That is always how I like to start my vacations.
I start off writing this in the Airport Clarion Hotel in Philadelphia. I cannot honestly sat that this is where I anticipated my day ending, and yet here I am.
To preface this, I’d have to give a little background about the last year of my life. After living in Japan for a bit over two years, I came back home to Las Vegas. I knew immediately that it was the end of a very important and very fantastic stage of my life. I mourned and celebrated my exit from Japan by going on a solo backpacking trip through Vietnam and Cambodia.
This probably marked the height of my life as the intrepid adventurer. I didn’t realize it at the time.
Under the guise of letting myself ‘get situated’ at home I neglected my wanderlust and in turn it made my daily life feel like trudging through the River of Styx. I suppose that is the only logical conclusion when you turn your back on your passion.
Nevertheless, after over a year of living down to my hopes, dreams, and potential as well as watching my most cherished relationships deteriorate, I decided it was time for a palette cleanser. The bitter taste that had taken permanent residence in my soul could not be washed away by some weekend getaway. It needed to be something personal and remarkable.
For me, it had to be London.
I do not know when or why this seed was planted in my head that London was the home I had never been to, but I felt a kinship to it.
Now, Paris is the place that most people fantasize about, but I am not a romantic. I am a rationalist. I mentally prepared myself. I wanted to see sights of near constant drizzling rain, immaculately tailored slim cut suits, afternoon tea, the flagship store of Alexander McQueen, a Shakespeare play trotted out at the Globe Theatre.
Alas, fate had other plans. While flying standby, I made my flight from Las Vegas to Charlotte, NC with relative ease. Yet Charlotte changed the game. Sitting at the gate, I breathed my first sigh of relief. I had found it impossible to get excited beforehand as standby plans could change in the blink of an eye. In that moment, I sunk into that uncomfortable airport chair with almost certainty that it was just a matter of hours before I stepped onto British soil.
It only took three little words to shatter that dream.
“We need volunteers.”
US Airways was giving a $900 flight credit to any passenger willing to opt our of their flight. If someone with a confirmed seat was not guaranteed a seat, what chances did I have? I raced to collect my bag, my composure and my jaw off the floor, and I embarked to find out my options.
At the counter the ticket agent looked relieved that someone was walking towards her, possibly to take myself off this flight. As I spoke her hopes were dashed. I was told that I could get onto a flight to Philadelphia with a connecting flight into London. Ultimately, I be arriving in London only a paltry three hours later than originally planned.
The Philadelphia flight was near the end of boarding as I was being told this. I only had a split second to make a definitive decision; in that moment of panic I made the only snap judgment that seemed logical: yes.
I barely made it on the flight to Philadelphia and sunk into that slight more comfortable than an airport seat with the ease that my snags were behind me.
Side note: I have noticed when getting on the plane, if you happen to be the last person, you get a lot of dirty looks from people as if you are single handedly holding up the flight. As anyone who has ever missed a flight knows, airplanes wait for no man.
An even more personal side note: To the woman who whispered no so silently as I boarded the plane, “there’s always one straggler running late,” I reply, why don’t you take your judgment and shove it up your tight ass and enjoy a rough patch of turbulence.
End of side note.
In Philadelphia, I had some time to kill, so I enjoyed a veggie version of a Philly Cheese steak. However, I have now been told that is both blasphemous and entirely missing the point. Finally, I go to the counter to see my chances of making the flight. There I encountered a very nice, albeit straight forward guy who gave me truly bad news, When he said that I wouldn’t make it on my flight, there was a moment I was certain he was just joking with me. He was not.
While there were more than a few open seats, there were more than a few passengers flying standby, and I was low on the totem pole. I waited, clinging to hope that a minivan full of passengers would get stuck in traffic. I know, not my finest moment. As boarding time came and went, every standby passenger was called to board. Every…single…one. Except me.
The gate agent again was blunt when he told me that the next flight into Heathrow was not until 9:50 pm the following day and that my chances of flying looked equally dour. I appreciated his honesty. However, I appreciated even more when he took the moments to tell me what flights would be leaving for Europe the following day and what my chances were for making each flight.
The options presented ranged from Madrid, Barcelona, Paris (with a slim chance), and Rome. The only other location that I could imagine going, which I had dreamed about, had to be Italy. And with that, with no preparation, at 10:00 pm I chose that I would be departing for Rome the following day.
It was a tumultuous road, and I will admit that for at least a full day I behaved like a brat, lamenting over the fact that my dream of London was stalled. Then I realized that if a challenge in my life was ‘having’ to go to Rome as a consolation, things really couldn’t be all that bad, could they?