I originally started this post by writing about how lucky I’ve been in my travels, about how I’ve avoided many unfortunate specific travel-related misfortunes but I am superstitious enough that I don’t want to tempt fate or the travel gods by listing them. As Michael Scott would say, “I’m not superstitious. But I’m a little stitious.”
Suffice to say I’ve been safe and relatively timely, whether that’s due to luck or smart travel. I hope for the latter. But even for the lucky traveler, those moments of panic happen. Often, it’s because we’re not thinking clearly…
Here are three that come to mind right away…
3. Just the other night I went to check us in online for our flight to Croatia. It was 7:10 p.m. and our flight left the next evening. I clicked through the usual screens, entered my name and surname, airport of departure, the whole thing. But a red error message came up saying RESERVATION DOES NOT MATCH NAME, and even worse, the flight listed to Zagreb was for an hour from then. What the eff!?
“Honey!?” I called to the other room. “I think, uhh…I think…” the panic in my voice–and my stomach–began to rise as I searched through my emails for the e-ticket confirmation. The message from Airtickets said 2/2, but what if there was some mistake with the third-party tickets?! And that somehow I had booked the wrong flight!? THAT WE WERE ABOUT TO MISS!? My visa to Turkey was about to expire…
Then, I looked at the clock. More than 24 hours remained until the flight itself. Web check-in hadn’t started.
2. I was 20 years old and it was my first long adventure abroad on my own: I’d be gone for four months to study abroad in Italy. But before that, I’d travel for a couple weeks. My first stop was Bercelona. Getting there was not a direct flight, to say the least:
Early morning flight to Phoenix–>Frankfurt am Main Airport–>bus from there to Frankfurt Hahn Airport–>RyanAir flight to Barcelona Girona Airport–>bus to Barcelona proper. By the time I reached the bus terminal in Barcelona, I was half-delirious. Maybe it was jet lag, maybe it was something resembling adrenaline, but something made me hop right off that bus without a second thought as soon as we pulled in.
I was almost a block away when I realized I had forgotten my luggage beneath the bus. I ran back to where we had been dropped off.
“¿¡Equipaje!?” I asked, hoping someone had seen my red bag. “The driver called and called but nobody came for it, so he left,” a woman standing there said.
OH, LORD, NO, was all I could think. THE BUS HAS GONE TO MADRID OR SANTIAGO OR CHINA AND I WILL NEVER SEE MY STUFF AGAIN! I JUST GOT HERE, HOW COULD I HAVE ALREADY MADE SUCH A HUGE MISTAKE!?
I spotted an information desk a few yards away and asked where the bus from Girona had gone. The man behind the desk shook his head, raised his finger and pointed. What did it mean!? Was it some Spanish gesture I didn’t understand? I looked to where he was pointing.
“It’s right there…parked on the other side.”
1. Know how some people do their best thinking on the toilet? I am not usually one of those people. But one day a few months ago, I was…and it’s a good thing, too.
It was August, and we had a limited amount of time before Boris had to start work and I had to leave for Italy. We wanted to get out of the craziness of Istanbul and head to the beach. If we went to Ayvalik, we’d even get to go back to Greece and check out the island of Lesbos, famed home of the ancient Greek poet, Sappho. Plus, you know, there’s feta there.
So we took the city bus to the main otogar (bus station) in Istanbul, which is huge enough to be a town unto itself. We picked a company and asked about Ayvalik. The girl behind the counter spoke little English, but most of the transaction was conducted by pointing anyway.
“When is the next bus to Ayvalik?” We asked.
“Eleven fifty,” she replied. Great! That gave us about 40 minutes or so to go to the bathroom, grab a snack and relax before making our way to the bus.
So we booked it, got our tickets and went to the huge building in the middle of the station that was like a mini-mall, replete with markets and a cafeteria and probably a tailor. First order of business: hit the bathroom before the eight hour ride.
And it was there in the stall at the otogar that I found myself thinking about accents and how common sounds were often mistaken for each other. Which led me to realize that “fifty” can sound an awful lot like “fifteen.” It was my Toilet Moment of Truth. I pulled the tickets out of my pocket: there, in bold type under ‘Departure time’ was 11:15. It was 11:11.
I ran out of the bathroom yelling, “SHE SAID ELEVEN FIFTEEN!” to Boris. We bolted. He had a head start and wasn’t rolling a suitcase, but I managed to keep up (thank you, Osprey, for making nearly indestructible wheels).
We did make it to Ayvalik–and Lesbos. Lesson? ALWAYS read your tickets.
Have you ever had a travel moment of panic? What was it?