The Pros and Cons of Failure

Studying abroad is full of experiences and adventures. You learn so much about the world and yourself, not to mention the academics. Sometimes mistakes are part of that learning process, and that’s okay! In fact, mistakes can often make an experience better. University of Nevada, Reno student Kayla Pennington, reflects on some travel imperfections during her time in Viterbo, Italy and the great story that came out of it!

The Pros and Cons of Failure


Time: 2:37 am.

Place: Bracciano, Italy.

The night is heavy with backpacking packs and regret. With four hours until the first train back to Viterbo the tracks are laughably useless. I offer them purpose by passing time tallying tines of moonlit metal. In the day this place is glossy with the phrase “quaint little lake town,” but not tonight. Tonight, it rains.

It’s a light rain, more of the idea of precipitation than anything else, and the word “mist” crosses my mind. I chuckle. Mist, like the bus we missed. So this is how it ends. Just me, a platform, and a pun…


“Alright!! Who’s ready for an adventure?” I whisper-yelled to my friends, hushed by the unspoken quiet law that is enforced by the space before dawn. I had everything I needed for an exceptional weekend exploring Italy; purple adventure pack, hiking boots, money belt, Nutella granola bars (fine, wafers! They were Nutella wafers!), good friends and an appetite for adventure. Things were going to be great.

And, aside from staying in what was likely more of a halfway-house than a hostel (sorry mom, it was cheap) and an unquestionably creepy balding Italian man asking if he could buy me (no, sir, I am not for sale) the weekend was simply superb.

The morning of Day Three BMB (Before Missed Bus) was spent train hopping our way to Salerno, a more modern city along the Amalfi coast. One Sheryl Crow-esque bus ride later (Everyday is a winding road, anybody?) we found ourselves in the citrus-laden town of Amalfi.



Italian Ice cream sandwich torino italy study abroad travel

This is a literal ice cream sandwich. Genuine Gelato slathered between slices of a beautiful brioche. This is joy. This was also an unintentional selfie. My phone recognized that it was a big moment.

One ferry ride along the Amalfi coast to Positano, which was essentially an hour of me verbalizing every possible synonym for “incredible,” got us here:



Pompeii and a quick stop in Napoli, where I found the prettiest pizza I have ever consumed:


We arrived in Bracciano around 10:45 Sunday night. We had been lulled into a false sense of security by the train from Rome and the fact that despite “planning” our weekend adventure about five hours before we left on Friday morning, the entire weekend had gone off without a hitch. We were so hitchless, in fact, that Will Smith should have a substantial hole in his movie career based on the success of our weekend trip.

Anyway, 10:45pm, we walked by faded yellow paint on the ground outside the train station that read “BUS.” Figuring this is where we would need to be for the 11:26pm pickup for our hour-long bus ride back to Viterbo, we wandered to the nearest convenience store to kill some time and curb some late night munchies. 11:15pm rolled in; we walked back to our bus stop. We waited.



And we waited.


“What if the bus doesn’t show up”

“Hah! We’re fine.”


(quiet, collective panic)


We caved and asked for help. Turns out our bus stop was a kilometer (how far is that, anyway?) away from the train station. And our bus left 10 minutes ago. And the “24 Hour Taxi” of Bracciano sits on a throne of lies and doesn’t answer the phone after 11:30 at night.

So, I offer you the Pros and Cons of Failure (Bracciano Train Station Edition):

Con: We missed our bus. We missed our bus because we didn’t ask. We are entirely responsible for missing this bus.

Pro: I’m with some of the greatest people ever.

Con: Bracciano doesn’t have a hostel, and their only hotel has four whole dollar signs next to it on Trip Advisor (aka approximately three whole dollar signs more than any of these broke college kids can afford).

Pro: Sleeping on the ground is a great way to bond? It’s like camping. People intentionally camp to bond all the time. We’re just embarking on some forced camping together, it’s fine.

Con: The next train isn’t until 6:33 in the morning.

Pro: We have snacks and cards. Who doesn’t love snacks and cards? Everybody loves snacks and cards! I’ve been meaning to try what appear to be Italian Pringles! What a great, once in a lifetime opportunity!

Con: We have to sleep outside and/or in the train station.

Pro: Sleeping outside this train station is actually a nicer environment than the sketchy hostel we spent the last two nights in. And it’s free!

Con: There might be literal cons out here.


This was my internal monolog for several hours. Long story short, nobody died.

Lesson learned: always ask where to catch the bus.

Laughing at mistakes study abroad travel italy

Laughing at our mistakes.



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If you want to read more about Kayla’s adventures and her experiences while studying in Viterbo, Italy, be sure to check out her blog