[words, life, laughter, nonsense]

Day 22: 30 Days of Indie Travel #indie30

BootsnAll, 30 Days of Indie Travel Project


The word travel comes from a French word meaning “work” and sometimes, getting there is work. Between crowded buses, long airline delays, overnight trains and crazy rickshaw rides, transportation can be stressful, but it can also be a rewarding part of the tip. Tell us about a time when the journey became more important than the destination.

There's nothing so treacherous as mass transit in a foreign country. I've cursed trains, missed flights, been trapped on buses and paid tickets for things I didn't even understand. It's a jungle of mishaps out there and I've had my fair share.

It's hard to know which time is most influential...

Do I go with the jaunt from Vernazza to Venice that involved a midnight connection in Florence (that's Josh on the bench behind a very thrilled looking me and Bets, reading A Grief Observed -- and apparently trying to make the situation more depressing) and a night train so shady that Betsy and I refused to go to the bathroom alone? Or is it that fateful day that began with strike delays in Venice, suffered me slamming doors on cab drivers, and ended with Joy making impossible proclamations on the sidewalk in Milan?

While those are harrowing, at least I shared them with other people. And I knew how to deal because I'd been there before...

June 2006. 

I left my husband at Gatwick. He was flying home, and I was taking the "express" coach from Gatwick to Stansted so I could hop a flight to visit a friend in Krakow.

I was thinking, "I've got time. It's cool. I planned this WEEKS ago."

However, I was unable to see into the future and account for an accident on the M25 that left me stranded on an charter bus (with no air) somewhere on a British highway... for SEVEN HOURS.

It's safe to say I missed my flight to Poland and when you miss a Ryan Air flight, they don't really care... so there I was, trapped at a tiny airport in the middle of nowhere, with no one. I'd been traveling for 11 days, happy and carefree with my husband and two friends, and the second I was left alone -- my first and bravest (as the first often is) attempt at doing Europe solo -- it fell to pieces. The prospect of sleeping in another airport made my eyes well up, but there was no use paying for the train into London to stay with a friend, because I had to be back at Stansted by 4:10 a.m. to get to Poland.

You go through the inevitable emotions when you're alone and hit a wall where all modes of transportation are suddenly unavailable: anxiety, frustration, anger, denial, more anger, despair, and finally... acceptance. There comes a point when you have no other option but to figure it out.

My relief came in the form of a bearded old man at the airport's local hotel desk. Stansted's connecting hotel was full, so he found me a room and a taxi to a tiny inn in Stansted Village. I ate dinner at the bar, chatting with the bartender in English for the first time in 2 weeks, and went to sleep in a bed watching TV while locals shouted over the World Cup from the restaurant.

I actually felt good. I'd survived my first and biggest hurdle in traveling alone without throwing things too off course or losing my you-know-what in public. It was a triumph that came in handy during the following three weeks I spent by myself, hopping trains and planes in Poland, Paris, England and Ireland.

Sometimes a transit strike or missed plane becomes as big and meaningful as your destination, because it teaches you, proves what you can handle on the road, and gives you memorable moments you would never have been a part of if not for a great collision of chance.

I look back now and see this particular transit smash as a good thing. One of those times I'm sad I didn't document more thoroughly with photos or words, because when else would I be stalled on a bus with a British guy and couple of Lutherans from St. Louis, discussing religion, The Beatles and politics? Why would I have ever stayed in Stansted Village if I hadn't missed my flight?

And how would I have known I could do this whole solo travel thing, if I hadn't stepped out and done it?

Still, I don't really love missing flights,


Kimberly Menozzi said...

This is a wonderful article, and I'd say every word of it is true. Even though I've lived in Italy for nearly eight years now, I still find the caprices of traveling here painful from time to time.

And I love that you said "Sometimes a transit strike or missed plane becomes as big and meaningful as your destination". This is so very true, and I've experienced both (to my dismay) more than once.

In fact, a transit strike here in Italy inspired my first novel, and that has changed my life in many, many ways as well, even four years later.

Thank you for sharing these thoughts with us here. I hope others will learn to see these setbacks as experiences to remember and recall later with that strange fondness we reserve for our travails at a later date.

Brooke said...

Hi Kimberly,

Thanks for dropping by! It's definitely an adjustment getting used to the way transportation goes... and I've hit more than a few snares, but like you said, it can change your life and gives you things you wouldn't have had otherwise.

So cool that it inspired you.


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