Thursday, April 8, 2010

Australian Adventure Begins Unexpectedly

I have been very excited about my trip to Australia, and I had all kinds of adventures planned: climbing the Sydney Bridge, snorkeling trip to the Great Barrier Reef, wine tasting in the Yara Valley... But I was not expecting to start my adventures so early, at O'Hare International Airport!

When I checked in, the agent couldn't get me a seat on the flight which I was confirmed. Once I traveled through security and made it to my gate, the gate agent assured me I would miss my connection. So she sent me to another gate agent to get me on an earlier flight. That gate agent insisted that she could not get me on the earlier flight, and requested that I call the platinum concierge desk to try to rebook me.

Lesson Learned: always use the rebooking centers. They have more power, patience, and are more helpful, than any gate agent.

However, once I was confirmed on the earlier flight, my bag was still on the later flight, and the same gate agent who wouldn't confirm me, had to put in a baggage change order. I waited thirty minutes while she clicked away on her computer, as she continued to tell me it would be another five minutes until she finished her duties and could help me. I was getting impatient.

Well,  fianlly walked away and luckily found a gate agent willing to stop what she was doing to help. But it was too late. No guarantee my bag would be on the earlier flight. So, he put in an order to pull my bag, and I rebooked for the following day, and traveled downstairs to try to get my bag. But the most ironic part? My bag was never pulled, instead it was on the earlier flight (which I was confirmed on) and was on it's merry way to LAX, without me.

Lesson Learned: the baggage guys are the most overworked, misunderstood people at the airport. They are also the funniest and will put the most amount of effort in to help you. They spent more time trying to help me than any of the gate agents combined.

After two hours waiting for them to pull my bag (and then discovering it was already on a plane to LAX), a long taxi ride home, a bottle of champagne, and a few hours of sleep, my bag is still nowhere to be found. The baggage agents on the phone believes it is on a flight to Sydney. But they can't be sure. The woman on the phone explained to me, "We're American Airlines ma'am, not FedEx. We don't know where your bag is located at all times." Well, maybe you should be.

Lesson Learned: If you can help it, always always carry on. And always keep a bottle of champagne in your refrigerator, just for occassions like this.

Monday, April 5, 2010

How I Caught the Travel Flu

Many people explain the sudden, desperate need to travel as a "bug." But due to the feverish pitch, shakes, and sweats I get after spending too many days at home (home being a relative term between Chicago, Indy, and Arkansas), I would rather refer to it as a flu.

Which makes me wonder - when did I catch this wonderful illness? I believe I must go back to 2000, when I was invited, as a cheerleader for the Cathedral Fighting Irish, to travel to Ireland and perform in the millenium St. Patrick's Day parade. That was enough of an opportunity to make all 4 sufferable years at that school worthwhile.

When I think back to that time in my life, I was awkward, unsure how to find my place in a group of twenty girly girls and their mothers. Perhaps that's why I noticed so much about the country. I remember my fascination with the flower stands on every downtown corner in Dublin. I remember, in a smaller Irish town, seeing a newspaper with the Spice Girls on the front, thinking maybe it wasn't so different than home. I remember the castles and the cliffs and the beer and the green hills and the small twisty roads. I think I can even remember the moment I fell in love.

I believe it was in Dublin, on our tour bus, as I was taking pictures of what I saw in the city. I remember seeing a wedding chapel in a corporate building, and parked beside it was a giant flatbed semi with hundreds of kegs stacked up. And I just thought, what a lovely place. That's when I knew that there were lots of lovely places, places much more lovely than Indianapolis, in my future, to be discovered. All I had to do was find a way to afford my adventures and endure long plane rides to new homefronts.

And here I find myself, in my life, at the place I always knew I was supposed to be. With a comfortable plane pillow and plenty of Dromomine.

Another note about Ireland. As fascinated and bright eyed as I was in the country, I never felt more proud of myself, and where I was from. Lots of teenage boys who encountered us would flirt and fawn and make me feel, at the awkward age of 16, like a supermodel. They had never seen a cheerleader before. And I remember as we walked along Dublin, in our cheerleading uniforms, dancing and cheering to our fight song, all the little kids who had never seen a girl from America, smiling up at us with admiration, and I felt like a celebrity. So really, Ireland was the beginning of a more confident, wordly me. It is a beautiful place.