I took a solo day trip to Malmö, Sweden, during my last weekend in Europe in June. I can tell you now that the two things I remember most are a) feeling utter defeat and b) feeling utter freedom.
I think my mistake was trying to plan too much. I wanted to have amazing coffee at Lilla Kafferosteriet, eat lunch at Saltimporten Canteen, and swim at the Kallbadhus but I needed to be near wifi at exactly 2:00pm to reserve my seat on my flight the next day. I was pretty proud of the agenda I'd made myself until I set out to Saltimporten. I knew it wasn't near the city center but as I followed the map I had, I walked further and further away from civilization and found myself among warehouses and deserted streets. After doubting Google Maps and my sanity, I eventually found the restaurant only to actually find that it was closed. And that I'd walked an extra 2 miles to reach it instead of taking a short cut through the harbor. Whomp whomp.
I walked my blistered feet back to the train station and waited until it was time to check in and found the SAS check in page broken and out of service. I soon gave up and hailed a taxi to head to the Kallbadhus to give myself enough time to swim before it closed. Once the taxi went the wrong way and couldn't head in the right direction because of the marathon running through town, he eventually dropped me back off at the train station and said he couldn't help me. But I was determined, so I walked to the Kallbadhus as car after car drove past me (thanks, taxi man).
After arriving at the Kallbadhus and accidentally walking into the men's half of the facilities (twice), I found the counter to pay to enter. It was then the Swedish Justin Bieber look-alike broke the news that there were no more towels and "what? you didn't bring your own towel?"
Shocked and heartbroken and in complete belief and disbelief that this, of course, was happening to me, I took a few breaths and looked down at my feet to get it together. Everything wasn't working. I wasn't meant to be here.
I remember looking up at Swedish Justin Bieber and, instead of bursting into tears, asked, "Do you clean the towels you get back?" And that's when he went back and checked and returned saying, "It's your lucky day."
I was too emotionally overwhelmed to comprehend this at the time but as much as I planned and scheduled my day, I wasn't in complete control until I learned how to choose how I felt. There's a time and a place for your feelings to reign free but in moments where so much of the unexpected has already happened, I needed to know that I could choose to be calm instead of panicked, reasonable instead of a hot crying mess.
Enabling myself to do that was everything.
After finally making it to the women's side (the baths were split by gender because they're European), I stepped out of the locker room clutching my towel and enormous purse that was too big to fit in their 4" x 6" lockers (seriously, my camera didn't even fit in one). I was a little alarmed by all of the women who'd gone au naturel-- but I was mostly distraught over whether I'd have the nerve to do the same.
I walked up to the dock alone and thought about the day-- everything that had gone wrong and how I still made it. How I'd chosen not to give up despite sore feet and terrible luck. How these things were all part of the experience and that ultimately, being here was my choice. I made it happen. So I set the towel aside and made my way down into the water, relishing the cold sea.