The Travel Test: Would Our First Trip Be A Disaster Or A Delight?

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bikes in europe
A first vacation to Italy tests the tenacity of the author's relationship.

To be honest, I'm not a natural traveler, and several close friends have refused to board another plane with me. So when my boyfriend of a mere five months offered to whisk me away on a romantic trip to Italy, I was hesitant.

On one hand, I'd never been whisked as far as the corner deli, so the prospect was tempting. On the other, I was having horror-movie flashbacks of a crappy (dutch) weekend in Mexico with a guy who was angered by my clumsy scuba diving and amused by my seasickness. That relationship barely made it through customs.

This time, everything was going so well. Did I dare tempt fate with nine days in a foreign country?

Wednesday: Somewhere Over The Atlantic Ocean

Who was I kidding: What girl is going to turn down a free trip to Europe? Not I, I thought, rather smugly, five hours into our six-and-a-half-hour flight, pleasantly tipsy on Alitalia's cheap red wine. Suddenly, someone poked me in the ribs. It was the boyfriend, who'd noticed something peculiar on the little screen on the back of his seat.

"Look!" he said. "The plane is going back to New York!"

We were indeed making the world's largest U-turn. A passenger had gotten ill and needed to be dropped off immediately.

In Newfoundland.

Of course I felt horrible for someone who was sick enough to merit an emergency landing on the tundra, but the glitch also gave me pause: Was it an omen?

After a two-hour layover in Canada, the plane took off again. Five hours after that, we landed in Milan, smelly and delirious, to find that we had missed our connecting flight to Venice.

My first thought was of my bag and the carefully planned wardrobe inside. Since childhood, I've had recurring nightmares about losing my luggage.

I shared that thought with the boyfriend.

"Yes, but have you ever actually lost one?" he asked. "There's nothing to get upset about yet."

Thursday: We Open In Venice.

Three hours later, the Venice baggage claim was finally in our grubby view. Around and around it chugged, past the smartly dressed Italian officers and their handsome German shepherds, only to grind to a halt, having failed to produce our bags.

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