Brussels

By: Caroline McClelland

I want to preface this blog post by saying that what you are about to read gravitates more towards the negative side. In one weekend — over the course of two days — I managed to accumulate more frustration and heartache over various situations than I have ever experienced in one given time.

However; since this particular negative weekend, I have learned to see the beauty amidst dire and frustrating situations. In pondering what I wanted to write for this blog post, I tried to think about an uplifting experience that has happened since my last blogpost. My weekend in Belgium instantly came to mind. However, my weekend in Belgium had been a particularly bad weekend. Nonetheless, the more I started to think about that weekend, the more I realized how glorious it had actually been and the impact it had on my life. Oftentimes, we do not like to talk about the negative aspects of life. But I promise you: through pain comes glory — and I was reminded of this very important lesson that weekend in Belgium. 

Two weekends ago, I traveled to Brussels, Belgium. To say that this was the worst travel weekend would be an understatement. Everything seemed to go incredibly wrong—and by “everything,” I literally mean instance after instance of moments just going completely south. By the end of the trip, my travel group and I were doubtful that anything would go well again. 

First, a member of our group lost her phone on the 3:51am train from Lausanne to the Geneva Airport. Losing a phone while abroad can be quite devastating—as this is where flight information and other important travel documents are often stored. Thus, our group was off to a bad start even before landing in Belgium.

Once we landed, we had to wait an additional hour for two members of our group to be reunited with us, as they took a different flight than the rest of us and were delayed. However, after these two members landed, we could not find them for quite awhile. Their flight landed in a different terminal from ours. The wifi in the airport was not working, so we could not contact the two lost members of our group for a few hours.

We wasted several hours. After we were reunited with the other members of our group, we decided to go to a cafe for breakfast. Unfortunately, the members of our group with data somehow managed to slip into an Uber, while the rest of the group — without data — had no way of connecting to the wifi to figure out public transportation or call for an Uber to take us to the cafe.

An hour later, those of us without data managed to get ourselves to the cafe, only to find out that the other members of our group had already eaten and were ready to leave to explore the city.

After this, we realized that we not could not check into our AirB&B apartment until 3 PM, which meant that we had to lug around our backpacks for an additional six hours (our backs were killing us by the end of the day).

That night, we attended the Flume concert. A member of our group lost his ticket, and could not find his way back to the apartment to reprint his ticket. The rest of the group who remained at the concert split up throughout the night, so by the end, we were dispersed, and we each had to find a way home.

The next day, as we prepared to leave Brussels, we found out that our flight was canceled. We realized that the next flight home would be the following day and an additional $200. By this point, we were all just so tired and frustrated and out of money. 

In our lowest moments, we can be refined; we can be brought down to the core, so that our insides can be completely gutted and we can start anew. I came back to my schoolhouse in Switzerland defeated, hungry, and tired. When I returned to the house, I was just done with all of it — done with abroad and constantly being exhausted. 

However, less than twenty hours after returning, I found out that the Belgium airport had been bombed. I had been in that airport less than a day before — in the exact spot of the bombings. The day before, we had been complaining how badly we had just wished we were back in the Lausanne house, sleeping in our own comfortable beds. 

After a member of my travel group broke the news to me, a flood of emotions consumed me. I began to think about how I had complained throughout the whole trip — that I had dwelled on all of the aspects that had gone wrong that weekend. I never once paused to think about grateful I should have been to simply be alive. 

Looking back, I am grateful for that weekend. I am grateful that I experienced a side of life that I needed to experience. It is through these experiences that we appreciate what is so not rightfully ours as humans. We are not entitled to good experiences. We are not entitled to life going according to plan. We are not entitled to a life of perfection. That weekend, I needed to be reminded that I am not in control. I cannot dictate life. I cannot make it perfect.

Through this, I have learned to be grateful for what I have and all the moments that I have been so undeservingly given.

The gift of life is a glorious one. We will have ups and downs in life. Mishaps will occur, but the chance to live each day is one we should not forgo. When goodness comes our way, we need to earnestly savor every bit that is given to us.