By Amanda Cardini, Staff Writer
It seems to be inevitable that something will not go as planned when traveling. Whether its a missed flight, misread directions or some other sort of inconvenience, this aspect of travel can be both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes a change in plans can lead to an accidental adventure, and other times it’s simply a learning experience. Regardless, it seems to stand that no matter how well prepared you are, traveling can always through a wrench in your plans.
When my dad and I took a train from Milan to Chiavari in Italy, we experienced this firsthand. For some reason when the train stopped at the platform in Chiavari, the door wouldn’t open. As we looked for someone to help us in panic, we watched in horror as the train pulled away from the Chiavari station. We got out at the next station half an hour later in disbelief of our situation. Luckily, there was an express train back to Chiavari leaving in seven minutes, so we quickly bought our tickets and hopped in an elevator to get to the correct platform.
This elevator was not like American ones. It was tiny, and despite the fact that my dad and I could barely fit in it with our suitcases, a little old Italian lady insisted on squeezing in with us. It was also unlike American elevators in that you couldn’t just push a button and arrive at your floor; you had to hold an up or down arrow until you reached your floor. When we reached our floor, someone outside the elevator started pushing the button to summon it to them, and we started moving again, away from our floor.
That’s when I, knowing we only had about four minutes to make it to our platform, did something without thinking, and pressed a big red button that said “STOP” assuming that it would stop the elevator from moving and allow us to get out at our floor. But it turns out that big red buttons that say “STOP” are actually emergency buttons that freeze the whole elevator until the fire department comes. At that moment my dad and the Italian lady started yelling to people outside the elevator for help, pressing the call button, and generally doing productive things, while I burst into tears (in my defense, I’ve always been mildly claustrophobic, and we had been traveling for almost 20 hours; I was exhausted). Someone eventually answered the call, and we were free.
We ran to the platform and miraculously made it just in time — or so we thought. Right as we reached the train we watched again in horror as the doors closed before our very eyes. For the second time that day we watched our plans rumble away without us. At this point my dad and I had no choice but to buy tickets again. Of course, there were no more express trains, and the only one left would take 50 minutes as opposed to 30. By the time we got to Chiavari, it was 3 hours later than we were supposed to arrive.
So in the spirit of this typical travel mishap story, I asked other T-birds to share their stories and was pleased to find that I am not alone in having plans change last minute!
Gloria (MGM ’17) – Getting stuck in a German winter
My brother and I were taking a train from Hannover to a small German town and were kicked off the train half an hour after boarding. Once we got help translating, we realized we had purchased regular tickets and boarded an express train. We were forced to spend 40 minutes in the middle of nowhere, in cold January at an outdoor train station, but we were eventually able to board the correct train when it came. It was really cold… but it was still exciting!
Issac (MAGAM ’19) – How I ended up touring Scandinavia
I was planning on going to Europe and found a flight from JFK to Brussels for $243. I was scheduled to spend a day and night in Brussels, then fly on a cheap Ryanair flight from Brussels to Berlin and spend another day and night there before flying to Munich. But when I flew from JFK to Brussels, I had a connection in Reykjavik. My JFK flight was late, and when I landed in Reykjavik, I found out my flight to Brussels had already left. I was stuck in Iceland for about 15-20 hours before being rerouted to Stockholm. Unfortunately, that flight was late too, so I missed my connection to Brussels and was then rerouted through Copenhagen. I finally made it to Brussels at least 30 hours later than originally planned with one missed Airbnb and a missed flight to Berlin. At that point I gave up on going to Berlin and flew straight to Munich!
Betty (MAGAM ’19) – Coming home from South Africa
I was leaving South Africa to return to Phoenix on a 16 hour flight from Capetown to Washington D.C., and we stopped in Johannesburg to refuel. During the refueling, there was some sort of complication, and we were forced to stay on the plane for four hours while they fixed the issue. By the time we arrived in D.C., I had missed my connection to Dallas. I was traveling with a group of 15 so we were stuck at the D.C. airport for 12 hours trying to coordinate all of our tickets. When we finally got to Dallas, I had missed my next flight to Phoenix. The group I was with didn’t want to leave me at the airport alone as they lived in Texas and were not continuing on to Phoenix. So, I drove with them to Pampa, Texas, a tiny town about eight hours from Dallas and stayed the night. The next day someone drove me to Amarillo (another hour drive) where I took a flight back to Dallas and then finally another flight home to Phoenix.
Travel isn’t always easy, especially if you’re alone. Sometimes it’s better to expect the unexpected and be ready for any changes that are thrown your way. Next week I’ll be sharing a few more travel mishap stories from fellow T-birds…stay tuned!