and dealing with the absolute HASSLE of trying to figure out that public transportation nonsense we decided to risk being kidnapped/our lives and jumped right into the front seats of the van with our driver. Luckily, it turned out great and the driver took us right to our hotel! Phew!
We checked into our hotel room and discovered we had a room with two twin beds-just like our old room at Mike Sr. and Mo Kelly’s Old Maid Boarding House! Italy really knows how to make people feel at home! We dropped our bags and decided to walk around the area for a bit. We took some photos with all the Mopeds, scooters and motorcycles parked everywhere, saw lots of dumpsters and grabbed some coffee to try and ward off that jet lag we were starting to feel. Unfortunately, our walk was cut short as Jane had just eaten a gigantic cookie moments before we left the hotel for our walk and was now starting to feel sick. Her face was pale and she looked like she was about to blow chunks all over the place so I led us back to our hotel where we both took a very quick nap.
After that we headed down to the lobby for a meet and greet with our tour guide and the 49 other people on our tour group. Everyone was very nice, friendly and seemed cool! We all went to dinner and then drinks afterwards but Jane and I were so tired we called it an early night and headed back for a good night’s rest in our twin beds. The beds were pretty comfortable but they were awkwardly close together. So close in fact that Jane smacked me right in the face during the night! (She has YET to apologize for this by the way) Then at three in the morning she woke up and turned all the lights on and started to get ready thinking it was time to start the tour! She was so out of it it took me a while to convince her to go back to bed. “You dodo bird! It’s three in the morning! I yelled to her (ever so politely of course) from my bed “Go back to sleep and shut off all those lights!” When our alarm finally did go off the next day Jane woke up well rested and ready to start our tour! I on the other hand, was feeling a bit sluggish from being physically assaulted in the face and being woken up at the crack of dawn by my lunatic sister. We checked out of our hotel and got on our coach bus for our first day of Italian adventures. We were ready and excited to start day one of what was to be an amazing trip filled with fun times, great sights and awesome new friends!!
Stay tuned for Part 2…