When travel gives you lemons...

Photo of When travel gives you lemons... 1/1 by Steshia Monserrate

Travel for me is exhilarating – from the planning, the journey and stay to the days after you’re back where you spend lunches, dinners, drinks just sharing loads of stories with whoever wants to hear them (and there are many).

The experience of travel is about getting lost, wandering and living away from the routine; looking at new people, foods, architecture, nature and landscapes. I love it.

But, there are also travel days that leave you in a spin. Nothing goes as it’s supposed to. You question the very fundamentals of why one would leave the comfort of their home to travel (and I am a hardcore traveller).

Let me tell you a story about one such day in the recent past during my solo travel...

I was just back in Delhi from Kashmir (where from one of the many amazing activities I did there was to trek down a mountain, after and during heavy snowfall as the vehicle couldn’t reach my hotel on top. Yes, that happened but it’s a story for another day). I was looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep at my friend’s house in Delhi before I planned to take an afternoon flight the next day to Dehradun. The couple I am friends with were kind enough to offer me a room in their home with facilities as a transit pad on my 40 days of travel. It was a much needed rest stop to recuperate from travelling from one state to another. She informed me that she and her husband would be taking an early morning flight the next day to their holiday destination. And I thought, “There goes my dream of sleeping in late but more importantly what would I do at the airport for so many hours?” [Issue 1]

I thought of checking in to a budget hotel but realised that it was too late that night and check-ins are at 12 noon every day. That was not viable option. I googled a bit and realised airports offer lounge services for a longish stay (beyond the 2 hours that airlines offer) that you can avail of. Did you know of that? I definitely didn’t. {Issue 1 solved}

The next morning, I left with the couple for the airport and checked into the lounge for 5 hours. A clean bed, bathroom, TV and Wifi. What else do you need?

After a good sleep and binging on some TV watching and Wifi browsing, I felt refreshed to catch my 2.45 pm flight. When I reached the counter, I was told the flight had been delayed by an hour. I thought, “Oh well, thank god I slept well or I would be cranky now!” Little did I know what lay ahead.

I checked in early through security and after an hour, received another announcement that the flight is further delayed because of bad weather in Kashmir. Remember the heavy snowfall I had to go through? Apparently, that intensified after I left. The flight was coming in from Kashmir. Now, how would I spend another 3 hours? [Issue 2]

Since, I had been travelling a bit and hadn’t had time to catch up with friends, I spent the time chatting with them on whatsapp and calls. {Issue 2 resolved}

Finally, the flight arrived and with eagerness I boarded it. It travelled for 35 mins and when in Dehradun airspace, the pilot announced that due to bad weather, the flight had to return to Delhi. What? I am thinking, “We are here….in Dehradun. Just land the damn plane!”. Those exact words were blurted out aloud by the many other passengers. But, in vain. We had to return. The weather was very bad.

Now, remember the couple I am friends with had left for their holiday destination, so I couldn’t go back to the house. I had to figure out a safe way to spend that night in Delhi. [Issue 3]

Thoughts on whether I stay in a hotel room close to the airport or just take a bus or train from Delhi to Dehradun that night swirled through in my head. I could hear my friend, at the back of my head, saying that you should have taken a bus in the first place. Yeah, yeah, but I didn’t. So, what now? I missed the company of someone to figure this out with. [Issue 4]

Just then I realised that the girl sitting next to me was also travelling alone (Yes, I know I should have figured that out earlier. Sorry, but I am an introverted person and it takes time for me to start chatting up with people). So, coming back, this being a crisis and all, we started talking and she shared that she had come in from Dubai that morning and was travelling to visit her friend in Dehradun for Holi. She had no place to go that night. Someone like me, I thought. I asked her whether we should jointly look at options and after some conversations with her friend in Dehradun over a call, she agreed. {Issue 4 resolved}

After much commotion at the Delhi airport with the airline, and talking to the passengers, we came across another girl just like us who didn’t have anywhere to go that night. We got together and along with other passengers demanded that we be put on another flight for the next day to Dehradun. There was much screaming by the passengers and crying (not by me but the Dubai girl…she came to be known as the passenger girl who cried…just saying). We laughed about it later.

Now, we had to resolve the issue of staying the night, at an affordable cost. If I was alone in this mess then I would have stayed the night at the airport. I would not have risked getting out that late. [Issue 3 continued]

But, because we were the 3 of us, the possibility opened to chip in and share a room in a hotel. Through a contact of mine I got a room booked in a budget hotel, close to the airport. {Issue 3 resolved}

We had a blast of a pajama party in the hotel room that night and are to this day in touch because of the experience we had together. We even named ourselves Hot, Red and Spicy (there’s a clue in there about the airline we travelled).

The next day after a good breakfast in the hotel, we all travelled together to our destination that had eluded us the day before.

So, morale of the story - when travel throws you challenging lemons, you flavour it with the openness of new experiences, a cool head, calm attitude and make a memorable lemonade.