I Missed My First FIight Ever. It Was The Best Travel Day I’ve Had
June 3, 2019
My morning was everything you hope for when you travel.
It was pure coincidence to meet a girl in my hostel who was not only from California, but knew my cousins from high school. They were family friends. We decided we would wake up at sunrise to drive a dune buggy around the island and watch as the sun slowly crept above the mountains. It was the first time I had felt a cool breeze in weeks and the wind blew my hair every which way. We buggied to the best beach on Paros island, Kolymbithres, and there was not a soul around. The lounge chairs, the sand, the granite rocks catching the morning light, they were there just for us. We couldn’t help but make a few stops on our way back while we still had the island to ourselves. There were ancient ruins to explore and pastries to be ate. Ragoussi bakery is situated right on the main road and the smell that emanates from that place lures you right in. We stopped spur-of-the-moment for some freshly baked bread, chocolate croissants, and cappuccino freddo which we hastily consumed on our way back. Feeling all sorts of exhilarated, I headed out to the port with my bags, knowing I had a complicated travel day ahead.
Here’s the rundown of my travel day: I was to take a ferry from Paros to Mykonos to catch a 1:50 PM flight from Mykonos to Manchester. From there, I would be taking a train that evening from Manchester to Edinburgh to meet my friend, Caroline, for the Edinburgh festival season.
The crowds at the port seemed a little heavier than usual. I asked a couple of people what was happening and they said ferries were delayed due to high winds. That cool morning breeze I had felt on the buggy had picked up a bit as the day progressed. I hastily lugged my bulky suitcases to the ferry agency office to find out more information. The ferry was indeed delayed, but should be arriving in a half an hour. I had planned for this. Sure, I would be cutting it close, but it only takes 20 minutes to get from the port of Mykonos to the Mykonos airport.
The ferry pulled into the port in Paros about 45 minutes later and all of the passengers quickly hopped aboard. I immediately walked up to the deck to watch the boat leave the harbor; it’s wonderful to watch the horizon get smaller and smaller as you recount the experiences you just had over the course of the past week. Suddenly, stern-faced men and women brashedly ushered us into the main cabin demanding that we took to our assigned seats. I had yet to find my seat before I was yelled at to sit down and herded to an empty seat in the back next to the bar. Checking my phone for the time, I felt a moment of comfort knowing that I would still get to the airport 30 to 40 minutes before my flight.
But that peaceful moment was fleeting. I looked up to see the crew passing around barf bags to every passenger. My worst nightmare. I puked on the massive Boeing 787 from Los Angeles to Europe, so there was a small chance I could handle my stomach now.
In that moment, I knew I needed to shift my negative attitude, so I gave myself a pep talk and a mini meditation session. You are going to be strong. You will breath in deeply and out slowly. You have a long travel day ahead and you are on your own. You cannot afford to get sick and you won’t. You are in control of your body. Suddenly, there was a loud crash as glass bottles from the bar shifted violently from right to left as the boat rocked side to side. I knew that where I was sitting was unsafe. The alcohol cart was one large wave away from tipping over and falling on me, so I quickly had the crew member find me another seat toward the middle of the ferry. The boat was so unsteady, that I kept falling into the other passengers. It could have been straight out of a rom-com…solo-traveling female falls into the lap of handsome single man heading back to America, but they hit it off so well that handsome single man forgoes his ticket to spend the next week exploring Edinburgh, Scotland with solo-traveling female.
What did transpire was, in my opinion, even better. At this point, multiple people were hurling all around me and all that mediation I had done just wasn’t getting me anywhere. My mind could simply not compete with my stomach and I knew it was going to be bad very soon. I had left my complimentary barf bag at my previous seat so the only thing I had to stop the wreckage was my favorite TopShop white crop tee — not nearly enough material to catch the impending doom that was about to spew.
About 3 seconds before the inevitable hurl, an angel appears right next to me and shoves an open barf bag in front of my mouth. That angel’s name was Suzanne.
A couple more hurls and some small talk later, I learned that Suzanne and her husband Stephen were actually on my flight to Manchester. They had been on an annual Greek holiday for the past couple of weeks and spent their time on the islands of Folegandros, Naxos, and Paros. We agreed to share a taxi from the port to the airport and prepared ourselves to exit the ferry the moment it anchored. The problem with anchoring a ferry in extraordinarily high winds? It can take what seemed like 10 excruciatingly long minutes to level the boat enough to do so. This did allow us time to grab our bags and maneuver ourselves to the front of the waiting crowd, but it also allowed everyone else to prepare as well.
I have never quite understood how someone takes pleasure in running a marathon — you have to pay to wake up at an ungodly hour and do cardio — but regardless of my inexperience, I imagine what transpired in this moment was pretty close to the sound of a bullhorn at a marathon starting line. Everyone on that ferry bolted off the boat and to the taxi line. There was just one small problem. Zero taxis were at the port of Mykonos on Saturday at 1:20 PM.
Suzanne, her husband Stephen, and I turn around to see hundreds of people frantically throwing luggage into the undercarriage of a white bus. I had read online the day earlier about a public bus that took you from the port to the airport, but had immediately disregarded it as the slower option. At this very minute though, it seemed to be the only option. So the three of us ran over, threw our luggage underneath, and pushed our way onto the severely overcrowded bus, squished together in the center aisle among many other frantic passengers.
As we stood together waiting desperately for the driver to get on the bus and turn on the engine, we realized that this bus driver was allowing anyone and everyone to put their luggage in storage. But anyone and everyone was not going to fit on one bus. As we watched in horror, our worst fears were realized as the driver had to take out and put back all of the luggage in order to remove all of the people who could not fit on the waiting bus.
We arrived at the airport right at 1:50 PM praying that our flight was delayed. And if not, we were optimistic and hoped that maybe by some miracle easyJet would hold the flight since so many passengers had not checked in. No such luck. As we ran to the security line — I idiotically did this with my 24” suitcase that clearly needed to be checked — we were denied entrance and told that the gate had closed for boarding.
Well, this was a first.
I am notoriously late for all scheduled flights, but I had yet to ever miss one before. I can’t exactly pinpoint the moment it happened, but I started to feel a sense of calm wash over me. Yes, this would be a thousand dollar mistake, but there was nothing I could do about it now other than get on the airport WiFi and find an alternative flight. And there was another option. A British Airways flight to Manchester leaving at 21:05 that same evening. The problem? I would be landing in Manchester too late at night to take the train into Edinburgh.
I showed Suzanne and Stephen the flight option and they not only graciously offered to house me for the evening, but also rented a car to drive the hour and a half it would take to get from Manchester airport to their home, a town just outside of York, England. So a few hundred euros later — plus the 45 it cost to add a checked bag — the three of us were booked on the late-night flight.
With seven hours to kill, we got back on the public bus — since we just had such a lovely experience aboard — and headed into town. Pinching euros at this point, we devoured a very inexpensive gyro lunch and sat around a table for hours shading in the details of each other’s lives. We talked about careers, both Suzanne and Stephen worked in education, past travels to Greece, and about our family life. We commiserated over our ferry and flight misfortune, figuratively retracing our steps and how exactly this went all wrong.
But it turns out, when I reflected back on the entirety of my entire three-month trip, this day was not wrong. In fact, it stood out among the rest as the highlight. Our British Airways flight was delayed so that we landed in Manchester at 1:30 in the morning. From there, it was a bit of a blur, but we successfully rented a car, and drove the hour and a half to Suzanne and Stephen’s home, arriving somewhere between the hours of 3 and 4. I had booked a train leaving from York at 9 AM, but the thought of a mere four hours of sleep after such a physically and emotionally exhausting day left me slightly distressed.
I woke up in the morning to tea on the kettle and freshly baked croissants laid out on the back patio. Stephen had run to the local market just a little while earlier. In that moment, I knew that I wanted to spend more time with these wonderful people, so we decided that I would deliberately miss my train and take another in the late afternoon after spending some time exploring York, England together.
We had the most wonderful day. I had been dreaming about indulging in another Sunday Roast for six years, and Suzanne and Stephen made certain that happened. They took me along the city walls and we wandered down the famed Shambles street. We peered up at Clifford’s Tower and listened to some traditional music at an outdoor fair which surrounded a replica of the Globe Theatre.
4 PM came around much too quickly and it was time to say goodbye. As the train rolled past endless hills of green on its way to Edinburgh, I reflected on all that I had just lived through. In a little over 24 hours, I had gone from riding a dune buggy along the roads of Paros to spending the day in York, England, a place I had no reason to visit prior. And I was there with people that had been so incredible generous to me and made me part of their family, even if it was just for one day.
This was the story of my missed connection. It’s also a story of why I travel.
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