From Wanderlust to Wonderland.
“Well, if you don’t do it now, you never will.” A good friend exclaimed, when I told her I had the opportunity to travel to an exotic foreign country.
“That is so exciting! You’d be a fool not to go.” Another friend pitched in enthusiastically. “You’re not getting any younger.”
And so, it began. At the young-at-heart age of 69, I decided to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, a glorious and fun-filled vacation to Sweden. Being infected with wanderlust, I left no stone unturned to prep for my adventure. I watched videos on how to pack, what to bring and how to deal with jetlag. Preparing for anything, I wrote packing lists and bought tons of travel size bottles of everything imaginable, from shampoo to laundry supplies. The trip there would be a breeze, a piece of cake with just enough frosting. My heart raced at the mere thought of exotic destinations, passport stamps, and those ridiculously tiny airplane pretzels.
Well, I can only say that the trip there turned out to be more like a gale, and far from a piece of cake. I’m sure you’ve all heard of Murphy’s Law, and Murphy chose to be my constant companion on this chaotic trip to wonderland. Oh, it was paradise once I finally arrived at my location, frazzled and exhausted. Let me explain…
Picture This . . .
I’m racing through the New York City airport like an extra from an action movie, heart pounding, sweat forming at my brow. The goal? Catching my connecting flight before it left the tarmac. Alas, my mad dash ends in a dramatic countdown where I’m 10 minutes short and destined for an unexpected sleepover in the land of undesirable airport hotels. Thankfully, the airline provided me with vouchers for the overpriced hotel and a meal.
The airline did not, however, offer me any help carrying my weighty backpack to the opposite end of the bustling airport. It contained the supersized laptop my son talked me into bringing, a toothbrush, toothpaste and my medication. I likened it to carrying a bowling ball in a bag for an entire hour to finally reach my distant, but cute, hotel. It was late in the evening, so the exhaustion, the sore back and aching feet were palpable.
I had to wonder if I had I accidentally stepped into a reality television show. The contestants had to compete to survive with nothing but a weighted backpack, determination and a tremendous amount of vigor. Survival: New York City Airport.
Or maybe a character in an adventure comedy film, minus the laugh track and well-timed one-liners. So, there I was, settling into a hotel room, plotting my triumphant return to the world of functional flights.
The silver lining to this unwanted side-trip was that I wasn’t the only one dealing with this dilemma. I met a fellow passenger from my flight who was booked at the same hotel. We were catching a mutual flight the very next day. It was decided that we would share the chaos by having dinner together and meeting for lunch. I enjoyed our interesting conversations and commiserations. She was a seasoned traveler who ended up helping me through a few other chaotic messes I was equally unprepared for. I made a friend amongst the muck and the mire.
Only the Beginning.
This was only the beginning of the lost luggage saga. I somehow managed to make it through the next three days sans luggage. I plodded through airports and connecting flights with only the clothes on my back and my trusty backpack. When I arrived in Sweden, I still only had my backpack, and had to go shopping for clothes, makeup and survival equipment. Thankfully, my lost luggage was returned to me three days later, and in good condition. My pal Murphy could have treated me worse (I keep telling myself).
Living Out of a Backpack.
Living out of a backpack isn’t just a challenge; it’s an art form. I turned compression socks into hair ties, and nail clippers into scissors to open those impossible to open packages of . . . well, nearly everything. Who needs an entire closet when you can create 12 different outfits with just a pair of socks, a shirt from the gift shop and a chip clip?
My survivor skills kicked in as I effortlessly transitioned from “Harried Airport Traveler” to “Fancy Airport Adventurer” with a simple flip of my comb and the lipstick I found buried in the bottom pocket of my backpack. My backpack was like the gift that keeps on giving, revealing surprise after surprise, providing what was necessary when I needed it. Toting that heavy backpack, I grew in strength, and in character.
Lessons of Life.
Life has a funny way of teaching us lessons, often when we least expect it. Stranded without my luggage, I discovered an unexpected freedom in embracing simplicity. Who needs the stress of choosing an outfit when your only option is a slightly mismatched ensemble that screams, “I’m going to rock this!” Who needs make-up when you have a very used lipstick and a toothbrush.
And let’s not forget the connections forged in the fires of airport chaos. Fellow stranded souls became fast friends as we bonded over shared tales of missed flight connections, lost luggage and numerous travel woes.
In the end, my escapade in minimalism taught me a thing or two. Life’s curveballs can lead to unexpected adventures, and sometimes, laughter is the best way to navigate through the chaos. So, to all you fellow travelers who might find yourselves with (without?) lost luggage, remember this: Embrace the absurd, rock that toothbrush-makeup look, and never underestimate the power of a well-placed comb.
A Final Word.
When I was finally reunited with my long-lost luggage, I couldn’t help but marvel at the journey I’d just undertaken. What began as a travel mishap had transformed into a saga I’d be recounting for years to come, complete with laughter, camaraderie, and the knowledge that sometimes, the most memorable adventures are the ones you never saw coming.
So, here’s to lost luggage, unexpected layovers, and the backpack that became my trusty sidekick. May your travels be filled with hilarity, resourcefulness, and compression socks that double as your new favorite accessory. Bon Voyage!