These days travel seems like a distant memory, and it is certainly getting harder and harder to see the possibility of travel returning any time in the near future. Some people try to look on the bright side by saying that things could be worse, and our ancestors went through much harder times. They say that if all we have to worry about is staying home and not jumping on a plane, then we really shouldn’t be complaining. I understand the point that they are making, and I do agree that we are pretty lucky all things considering. But what if travel is not just vacations to faraway lands for you? What if not being able to jump on that plane means not being able to see your family or not knowing if you will be able to go home for the holidays? What if not being able to jump on that plane and not knowing when the next time you will see your loved ones makes you feel lonelier and more isolated than ever? Especially if you find yourself in a place where you really don’t know many people to begin with. After all, we can no longer really say comforting things such as “I’m only a quick flight away” to reassure those we care about that we will be there for them.
Because of this, I find now is a perfect time to reflect on travel experiences of the past and try to be thankful that we don’t have to deal with the less fun aspects of travel. To quote a poetry slam I deeply resonated with on this subject; “Toronto Pearson Airport is a grey, bleak hell”. Now some may disagree, and it could be argued that at least there is an abundance of things to do during layovers and flight delays (it’s a great place to get in your daily steps). But all in all I think we can all acknowledge that there really aren’t many redeeming qualities of most airports.
When it comes to flight delays, I typically don’t mind. I usually leave a buffer between connecting flights, and as long as it doesn’t mean a cancelled flight or a flight delay to another day then I am ok with waiting around. My first real experience with unfortunate flight delays occurred one snowy January on a class trip to Istanbul. I flew out of Toronto while most of my classmates flew out of Winnipeg, the plan was to meet up at the Frankfurt airport and catch the same flight into our final destination. This way, we would all be able to catch the same pre-arranged ride from the airport to the hotel. This was great in theory, but fate had other plans.
My flight was delayed by over 5 hours, by how much longer I am not sure as time started to blur together and lose all meaning. We were told that we had to wait until we got to the Frankfurt airport to sort out any issues with missed connections. Ok, no big deal, these things happen all the time, was the mantra I told myself to stay calm throughout the duration of the flight. Once we landed, the chaos began. After running around in circles I was told that I had 10 minutes to clear the airport and make the next connection that they had put me on. By some miracle I managed to accomplish this task…the problem was that they didn’t think I would make it at the gate, so they took me off the flight and gave away my spot. Ok, so back to the drawing board I went, and back to the sorting line on the other end of the airport. They put me on another flight scheduled for a few hours later, I would have to check in with the person at the gate to make sure, and it was far enough away that no one was there yet, so I filled the time by frantically trying to email everyone I could think of what was happening (phones were not an option). As calm as I tried to keep myself, it should give you an indication of my mental state when I say that my knee jerk reaction to being asked if I wanted a window seat by the lady at the gate was to say “I love you” (thankfully I still had enough wherewithal to keep this to myself).
Unfortunately the saga did not end there. The real fun began once I landed in Istanbul. My phone did not work, the payphones did not work and I had no way of knowing if anyone even got any of the emails I had sent. I checked the receiving line, but there was no one. I desperately tried to connect by any means necessary but the only phone number I had for our professor was a Canadian number, and basically totally useless. I had checked the line a few more times when I finally decided that I had to give up and was going to have to go against our instructions and take a cab by myself to the hotel. I figured that on my way to the taxi area (if I could even find it) I would check the line One. Last. Time.
To my relief I say a brief glimpse of my name and the hotel name scribbled on a piece of paper before it was folded in half. I had seconds to react since the man was clearly about to leave. Running through the aisle waving my hands manically and screaming like a mad woman I was able to get his attention and we were on our way. It turns out that the reason I had kept missing him was that he would stand there for a minute or two and then go for a smoke break, or to call the hotel and tell them he didn’t think I was coming so he wanted to leave. Thankfully my professor insisted that he was not to leave without collecting me and that she was on the phone with me and I was stuck in the visa line, and then I was in the missing luggage line (neither of these were true, but thankfully they did not know that).
At the end of it all I had finally made it to the hotel and could not have been more relieved. Upon checking in I was informed that my key would not work and they would have to re-code it, but really, at that point I would have been happy to sleep in the lobby so I didn’t care (recoding the room keys turned out to be a daily event for me and my roommate). I was also overjoyed when one of my classmates had thought of me during their dinner out and had some food packed for me in a doggy bag so that I would be able to eat something as she rightly assumed I hadn’t eaten much throughout the ordeal.
As they say, all is well that ends well. We may not be able to do much traveling right now, and for some of us that may suck more than others…but at least that also means we don’t have to deal with the headaches that can often be associated with travel either. The true moral of the sorry however, is this; when traveling to unknown territory, for goodness sake make sure you have a working phone number! (And a solid plan B never hurts either)