Everyone knows about jet lag and time zones and how traveling over a long distance can skewer your sense of both. I learned this the hard way when I took a trip to Italy a few years ago.

When I was in college, I had the opportunity to go on a Study Abroad Trip to Italy which involved a very long flight. Now, I’m a light sleeper. I need quiet, darkness, and the horizontal position of a bed in order to clock out. None of these conditions are met on a plane and I feared that I wouldn’t sleep. To counter this, I came up with a brilliant plan; stay up the night before, have candy and a soda to keep me up long enough, and then crash on the long flight across the Atlantic. A brilliant plan except for one thing.

It didn’t work.

In spite of my self imposed sleep depravation, I didn’t fall asleep. By the time we got to our apartment in Florence, I could barely keep my eyes open. I flopped onto my bed, closed my eyes, and clocked out. When I woke up it was bright and sunny outside. I thought that I’d slept into the next day and decided that I’d do some exploring. I’d spotted a domed building in the distance (the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore) and decided to go and look, reasoning that since I could see the building from my apartment, I could easily find my way back.

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I went to the Santa Maria and took pictures, but it wasn’t long until the light started to fade. By the time I realized that it was evening–and a lot later than I thought–it was completely dark, leaving me in an unfamiliar city after nightfall which presented me with a serious problem.

I was lost.

While I’d been able to find my way to the Santa Maria easily enough, the same couldn’t be said for locating my apartment and I quickly became lost. I spent hours walking around Florence–literally in circles–trying to find my apartment. I eventually did, but couldn’t get the door to unlock and no one answered my knocks. Around 1 a.m. I finally managed to get the door open and went straight to bed.

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When I got up the next morning I learned from my roommates how my adventure had gone awry. I hadn’t slept into the next day as I’d thought, but for approximately two hours which is why darkness had fallen so quickly. It wasn’t mid-afternoon when I headed out. It was evening.

In the two months that I spent in Italy, I quickly adjusted to the time done and never made that mistake again. But I did learn a valuable lesson from it: check a clock and carry a map.

Disclaimer: The cover photo of this blog post is not mine and I have no artistic claim to it.

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