“Which airline are you flying with?” Simone asks. She is the one who gave me a ride to the airport. “Uh, Atlanta,” I say, half-drunk, half-hung over. “I’ve never heard of them,” she says. No surprise, because this airline doesn’t exist. What I didn’t get in my condition: I was supposed to fly with the airline “Delta” to the city “Atlanta”. Then, Atlanta was another 5-hour domestic flight from San Francisco which again is one hour train ride away from my destination: Palo Alto in the SF Bay.
In my defense, beforehand I was working four weeks straight on my Master’s Thesis with little to no sleep. After I handed it in, I immediately had to clear my student dorm room. On the evening before the flight, everything was done and the pressure suddenly dropped. Beer never tasted better. A fun evening with my fellow students in a pub in Regensburg, according to the motto: the flight leaves at 6 am, but I don’t care – “Carpe diem!”
After about one hour of sleep, Simone pulled me from her couch, threw me into her car along with my luggage and drove to the Munich airport. She patiently sat down with me and solved the Atlanta/Delta riddle. Once again big thanks, without her I would have never made it to the United States.
Sitting in the plane was just about the beginning of a real horror trip.I didn’t really have the time to learn about some vital details beforehand. It slowly dawned on me that I actually had two flights that day. In Atlanta I had to fetch my five bags and drag them through the customs. I had luggage for nine months, the duration of my internship.
Additionally, my credit card didn’t work (the next day the damn thing was fine). I couldn’t even pay for dinner and was half-starved. Who actually gets the national currency before starting a trip? So, there I was, at midnight in San Francisco. The couchsurfer who I was supposed to stay with, did not answer the phone. No surprise, we had agreed on 5 pm (time of my arrival in Atlanta).
Of course, I could have just rented a motel room near the airport and driven to Palo Alto the next day. Brains weren’t strong that particular day. In my defense, I did not know that the train station in Palo Alto would be completely deserted, completely dark and not a single taxi in sight. With tears flowing down my cheeks, I called Simone and begged her to search for a nearby hotel via internet (in 2008 smartphones weren’t that popular). Then, I dragged my heavy bags down the road until I saw the lights of a Four Seasons on the horizon (or a similarly expensive hotel). Sweaty and completely exhausted, I crawled into the reception and begged: “I can not afford a room here, but please help me!” They actually did and called a cab to take me to a cheap “Motel 6” on the El Camino.
This experience gave me inspiration for my former travel blog’s name “Murphy’s Law” – what can go wrong, will go wrong. I once had experienced the worst case scenario. From then on, of course, I always feared the worst.
Especially on the current trip, there are quite a few risk factors. I’ll arrive tomorrow at 4 am in Moscow, then I have to pick up my Trans-Siberian Railway tickets at the Russian travel agency and find the right train station until noon. All this without speaking a single word of Russian, let alone reading cyrillic letters. Russian words are shockingly long and, for the untrained eye, have little recognition value. However, the preparations for the trip worked out well and the first flight was on time. Now I’m sitting at Vienna Airport, having a beer (only one!). So far, the travel stress has not yet erupted.
Here’s a travel tip: You always think, you forgot something. As long as you have passport, tickets and credit card with you, everything is fine. They have panties in other countries too. This kind of stuff you can buy, if necessary.
It is understood that you should do some research before your trip, if there will be complicated travel schedules. 😉