Flashback 2016. Sitting at Gatwick airport waiting for our flight, we, like everyone else in the airport, were logged into the one free hour of wifi available. Checking email and Facebook, my family was just passing time before our flight to Spain.
As the time grew closer for boarding, an announcement. Fight delay. Then again. Flight delay. And then the real blow. Flight cancelled.
What! Our entire trip was planned to the minute. This one glitch would change the trajectory of the next two weeks.
Time to frantically rebook our flight. But this airport, unlike most, actually closed. In 15 minutes. Running to the airline counter, I got in line to re-schedule. I was too late. They were closing. Like a crazed American tourist I practically screamed, “How will I rebook?” The attendant looked blankly at me and said, “Online” as she grabbed her coat and left.
Shit. We had used all our wifi minutes. The entire airport was closing so we couldn’t buy a SIM card. Now what?
I looked at my kids and said, “Well, vacation’s over. Looks like we’re traveling now.”
Traveling. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s a completely different experience from a vacation or holiday. Sometimes it’s forced upon you and sometimes you choose it. Either way, it’s much easier if you embrace the adventure and know that what you expected to happen is a complete fantasy.
As I chronicle our cycling travels across Europe, I think it’s hard for folks to imagine why we are doing this. Questions arise.
“Isn’t it hard?” Yes.
“Don’t you want to just relax and just enjoy a coffee?” Yes.
“When you cycle all day, aren’t you too tired to enjoy the sights?” No.
No. Because the enjoyment is in the journey. The travel. It’s not about the destination.
Each night where we sleep is just a marker in our adventure. It’s a continuous flow of experience. The ups and downs. The moments of challenge and the moments of rest.
- The herd of goats that we cycled through and I worried they would charge
- The young boy that practiced drums outside our window to every Red Hot Chili Pepper song ever recorded
- Gazing at the Atlantic from atop cliff
- Riding past a group of prostitutes along a remote road in a Portuguese national park
- Seeing a flock of wild flamingos
- Weaving through throngs of tourists in Porto
- Buying ibuprofen in a Farmacia from a lady that could have been a clerk at the DMV (so grumpy!)
- Waiting to get our bikes fixed by the best bike guy ever
- Graffiti art, cigarette machines. Lemon and orange trees. Flowers and surfers.
- Drinking that coffee. At a seaside cafe. In an alley. In a cramped hotel room. In a small shop. In the middle of nowhere-waiting out the rain.
All part of the journey.
So back to Gatwick. What did we do? Found a hotel in the airport. Got a good night’s sleep. Rebooked our tickets. Spent an entire day in London where we were able to spontaneously meet up with an old high school friend for dinner before flying on to Madrid the next day. Sorted. And a memorable story to boot.
Don’t get me wrong. I like a good vacation. But for me, traveling is my cup of tea.
And another cup of coffee.