June 17, 2013

Bad Travel Karma: A Sad But True Tale

Soooo, while I would love to jump into a series of lovey-dovey posts about our honeymoon, the hubs and I just learned that the 8GB card with most of our photos on it doesn't work with our card reader. So until we get a new card reader or a cord to connect our fancy new camera to our laptops, I will have to entertain you in other ways. And really, I have just the tale to kick things off.

A little fact about me: I have terrible travel karma when it comes to international travel. Sickness, lost luggage, missed connections, and stolen passports are just part of the game when you travel with me. And as much as I wanted our honeymoon to be stress-free, I knew in the back of my mind that the bad karma was there waiting. Lurking. Readying to pounce at any moment.

It began, as many bad karma stories do, with rain in New York and a delayed flight on Delta. After learning that the overhead lights for our seats were completely broken and being told by the flight attend that we were being high-maintenance for asking if we would have enough time to make our connection from Barcelona to Marrakech, I tried not to let the panic seep in. I am young and in love! I reminded myself. I am honeymoon-bound! There's no way things can go wrong!

Ha. Ha. Hahahahahahahahaha!

My suitcase was the last one to get off the luggage carousel. The Iberia check-in desk wouldn't let us check in for our connection because they said they there wasn't enough time for us to go back through security. Awesome. They shrugged and told us to go talk to Vueling, the small airline to whom they had contracted the flight. Vueling stared at us blankly and offered to sell us a new flight that left a few days later, without any sort of credit or refund for our original connection. Ummm, no thanks, Vueling. P.S. You suck.

We ended up purchasing a new flight through TAP, the Air Portugal folks, who were very nice and sympathetic to our "adventures" with Iberia/Vueling. So the hubs and I ended up spending some quality time in the Lisbon airport, trying to teach ourselves Portuguese. As we rushed through the airport, I realized that one of the bows on my shoes had fallen off. Sad, sad, shoe.

Things greatly improved after that, and Morocco treated us well. But my bad travel karma wasn't done with me yet. When our time in Morocco came to an end and we flew back to Spain to spend a week in Barcelona, my suitcase didn't quite make it on the plane, and we ended up waiting over an hour for the next Vueling flight to Barcelona to reunite us. This was relatively mild in terms of bad karma, but just enough to remind me that it could lunge back at us at any moment.

Lessons learned? Always give yourself lots of time if you have a connection. Divide clothes between different suitcases if traveling with a companion. Always bring the essentials in your carry-on. And never ever ever fly Vueling ever.

Now, readers, because I love you, I will now share with you some of my favorite Bad Karma Travel Tales. Buckle your seat belts and hold on to your barf bag, because this is going to be a bumpy ride!!

A couple of hours in to a 23-hour American Airlines flight to Vietnam with connection in Tokyo, I got food poisoning! I spent the next several hours vomiting into a paper bag, hating life. Since the flight had been delayed out of New York due to weather and an unruly intoxicated passenger who had to be escorted off the plane by police, I nearly missed my connection in Tokyo. Upon arrival, I vomited some more, found out upon landing in Ho Chi Minh City that all of my luggage was still in Japan, and burst into tears when I wearily stumbled through the arrival gate and saw the hubs standing there smiling. Then I dropped my passport in the back of the taxicab that brought us to our hotel and didn't realize it was lost until the receptionist asked for it. This tale, however, has a happy ending: The cab driver brought it back to the hotel instead of trying to sell it on the black market, and my sister-in-law, who is from Vietnam and thus obviously speaks Vietnamese, helped track down my luggage the next day. Yay!

On my way to study abroad in Italy, Lufthansa lost about 60% of the luggage for our group. Imagine being in southern Italy in August with only the suitcase containing your winter sweaters. Yeah.... Everything was eventually found, but it took a few days, and I remember feeling very sweaty. Lovely. The best part, though, was a few days before Christmas when we all arrived at the airport to fly back the United States, only to learn that Lufthansa had canceled the tickets for our entire study-abroad group because one student had called to change their flight, and the agent handling her call proceeded to then delete the entire reservation. We ended up spending the night in Germany at a gross airport hotel and got back to States a day later. Not a major disaster, but to this day I shudder when I see a Lufthansa plane.

A few years ago I flew to Mexico to visit the hubs, who was abroad on a language fellowship, and once again, my suitcase was lost somewhere between DC and Mexico City. I forget what airline I took, but my bag arrived a couple of days later looking as though it had been through a civil war. The weird part is that the courier who transported my suitcase to our house in San Miguel de Allende had been on the same bus I took from Mexico City, yet he didn't deliver the suitcase until a day later...

On a family trip to Honduras, we had to to take a small plane with TACA airlines between El Salvador and the island of Roatan. When we boarded the plane, it was boiling hot inside. Why? Because the air conditioner was completely broken, and the plane had been baking in the sun all day. It was a short flight, but we were all sweating to death, and the passengers were basically threatening mutiny. Honestly, this was an even more unpleasant experience than my food poisoning adventures with American Airlines.  Also, the door that separates the cockpit from the rest of the plane was completely broken off its hinges, and we could all peer inside to see the pilot from the aisle. Terrifying. Absolutely terrifying.

And there you have it!! I survived it all, and I can still laugh at everything that's happened. That's really the trick to traveling. Be as prepared as possible, but at the end of the day, something ridiculous will happen, and you just have to deal with it. At the very least, it all makes for a wonderful story. :)

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