My flight to Madrid and my flight from Madrid couldn’t be more different.
My lack of knowledge as a first-time solo traveler set me up for near failure. The travel experience I had in high school was designed so that I couldn’t worry. All our tours we finalized and the tickets were confirmed before we even left US soil. As I embarked on my first experience alone and abroad, I didn’t recall all the things I must plan beforehand. I believed the six months of paperwork before I embarked was enough. But I didn’t confirm my seat on the flight 72 hours in advance like all seasoned travelers ought to.
When reaching the airport to check in, I discovered that while I bought my ticket to Madrid, I was not guaranteed a seat on that flight. The airline had overbooked the flight and I never confirmed my seat although I had $1,000 ticket in my hand.
I was furious and scared. My dad started yelling at the woman behind the front desk once she said there was nothing she could do for me. I had to get an answer from someone else, but needed to go through security. At the time, I only had the pay-as-you-go cell phone that is meant to be used in Spain only, but I did have my laptop. I planned to email my brother, having it pop up on his phone to let my family know they wouldn’t have to be sleeping in the airport that night.
I approached the desk of the flight I hoped to board and explained the situation. The women was nice and said that they would ask for volunteers to give up their seat and in exchange be redirected and compensated. I was worried but in my heart of hearts, I knew I was getting on the plane.
When my dad filled up the car with gas that morning, a ladybug landed on his shirt. He moved the bug to my car window. As we were stuck in traffic in Philly, I peered out the window to find the ladybug was still crawling on the window. I guess I’m a little superstitious in that way. I had a feeling that I would get a seat on this plane although it was booked and I was not guaranteed one because I heard Fleetwood Mac at the gate. When they called my name fifteen minutes before boarding, I knew it was good news. I anticipated running into hiccups like this the whole trip because I have bad luck.
After my time in Spain, then Morocco and Turkey, I was back in Madrid in a hotel I had booked five minutes from the airport. I wanted to ensure I was getting on that flight home, but I didn’t want to. Those last couple of days I ate dinner, shopped, and wandered alone. I sat on the curb of a park and sketched a fountain in my travel journal when a young girl approached me with “hola.” She was giggling while I smiled and responded. I was feeling the come down of a two month high. I was homesick, yet unwilling to leave.
The day had come. I arrived in the airport several hours early, because that’s my MO. I waited in a chair and ate gummies. I watched teenagers excited to return home as tears welled in my eyes. James Taylor “Fire and Rain” played on my ancient iPod and there was no holding back the tears. I didn’t want to leave, but I had to finish my last year of college.
I gathered myself and got in line to board the plane. Once I handed the woman my ticket, she asked if I was a single flyer. I thought it was a strange question. Did I look suspicious traveling alone? I answered and she immediately started typing away at her computer without an explanation. She handed me back a new ticket. 6A. They bumped me up to first class. A woman besides me with her preteen kid started yelling “why does she get to go to first class?!” I ignored and continued on through the jetway. Nobody was going to bring me down.
It did not bother me that I was underdressed in a peasant skirt and flowy top that smelled of sweat and four different countries. The flight attendant came around and offered me wine, newspapers, headphones, and a warm towel. I accepted them all. The eight hour flight went by extremely fast in my comfortable pod. I watched movies as I drank several glasses of wine and wore my free fuzzy socks. The meal on the plane was much better than what I would receive in economy class. Snacks were always provided. Although I had to return the headphones by the end of the flight, I was satisfied by my experience. It made the trip back to the United States a little easier. My luck seemed to have turned around.