We’ve all read them before. Posts or YouTube videos or word of mouth story where someone talks about the trip from hell they had to endure because…things didn’t go to plan. That’s it. They didn’t get kidnapped by the cartel or the mafia, they weren’t robbed of all their possessions, they didn’t survive a plane crash. They just made plans that didn’t get followed through with. Maybe I’m sounding like an asshole but I don’t think that not doing everything you wanted or your plans going off course makes it a trip from hell. It just makes it unexpected.
I recently took my first vacation from work and went on a girls’ trip to Athens.
Getting there was a bit frightening. It was my first time flying standby and I had seen that the flight was full a few days prior. But I knew that people don’t always show up for their flights so I wasn’t worried. Our first leg from JFK to Copenhagen went smooth, both my friend and I got seats and were able to get to where we needed and I thought the worst part was over.
We get to the gate a couple hours later for the second leg to Athens and I see five Cabin Crew walk onto the plane. I didn’t think much of it besides that we would be on a training flight. However, that was important to know when we realized there were six of us waiting for standby seats and one of us would have to take the jumpseat. I volunteered, being the only one who actually worked the 737’s (the other two crew work on our larger 787’s). Then, as the gate agent is printing our tickets off, a man comes running to the gate, panting and sweating. He tells the gate agent he’s going to Athens. Cue all six of us staring in horror at him, knowing this could cause one of us to be kicked off the flight or forced to sit in the cockpit for three hours (a fate that is really not as cool as one might think, it’s very cramped in there!) But luck was on our side this time, the gate agent told us he didn’t have to let him on due to the doors technically being closed. Even more luck (well for us, not him), he was flying with a different airline to Athens and had to go to the other side of the airport for his actual flight. I almost feel bad, he probably missed his flight…but I didn’t miss mine! I just had to sit in the very back of the plane with my Dutch colleagues and hope I wasn’t too much in their way. They said I wasn’t, but everyone who ever had to sit in the jumpseat knows you’re kind of always in the way a bit. There just isn’t room in the galley for four people. But hey, at least I wasn’t trapped in a locked cockpit!
After our long weekend in Athens, I was left on my own to figure a way back home before work while my friends went SCUBA diving in Egypt. After looking up cheap flights from Athens that could eventually get me home, I decided to spend a day in Malta.
Having no expectations of this small Mediterranean island south of Italy, I hopped my flight in the evening with only my hostel figured out for the night. As it turned out, it was a great hostel, close to the marina and the beach as well as a ton of different restaurants and clubs.
It being a weekend night, I got invited to go clubbing with some ot the girls from my dorm room. Marco Polo, where I stayed, has a really convenient rooftop bar as well as cheap drinks (that night the special was two cocktails for €5) to pregame with. Then, about five or six clubs were on the same strip near a couple of late night restaurants so all in all, I have to say Saint Julian’s knows how to set up their city center.
Of course, having no expectations for my stay made it so I had no idea what to do with myself during my full day in the country. The staff at my hostel gave me many recommendations, none of which I woke up early enough to do (hashtag vampire life) and renting a car seemed a little on the expensive side for just a day (though looking back I think I would have liked to have done so, Malta is small enough to see a good portion of sights in one day with a car or motorcycle). So instead I walked around the neighborhood I was staying in, learnng the layout and found a couple beaches to lay out on. It was a lazy, relaxing day that I deserved after walking around Athens for four days straight. Plus, it was nice to remind myself that I was on vacation and sometimes that just means doing nothing but falling asleep at three in the afternoon on a beach, letting the Mediterranean lull me to sleep.
That night I stayed at the bar, drinking with some of my dormmates around the pool table (a game I am terribly hopeless at. I claim it’s because I’m short and can’t really control the cue well, but really I just suck).
My flight the next afternoon was supposed to get me to Edinburgh about three hours before my flight home. But, as sometimes happens with airline travel, shit happened and my flight was delayed by about three hours. It is a risk I take every time I fly and many people say it’s a higher risk with Ryan Air than with other airlines (though this was my first experience with it happening; my many other Ryan Air flights were always on time).
I resigned myself to the fact that I might be spending some time in Scotland, which really isn’t a bad place to spend an unexpected layover. When we landed though, I saw my plane still on the ground! They must have been delayed too, maybe I could still make it!
I flung myself off that 737 and as my luck would have it, the non-EU passports line was empty. I told the Border Force agent my issue (“I gotta get on that plane now!”) and showed him my airline ID, hoping that would make him realize I could be trusted to get into his country quickly. Either that worked or he took pity on me because he stamped my passport and wished me luck catching my plane.
But alas! That was as far as my luck took me as I stood at baggage claim waiting for my checked bag (damn myself and buying all kinds of alcohol) and watched as both of my potential flights home took off.
It was frustrating. I was tired, I was looking forward to coming home and seeing Richie and sleeping in my own bed and getting to cook in my own kitchen again. But the planes were in the air and they weren’t coming back for me. I’d have to catch the one tomorrow.
So I did what any good traveller does and angrily plopped myself in a chair and swore numerous times to myself. Then I looked up hostels that would take me in for the night.
Seeing as I was in a city I had been to before I had a good idea of where to stay and that gave me an advantage in finding St. Christopher’s, which was only about a block from Waverly Station, where I could easily take the bus directly to and from the airport.
It being so late and a weekend, however, I was stuck in a middle bunk that caused me quite a few smacks to the forehead and right then and there, I decided I would not be drinking that night. Instead, I went for a walk in Prince’s Gardens to clear my head of the frustration I was still feeling and told myself I now had an extra day in a city I haven’t been to in quite a while to do something I haven’t been able to do yet.
So the next day I checked out of the hostel and spent the afternoon walking around and checking out the Writer’s Museum. I happened to get there as soon as a tour was starting to I was able to follow along a path of greats from the city, like Sirs Arthur Conan Doyle, Walter Scott, JM Barrie, and Robert Louis Stevenson. It ended, of course, at Nicholson’s Cafe (now called Spoon) where JK Rowling famously wrote the first chapters of Philosopher’s Stone.
I enjoyed the tour, the guide being an author from Edinburgh himself so it felt authentic and while I’m nerdy enough to know many of the stories, such as Sherlock Holmes being based on Dr. Joseph Bell and Wendy from Peter Pan coming from a little girl Barrie knew who called him her “fwendy” I enjoyed learning some new things too. Like Barrie, Doyle, and Stevenson never knew each other but all wrote about one another in letters and frequented the same pub. Or that my beloved Watson was based on Doyle’s colleague, James Watson (go figure) or that a man who went through a leg amputation and survived miraculously was inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Long John Silver.
I would have never known this had I gotten on the flight I was supposed to, nor would I have had some of the best haggis I ever had after the tour at Makar’s, a little restaurant near the Writer’s Museum. It was upscale but reasonably priced with a delicious sauce and multiple options for potato filling. I was in heaven.
So imagine my surprise when my adventure was not over and I realized as I was buying my standby ticket to go home that there were no flights to Providence that night and the only flight was to New York! I decided it was better than to stay another night when I had to work the day after. At least I was getting into the country and I could figure out how to get back to Rhode Island once I landed.
I felt like the gate agents were rude to me, continually telling me that the flight was full and I probably wouldn’t make it on (it wasn’t full, I had checked the numbers before getting to the airport, there were a good twenty seats open plus the jumpseats) and even seeming to not want to give me a seat once everyone else boarded! I was getting ready to tell them to get the captain (who I saw in line to check our bags, so he knew I was trying to get on). But I got on finally, and lo and behold, there were several empty seats.
I really lucked out with my seat though. The two women I was next turned happened to have seen me talking to the crew and asked if I flew frequently. I laughed and said I worked for the airline, so I guess you could call me a frequent flier, yes. As we talked more, it turned out they lived in Glastonbury, not far from my Dad’s house and offered to give me a ride there since I had no idea how I was getting to Rhode Island.
Sometimes, there still are really good people out there, who wanted nothing from me in return and were just doing a good deeed of getting a stranded girl home. So shoutout to Amy and her mom from Glastonbury!