When we arrived in Madrid, I was surprised to learn that we had to go through customs and immigration even though we were not technically leaving the country. We were thankfully led to a separate accelerated line when the airport officer noticed we had a young child with us, which made the journey go more smoothly.

When we finally arrived in Italy, we were faced with another challenge – the luggage cart required a coin and we did not have a euro coin (insert facepalm moment). A little sliver of the European lifestyle came flooding back to me in that moment. Shopping carts and luggage carts often require a small deposit to use them which helps guarantee they’ll be returned. I had completely forgotten this element of living abroad. Because we were moving to Italy, we had each brought the max luggage allowance. Two bags each, six bags total.  I did a quick sweep over the luggage cart machines to see if they also accepted credit cards. They didn’t, and my heart fell. 

I mustered up the courage to ask a group of girls around my age nearby if they happened to have a coin for the luggage cart. They were friendly and tried to help, but unfortunately, only one of them had any coins, and it was 50 euro cents. It was the wrong shape and size for these carts. It was not enough to get us a luggage cart, but their willingness to assist us was much appreciated.

My husband then suggested that I go to the information desk and ask for help. I was skeptical as customer service in Europe is often not as accommodating as it is in the US. However, the representative I spoke to was extraordinary. He even gave tried the coin he carried on his keychain to get carts for groceries or luggage at the airport. Unfortunately, the coin did not fit, and we were left in another bind. I went back to where my husband was waiting with our 3 year old and all of our luggage. 

For a quick moment, we considered rolling our luggage out in shifts. We quickly decided that would be almost impossible. We also wanted to avoid any extra effort after travelling for over 20 hours so far. Thankfully, I spotted a family nearby who had a luggage cart and asked if they had an extra coin. To my relief, they were able to give us their luggage cart slug, which doesn’t have monetary value but can be used just like a euro. It was a small gesture, but it made a world of difference for us.

The experience reminded me that traveling is not just about visiting new places and trying new things, but also about problem-solving and adapting to new situations. It can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, especially when you overcome unexpected hurdles.

Overall, my arrival in Italy was an immersive experience that reminded me of the importance of being prepared, asking for help, and being open-minded to unexpected challenges. It was a humbling experience that made me appreciate the kindness of strangers and the thrill of traveling even more.