By the time I was ready to begin my first job abroad I was just a few weeks past my twenty-first birthday. The job search had been tough and I’d almost accepted a job in Moscow, but in the end I found myself in Turin, Italy (or Torino, as the Italians call it).
My arrival in Turin was stressful. I got the job offer on Wednesday and had to be start work on Monday morning. I found a cheap flight out of the Girona airport, but being a very new traveler from a country with no budget airlines, I didn’t realize how the low-cost carriers took advantage of “hidden” fees to make a profit. My bags, containing what I considered to be the essentials for my new life abroad, were so expensive to check that it would have been cheaper for me to have taken half my bags there, fly back to Barcelona and take the second half of my bags on another flight. I quickly learned my lesson about low-cost carriers!
If the huge baggage fees weren’t bad enough, there was another minor inconvenience. My flight got cancelled. And there were no more. And the airline didn’t give a shit. My flight was supposed to be in the early morning, so I arrived at the airport in a condition that most would call haggardly (to be polite), and suddenly I found myself with nowhere to go. The airline agreed to book me onto a flight to Venice that evening, but I could feel my brain slowly decomposing due to lack of sleep. I called my mom and cried some more (are you noticing a common theme yet?). She told me to find a hotel and sleep for a few hours. So I went to a hotel across from the airport and slept for about six hours. When I checked out, they charged me for two nights. I cried some more.
My plane arrived in Venice late on Saturday night. The airline couldn’t tell me how to get to Turin. A kind old man said I needed to take a bus and a train. I followed the crowds outside the airport and got on a bus bound for the train station. From there, I bought a ticket to Turin. Apparently I’d have to change trains in Milan. I had no geographical concept of where I was going, but I am good at following instructions. I made it to Milan in one piece, and even managed to find my way onto the Turin-bound train. It turned out to be a regional train that stopped at every tiny village between Milan and Turin. Fearful of missing my stop I asked, “Is this Turin?” each time the train began to slow down? The other passengers were getting sick of my adult version of “Are we there yet?” but after the journey I’d already had I was not going to miss my stop.
By the time I arrived in Turin it was early Sunday morning. I had a reservation in the local youth hostel, but I was so late that their reception was closed. I’d have to pay for a hotel. Yup, this was the THIRD night in a hotel I’d be paying for in a twenty-four hour period. I got into the first taxi I could find and asked him to take me to a hotel. He was so nice! He pulled out his guidebook and pointed to a hotel, which seemed to be well-reviewed. I smiled and agreed. We went for a five-minute drive, I paid the seven-euro taxi fare and checked into my hotel. My first night in my new home city! I slept soundly, if only for a few hours.
The next morning I got up, eager to explore Turin. I showered, changed and went down to the hotel lobby. I smiled at the receptionist and she greeted me back. I stepped out of the hotel and got my first look at one of Turin’s most famous attractions: the train station. Yes, the taxi driver had taken me on a five-minute, seven-euro scenic tour around the block a few times, to a hotel thirty meters from where he’d picked me up the night before.
Welcome to Italy.
Welcome to living abroad.