A lesson on life...
This post is being written more for myself than for anyone who reads this blog.
Work has been pretty stressful lately as we had to make the unfortunate decision to undo going free. There are a bunch of other massive changes that have happened to compound the stress, but i won't go into that here.
What I do want to write about is the story of a trip i took 3 years ago with my friend Camilla. What I learned from that trip is something I don't ever want to forget, and at stressful times like these, it's good for me to remind myself of it.
Camilla and I both pride ourselves on being impromptu adventure travelers. Three years ago, Camilla said she was going to have 4 days off and wanted to know if i was up for a quick trip somewhere. We quickly honed in on Cuba as the destination of choice, bought our lonely planet guide books, and got housing arranged. All was good to go, the plan was for me to meet up with Camilla in Toronto and fly together to Cuba on Air Canada (you can't fly directly from the US to Cuba).
When we got to the Air Canada counter, they had bad news for us. The flight was oversold, and presumably because we had really cheap fares, we were being bumped. The conversation went like this:
"We have another flight available tomorrow that you can go on. In exchange for the inconvenience, we are prepared to give you a $300 Flight Voucher"
"Tomorrow!?!? Tomorrow is no good! We don't want a voucher, we want to get on this plane. It's not our fault that you oversold the flight, and why didn't you OFFER this voucher to other people instead of just forcing it on us???"
"Sir, it's $300! That's a lot of money!"
"I don't care if it's $30,000, we only have 4 days of vacation time, and you are going to make it 3! That's not worth any amount of money to us!"
"Well I'm sorry, but we can't get you on this plane."
"Ok, what other planes do you have going out to that region today?"
"The last one is a flight leaving for the Bahamas, but it leaves in 20 minutes, you won't make it"
"We'll make it, just do it!!"
In reality, the conversation was much more difficult than that. Getting the Air Canada people to do ANYTHING was a nightmare, and every step of the way they were rude and antagonistic. (I have a lot of canadian friends who are really cool so i'm not going to make blanket statements about an entire country.. but i will say that i got an eerie feeling the Toronto Airport does NOT like Asian people. When I returned later, I was forced to go through a higher level of immigration security, and i noticed that everyone else in there was Asian too. But that's another story)
Anyway, out of breath, we got to the plane just as they were closing the door.. we were off to the Bahamas! No plans. No arrangements. Not even a guidebook. Once we were on the plane, Camilla and I agreed that even though things were not going as planned, we would maintain a positive outlook and try to make lemons out of lemonade. We decided at that point that the theme of our trip would be "Go with the flow", having no idea how many more times on the trip we'd have to repeat that mantra.
Once on the plane, we borrowed someone else's guidebook and found that the city we were landing at, Nassau, was NOT where we wanted to be. We wanted to go somewhere with more culture, and less strip malls and resorts catering to tourists. So we decided that as soon as we got off the plane, we would try to fly to a different island.
We ran to the ticketing counters only to find that all the flights were full, and we were like #20 on the waiting list for an already TINY plane.
Unwavering in our resolve to maintain a positive attitude, we talked to the nice lady at the ticket counter and made friends with her. What should we do instead, we asked her? We told her about our situation of not having any plans because we were supposed to be in Cuba but got screwed by Air Canada. We made a lot of small talk with her.
After at least an hour of just standing around, not quite sure what we would do, the ticket counter lady called us over and whispered, "hey, you know what, i am going to get you on this plane. I think some people are not showing up, and i am going to get you there!" This was amazing, this complete stranger basically decided to scrap the waiting list entirely and just give the seats to us. "Go with the flow!" Everything was working out.
So we end up on a flight that landed roughly around dusk. When we landed we started calling every hotel on the island.. everyone was sold out, as it was a holiday weekend. crap.
finally we found one that said they had room. we rushed over in a cab and tried to check in.
"I am sorry, but we do not have any rooms."
"What!??! we just called though!!"
"I do not know.. who did you talk to? they were mistaken because we don't have any rooms available.. but if you would like to use our phone to call other hotels, you are welcome to do so."
It wasn't a huge island, and we quickly came to the conclusion after 15 minutes of calling that we were screwed. By this time, it was like 9pm. We were tired, a bit exasperated from all the changes, but again... we kept telling ourselves that this was part of the adventure. Maybe it might be fun to camp out on the beach or something?
All the roadblocks we'd been hitting all day were becoming almost comical to us at this point, like we were the protagonists of a bad movie where everything goes wrong. The fact that we were somehow stranded on some random island we'd never heard of instead of drinking mojitos at a specific hotel in Havana was a bit surreal.
Then the hotel manager came back.
"It appears that some people did not make their flight here, so we DO have a room available."
Amazing. By good fortune, we had happened to go to the same hotel that was booked by the people that missed the plane, which opened their seats up for us. We were essentially living out their vacation.
In the end, there were a few other things that happened over the trip that did not go as planned, and just like magic, things always ended up working out really well. If we hadn't been so determined to keep our spirits high, I'm pretty certain that trip could have become one of my worst vacations ever.. but instead, it became one of the best ever.
So just remember.. when life is not going as you planned, don't stress out too much over the unexpected. No matter what happens make a conscious decision to go with the flow and have fun, because life may not always go as planned... but that is precisely what makes it such a great adventure.