Sometimes the road less traveled is bumpy. Sometimes you get hit or scratched because you’re doing what you love, and sometimes it can make or break your day.
There is a subtle art in choosing joy amidst bad moments, and this trip taught me that. Let me explain.
For months, my friend Dani and I were planning to go on a 3 country, 2 continent tour of Spain, France, and Morocco. We found cheap tickets ($450 round trip to Spain!!) and immediately began planning the trip.
A couple days before the trip, I started having horrible tooth pain and went to the dentist to figure it out. (Note: this is where you find out I have a somewhat addiction to sugar and it is ruinous, but I won’t stop…) I was informed that an old root canal had become infected, that it would have to be redone, and it would cost $480 (which is more than I paid for my ticket to Spain). Fun fact: they actually worked on the wrong tooth, but this is a travel blog and not a rant about my life, so we will casually move on.
So I had ample amount of pain medication that would put me to sleep, which is great when you’re hopping to a different time zone. So with bags packed, we made the 4-hour drive to the bottom of the state and our airport.
Tip one: Always find an airport close to you.
Four hours doesn’t seem so bad when you’re going somewhere, but it’s the longest when you are coming home.
Story time: (Warning; this isn’t chronological) on the way home and the last leg of the 39-hour travel back to Ft Lauderdale, I took a road affectionally called Alligator Alley. There is nothing for 30 miles, except the road and the Everglades. This is not a road you ever want your car to break down on.
Which is exactly what happened to me.
There are few things that will ruin your car forever, and running out of engine oil is one of those; and I had run out. I was forced to leave my car in the 97 degree heat to try to walk to the nearest town, which luckily was only 3 miles away. Before I made it one mile, a cop was at my car and drove me to get oil. Thank your cops, guys. They’re heroes. So a trip that should have been 4 hours quickly (or slowly) turned to 7 hours. Find an airport close to you. The extra $100 will be worth it.
Tip two: Never lose sight of your passport.
This is the biggest fear of people who travel abroad. Losing your passport or getting it stolen is like a punch in the chest. Actually, I would rather take the punch, I think. The choice was not offered however, and somewhere between checking into the plane in Barcelona and getting off the plane in France, my passport was gone.
This horrible realization was also accompanied by my first real interaction with French people. Getting out of the airport was surprisingly easy as there was no security. I mean, no one was even around to stamp our passports and I needed to ask multiple people where the police were, and had to go into a different building to find them. Once they were found, they decided our french wasn’t good enough and just left us. Granted, my french is horrible at best and any conversation that doesn’t involve food is pretty much beyond what I know.
After many conversations and requests to call the Barcelona Airport that were met with scoffs, we were able to learn that if we go to the American Embassy, we could get a new passport. However, we couldn’t go that day because it was a bank holiday and they were closed.
Here are your moments. When there is nothing else to do, you can either accept it and enjoy what time you have, or wallow and let one moment define you’re whole trip.
In another post I will talk about how easy it is to get your passport renewed in a different country. For now, just imagine hanging out at the DMV instead of exploring a new world.
I am not one to let anything take me down, so we thanked them (me with tears full force and Dani holding down the fort) and made our way to the train into Paris.
Tip three: Make friends.
The train to Paris was supposed to be 45 minutes. Perfect right? That would give me enough time to calm down about my passport. But France had other ideas. The train would stop at each stop for 15 minutes, and after 3 stops we were on the train longer than we wanted to be and were still 40 minutes from Paris and our lovely beds.
There were announcements made over the speakers, but as they were not about crepes, I didn’t know what was being communicated. Until this cute french lady who was practicing her english on cue cards told us that someone had fallen on the tracks and the train would be delayed.
ANOTHER moment to chose. You can be frustrated that things are not going the way they should be, or you can make the best of a bad situation. So we hopped off the never moving train and saw a couple waiting for a cab. They were American (yay English!) and agreed to split the cost of a cab with us into Paris!
When you make friends, your problems seem to get smaller because now you’re introducing someone to your world and they have a different world view. Traveling is all about the places you go and the people you meet, so meet them all! They could save you $30 Euro on a cab.
Tip four: Be Polite
When we made it to our hostel in Paris, there was a woman who was at the counter to check us in. Our day had already been the worst, and it would have been very easy to take it out on this lady.
The hardest thing about having bad things happen to you is deciding whether or not you are going to let them define your day. I had to remind myself that the girl I was talking to didn’t know about my day, and although I would love to overshare, this was not the place.
So then we found out that the hostile didn’t have enough lockers for everyone, and we wouldn’t be able to check in for another couple of hours. It would have been all too easy to lose it.
This is where you find out what you’re made of. So, after asking some tough questions like ‘Where can we get internet?’ and ‘Is there a place to print out an application for a new passport?’ we were able to get by. If I had let my emotions out all over her, which would have been completely unfair, we wouldn’t have gotten the help that we did receive.
Tip five: Be Flexible
This is the basis of everything. When you plan a trip, like when you plan anything in life, not everything is going to go exactly the way that you think it will. If you are okay with things not going your way, traveling is the life for you.
When you go somewhere, plan for the worst and hope for the best. When things don’t go your way, which they won’t all the time, understand that you are allowed to get past it. Feel the crap and the disappointment that comes when things happen that don’t go your way, then get past it. There are 24 hours in a day. Don’t allow something that happens for 20 minutes affect the rest of the 23 hours and 40 minutes. There is too much fun to be had to let horrible things stop you.
There will always be things you want to do, but there is beauty in letting go and seeing where the road leads. It’s usually more fun that way anyway.
It is easy to get lost in a trip and think that if one thing is going wrong, then everything is ruined. But, that's not the case. Because of the unplanned things that happened, I was able to meet people I wouldn't have otherwise, and that is the whole point of traveling: to meet people where they are at.
So, in the worse case scenario of traveling; know that you can choose joy in the situation. It doesn’t make it suck less, but it is easier to get through the rest of the day.
Words you should know if you’re stuck in France:
- Please: S’il vous plaît
- Thank you: Merci
- Crepes with extra nutella: Crêpes avec nutella supplémentaire