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Why I Travel True

Over the Australian Skies

“Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes.” – Goethe, 1798

“Life sure has a sick sense of humor, doesn’t it?” – Patrick Swayze, Point Break

As you may have guessed, I travel quite a bit. A lot of my travel is work-related, then in my downtime I travel more for fun. Regardless of why or where I travel, I always pack one small backpack. It tends to have more than I need in it, still leaving room to bring souvenirs back for friends. I’ve been refining my travel so much at this point, it just makes sense. It’s not about smiling at people trying to juggle their massive carry-ons while finding their wallet to pay $50 per bag to check them, though that is a nice perk. There are moments that it opens up adventures and opportunities I never would have expected.

A few weeks ago, I was preparing to head home from spending a little over a month in India. However, the night before, Iceland decided it wanted to be known for more than Björk and a failing economy and decided to explode, leaving a plume of ash and smoke directly above Frankfurt, where my flight was supposed to be headed through.

The airline let me know the flight was indefinitely postponed, and I went out for a celebratory dinner with friends to figure out where the best music would be that night. Then I remembered that I had to be back to celebrate a good friend’s birthday, and couldn’t wait out the expected three week delay.

While researching what flights remained after the early scramblers had claimed their alternative flights, it became clear my only hope was going the other way around the world. China Eastern had a seat available with a brief layover in Shanghai, and there was soon a perky little flight confirmation sitting in my inbox.

Standing in line to check in, I couldn’t help but notice the British Airways counter, fully staffed with no customers, looking desperate for someone to break their monotony and simultaneously fearful of what that abandoned person might do.

I ended up getting plenty of people watching in, as the flight was delayed several hours until 4am, when they finally boarded. Landing in Shanghai, they gathered up everyone heading to my flight and ushered us silently through a long series of checkpoints, taking longer and longer as we became more and more fearful that we would miss our flight.

Then they told us our flight left ages ago, and the next flight wasn’t until the next day.

Suddenly I had an unexpected 24 hours in Shanghai. Not having any checked luggage, I jumped past the long line of people hoping their bags would pop out of that metallic hole in the wall, and hopped a cab downtown in search of adventure.

If the clouds are that far away...

I visited tiny artisan shops and talked with the owners about the changing history of the neighborhood. I ate dozens of tiny dishes of local foods. I went to a bar where you had to guess a secret code gesture to open the door. I made new friends and we wandered the streets, laughing about cultural differences, fighting off bewilderment that for no good reason, I was in Shanghai.

After a flight far too long to not have in-seat entertainment, I arrived in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, due to yet another delay and travelers worldwide rerouting through any available airport, the next flight home to San Francisco wasn’t for ten hours, more time than it would take to drive, I wanted to get home. The flight attendant announced that all checked baggage would be taken to the next available flight automatically, leaving no recourse. As we landed, I threw my backpack over my shoulder and walked to the next flight listed to San Francisco, leaving in 30 minutes. I asked if there was any room on the standby list, and smiled when she asked if an exit row window was alright.

The last part may have been charm or just pure luck, but none of it would have been possible if I hadn’t been flexible and prepared. Moments like this remind me of why this is so important, and why I want to help you do the same.

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One Comment

  1. […] my tale wasn’t enough, I want you to check out Chris Dame’s story from Travel True. He mentioned how light traveling helped him manuever around an unexpected layover […]

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