By Samuel Miller
Belize offers the beautiful sights and sounds that I can only imagine. After my last travel experience, one can imagine why I want to go to Belize.
Do you ever have those days where you wake up and just know that everything is going to go wrong? I’m talking about the days when things start terribly and you just somehow know that they will only get worse. You sleep through your alarm because you set it for PM not AM, you can’t find your wallet, all of your work socks are in the laundry which you had started the night before but forgot to put it in the dryer so everything is soaking… those days.
Well…the day that I was supposed to fly from Boston to India was nothing like that. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Thursday, July 29th was a beautiful, sunny day in Boston. I took the day off from work even though my connecting flight to JFK in New York wasn’t until 6:40 PM, and spent the entire day making my final preparations. To be honest, there really wasn’t much left to be done; I had been planning this trip with my sister for 6 months. I had literally spent days of my life thinking about every possible logistical detail. I had gotten all of my immunizations three weeks before I was to travel. I packed for the trip four days in advance (unheard of for me). I truly believe I managed to read every travel-tip website on the Internet.
I was ready, and could only hope that the India was ready for me. As I watched the cab driver load my bags into the trunk, I realized for the first time that I had been looking forward to this trip for my entire life.
OK. Let’s go.
And then it started. My flight to JFK was delayed an hour. OK, I’ll roll with it. I should still have time to make my 9:45 Lufthansa connection to Frankfurt, no sweat. We take off at 7:40 as scheduled and proceed to get delayed in the air and then again on the tarmac in New York. I disembark at 9:32 PM and begin literally sprinting through the airport as if I were some lost family member from Home Alone who missed the filming by 20 years. Everything falls out of my backpack and scatters across an area of what looked to be about 30 square yards. Clean up, move on, arrive to Lufthansa counter. Not a soul in sight; I had missed my flight.
I spend 5 hours on the phone with the airlines and speak with an employee named Randy Gerhardt four separate times. Only on the fourth time speaking with him does he remember that we have talked before. All hotels are booked in the area, there are no flights, I don’t have my bag, and my phone is dying. No outlets. I curl up on the ground at 1AM and sleep. I wake up at 3AM to try to find an outlet – nothing. I go to the Delta terminal at 4:30 AM to see if they have a flight or can track my bag. Nothing. No bag. No flights. No help.
I find out Lufthansa opens at 12PM; I have six hours to kill. I find an outlet and charge my phone. Better. Lufthansa opens. No flights. Worse. Totally booked. One seat on a flight to Frankfurt with standby to Delhi for $3500.
When the Lufthansa baggage claim opens, I manage to get my bag! I’m feeling happier, but I’m still not going to Delhi. My mother texts me apologetically and says I can go to Vermont with her since I can’t make it to India.
No, mom. For so many reasons, no. I decide then and there that I will be going to India.
I go back to the Lufthansa counter. With bloodshot eyes and what can only be described as “airport hair,” I tell the manager to get me on a flight. Just do it.
“Sorry sir! No seats until August 11th!”
I asked her if she knew that it was July 31st. She did. Probably sensing an impending rampage, she gives me two $6 meal tickets “for my trouble.”
Soon after, my sister calls, almost sobbing. I NEED to get there somehow. She tells me there is a flight on Air India leaving at 4PM. I sprint, yet again, to the Air India terminal. It’s empty. No seats. Not one. I go to every ticket counter in each terminal, weaving through the crowd outside, inside, left, right, up, down. I asked the same question to every airport employee I could find: “Do you have a ticket to India? The last person I asked calmly replied: “Sir, this is a bus station.”
I find a bench, throw my bag down, put my head in my hands and fight back tears. I am utterly defeated. I have built this trip up in my mind for six months and there is simply no way for me to get there. Just before giving up entirely, I get another call from my sister.
“Sam, there is one option.” This is not funny to me. “You can fly to Beijing and then to Delhi.”
“How long is it? When will I get there?”
“13.5 hours to Beijing. Then 7 hours to New Delhi. Then you fly to meet us on the houseboat. We will figure out logistics after.” Elation.
“I’m booking it.” She tells me to check email when I get to Beijing.
I call Air China and book the ticket. It is now 7:00 PM, bringing my total vacation time in JFK to 22 hours. For those of you that have been there, it’s not Bali. Or India for that matter.
I fly 13.5 hours to Beijing only to find out there is no accessible Internet. I have a two-hour layover to think about the impending disaster of me arriving in Delhi and having no idea what to do from there. So of course I blindly board my plane in the absence of all other options. I am completely numb at this point.
I arrive in Delhi and find my name on a Kingfisher flight that my sister had rebooked. Five hour layover? No matter. After all, she has no idea where I am at this point or if I am going to make it. Or if I have crashed into the ocean in a fiery explosion. Both scenarios ran through my head. I realized definitively that I would prefer the latter.
I board the plane and wake up in Mumbai two hours later. I find an email station and find out that my sister has arranged for me to meet them once I get to Cochin. Elated again… I think?
Then defeated again. I learn that my flight to Cochin arrives after the departure of the houseboat. My sister knew this and simply wrote that she was going to try to meet me on the boat somewhere. That’s it. I have NO idea where I am going, by what means I am going or when I am going. I am just doing what she says like a mindless, sleepless automaton that is 7,626 miles from home.
I fly the 1.5 hours to Cochin. There is a man with a sign! The man informs me that we have a three-hour drive to get where we are going. I fall asleep before we even leave the airport grounds. After what feels like a matter of minutes, I awake to the driver shaking me.
“We are here!” he says.
“We are where?” We were parked in the middle of a rice paddy. I decide the best thing to do is to mentally add and then immediately cross “park in rice paddy” off my bucket list. I get out of the cab and we begin walking. After about twenty minutes we arrive at a village. After a quick mental assessment, I decide that the population could not possibly be in excess of 100 small Indians. As I watch him carry my bag between the huts (“main street”) I am oddly OK with the realization that he will probably end shooting me in the head and taking my shoes and iPod. If there is such a thing as being so tired and beat down as to no longer worry such things, this was it.
Thankfully, he didn’t shoot me in the head. We emerged from the other side of the village, turned a corner and there it was; a magnificent houseboat with my sister and her boyfriend on the top deck waving. I run. I get on the boat. Big hugs.
It was now Sunday, August 1st, 3:30 PM. From my house in Boston to being by my sister’s side, it took me 62 hours of traveling, 28 of which were 30,000 feet above the ground.
On the way home I flew from Delhi to Chicago to Boston. I flew around the entire planet.
The Macal River. The birds. The Mayan Temples. This is the vacation we all dream of. I have endured enough in my travels to deserve this kind of wonderful experience.