Thanks for hanging in, here’s the rest of the story.
I managed to not give in and although inside I was a whirlpool of emotions and nerves standing on end like electricity was flowing thru I managed to remember to look for the screens posting updated arrival and departure times for upcoming trains. Naturally, everything was written in Italian, which I don’t speak or really understand. Luckily I had picked up enough words or at least could recognize the difference between ‘arrival’ and ‘departure’ so that I could locate a train heading back the way I came. I needed to get back to the previous train station because from there I knew there was a train that could take me to the town I’d be staying at for the next two nights. I made it back to the previous train station-a much larger one with a steady flow of tourists-and found a train departing in about 10 minutes that would actually take me to my final destination. I was feeling better by this point, but my adrenaline was still high enough to keep my heart pounding a bit louder and faster than normal and I’m sure my shoulders were hiked-up a few centimeters further than usual. To top it off, I had to find some way to call the hostel I’d be staying at to make sure that someone would be there when I arrived later than the last check in time was stated as. Each country in Europe has it’s own phone service plans and although I tried turning off airplane mode and making a call anyhow, thinking that I’d maybe just be charged extra, it wouldn’t go though. I eventually turned on the wifi hotspot on my iPhone and managed to make the call to confirm someone would be at the reception when I arrived.
In the end I managed to get to Riomaggiore, find my Hostel, check in and at the end of it all sit down to a delicious dinner at about 9pm (the towns, although small, had a charming night life). So it all worked. Eventually. And I learned that I could panic and still function. That I could still make the decisions I needed to make to get myself from the little isolated train station and to my hostel bed safely. You can’t always know how you’ll react in a stressful situation until you are in one and it was a great feeling, the next day, to realize that I could keep my head about me even while freaking out on the inside. I also learned to check and double check which train I was getting on to make sure it is the correct one and that it is always helpful to know some basic words (especially words correlated to public transit) when traveling in another country.
2) Traveling alone meant that I was more likely to interact with other travelers around me and I met some incredibly interesting people from all over the place, of all ages and traveling for all different reasons. Everybody had their own stories and often I gained a lot of tips for what to see or not to do in a particular place. Furthermore, it’s amazing to realize that a small gesture of kindness from a fellow traveler could totally make my day and caused me to be a bit more aware about how my actions might be affecting the people around me as well.
3) I also spent a lot of time not talking. When you are walking around a city or hiking along trails all day and you are by yourself, you either don’t talk or start talking to yourself-which admittedly, I did do sometimes…and then tried to imagine the responses of friends and family members. In any case, I found myself with an abundance of time for my mind to wander and contemplate and digest things and ruminate. Without the distractions of other people or my phone or computer I found that my mind had plenty to say all on it’s own and that it actually needed a lot of time to do any serious thinking and decision making about the more complex and emotional facets of my life. And then there were times it was allowed to just drifted peacefully. For instance, as I rested at the top of a steep climb, listening to the breeze thru the trees and the absence of any traffic noises. It was great to have time and space for myself: to think and to just relax.