Never in my life have I been described as a “go with the flow” kind of girl. I like to plan out my path ahead of time so that no step is a mistake. I love to make to-do lists (although I don’t always get around to checking every item off). I have been packing bags since I was in diapers, and I pride myself in always being prepared for about any situation that may come my way.
So naturally, this past summer when I studied abroad in Italy, I had to learn that not every day goes as planned, and not every trip has to have an itinerary. Sometimes the best memories are ones you never imagined yourself experiencing. On our first travel break from our beloved little home of Sansepolcro, where the Meredith in Italy program is located, my group travelled to the quaint fishing villages of Cinque Terre.
Throughout our first travel break in Cinque Terre, my group’s motto was “Go with the flow!” We wanted to make sure that no matter what happened, we would still have a great time. As soon as we arrived in Riomaggiore (one of the five villages), we realized that we did not have a clue where our hotel was located. We got some vague directions from the lady at the tourist info desk, and we set off on our trek up and down the hills of the village with our entire luggage in tow. Along the way, we met some nice people from Sweden who also attempted to give us directions, but admitted they had been lost just that morning. They wished us the best of luck and told us to come back there if we could not find our place. After searching for a few more minutes, I have to admit I was slightly frustrated because we had travelled all day to get to this beautiful town, and we were hiking around it carrying 50-pound backpacks. However, it was getting to be the time of sunset, and all four of us stopped searching around and sat there mesmerized by this beautiful creation. This experience was an enlightening one for me because no matter what continent you are on or what country you are in, God’s beauty surrounds you. Suddenly it did not matter how tired we were, how far we had walked, or how heavy our backpacks were; all we could do was stand awestruck in that one spot and stare at the sunset. Beauty in nature is one of the few aspects of a culture that can be truly appreciated and understood by all. Beauty knows no language barrier, no cultural norms, and has no secret passcode you only receive if you are a local. Beauty transcends from culture to culture.
Just as the beauty of the sunset outweighed the frustration of the moment, God promises us that His glory will far surpass any trials in which we find ourselves. Romans 8:18 states “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” I am in no way trying to imply that the frustration of us not being able to find our hotel compares at all to the real physical pain, oppression, and emotional distress so many people experience on an everyday basis, but just as comparing God’s glory to any present suffering puts life in perspective, so did the sunset in our situation. We cannot always control our surroundings, but we can control how we react to less-than-ideal situations. Think about it; whatever it is you may be going through today–heartbreak, stress, grief, depression–it is all temporary. The Creator of the universe who spoke the stars into creation and commands the mountains to move at His will is on your side. We are in such good hands, friends.
I am so glad my first travel break in Italy began in this way. I do not think we would have appreciated the sunset as much if everything had been going smoothly all day. If we had not been frustrated beyond words when the sun was beginning to set, we would not have been able to value its full beauty. I am so thankful for these sweet friends who helped me come out of my shell and encouraged me to “go with the flow.” One must truly know trials to truly know joy. Glory be to God.