“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it” – John Steinbeck
Five days. One hundred and twenty hours. Seven thousand two hundred minutes. That’s how long I had been without clothes, my toiletries and my chargers.
The airline had lost my luggage in Nice, France, and been telling me on a daily basis that they would be bringing my backpack to my hostel “that afternoon,” but despite the fact I waited around for it, it never showed up. Meaning I would have to spend my money to call them and ask where they were.
“I’m supposed to be in Cinque Terre tomorrow,” I explained, looking at my itinerary. “I can’t wait around in France forever.”
“Go to Cinque Terre,” the woman on the phone replied pleasantly. “We can send it to you there.”
At this point I probably should have just forgotten about the bag, had them ship it to my house in New York and just purchased new clothes and soap, but I couldn’t get over the injustice of it all. They had my bag located, but somehow just weren’t bringing it to me.
Finally, on Day 8, when I was hiking Cinque Terre’s coast in the same shirt I’d been wearing for a week, the airline called me.
“We can’t bring you the bag,” she said, as if this was no trouble at all. “You’ll have to come back to Nice Côte d’Azur Airport to get it.”
“But you’re the one who lost it,” I said, flabbergasted. “You told me to go to Cinque Terre and you’d bring it here. Why am I the one who has to be inconvenienced.”
“Sorry,” she replied, and hung up the phone.
That night I was supposed to be heading to Florence. I’d already pre-booked the hostel, and the reception closed at midnight. It was now 3pm. Could I really make it to Nice and then to Florence in that amount of time? I was going to try.
It was a race from train to bus to taxi to bus to train to train, and I cursed my situation the whole way. Not only was this costing me a fortune, I was wasting precious travel time. I should have been sunbathing on the Italian Riviera, but instead I was racing around trying to find a backpack that should have been brought to me a week ago.
When I finally got to the airport it took forever to find the Lost and Found Office, who were, of course, the rudest most unhelpful people I’d ever met. My backpack was eventually located in a tiny storage closet, thrown onto the floor haphazardly with the top open. Not surprisingly, there were a few items missing, however, you may be surprised to hear which ones: My underwear and my shaving razors. I couldn’t believe I’d spent a week in dirty clothes and spent hundreds of dollars to retrieve this bag, only to find the sole reason it had gone missing in the first place was because of some pervert who was probably wearing my lacy thongs and shaving his legs as we speak.
I didn’t have too much time to dwell on the predicament, as I had a train to Florence to catch. Once I was safely on the train and knew I would be able to make it to my hostel in time, I let out a sign of relief; however, once the events of the previous week began to churn in my mind I couldn’t help but become angry. My trip had been ruined by one stupid airline.
Suddenly, I took a look at the faces surrounding me on the train. Some young, some old; some tired, some smiling; some well dressed and some looking disheveled. Where were they going? Where had they come from? What obstacles had they encountered that day? Were they worse than mine?
I shook my head, embarrassed at how dramatic I was being. Yes, this airline had terrible customer service and I would never fly them again; however, to say my trip had been ruined would be ridiculous. The money I’d lost was a pain, and the travel time was frustrating, but I was still getting to experience the excitement and adventure of backpacking Europe — which inevitably includes mishaps along the way. To believe a trip — especially one longer than a week — will go perfectly is just setting yourself up for disappointment. That being said, your attitude and how you react to the problems that present themselves to you will be the determining factor in whether your trip gets ruined or not.
Nowadays, I enjoy traveling without plans. I know I can’t control what happens on the road, so I take it day by day. If I arrive in a city and love it, I’ll stay longer. If I befriend other travelers who are heading to a place I’ve never heard of I’ll join them. If I arrive to a destination I thought was going to be exciting but ends up not offering what I thought it would I move on to the next place. You can’t control what happens on the road; however, you can control your outlook on the journey itself. Think positive and your trip will be successful, even if there are problems along the way.
What are your thoughts on trying to control your travel journey?