2017 Travel Reflections

I think most people would agree that 2017 was kind of a weird year, but hey- at least it turned out to be a pretty good travel year for me.

I must admit the first half of the year felt kind of like repeatedly stubbing your toe into a coffee table, but the second half of my year I was able to get back to my true self and was free to start traveling again.

So, I went to Bolivia, Spain, Nepal, and Mexico- an eclectic combo across four continents.(You, dear readers, came with- a MILLION thanks for that!)

Looking back, one of the questions I’ve gotten a lot (second to, “wtf Pauline, how?”) is, “well, what’s your favorite place you’ve been this year.”

Truth is, I can’t really pick one. Each of those places was spectacular in it’s own way and I found joy everywhere I went.

I found joy in zipping into a boiler suit, strapping on a helmet and exploring the mines of Potosi in Bolivia.

I found joy in putting on a pair of heels, slipping on a minidress and staying out until the sunrise in Barcelona.

I found joy in lacing up my hiking boots, powering through some nasty blisters, and hiking to the Annapurna Basecamp in Nepal.

And then, I found joy in taking it all off and diving into the ocean in La Ventana, Mexico.

They were all different, and they were all wonderful in their own way.

And that is exactly what I’m looking for in 2018.

Different.

I’m fascinated by the Middle East. I’m craving South Asia. I’m dreaming of Patagonia…

Should I just start throwing darts at a map?

Although I don’t know where I’m going next, I do know one thing for sure- I have a shiny new passport that needs a bit of weathering.

Cheers to 2018 and all the places we have yet to see!

 

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IMG_7810.JPGphoto by Christian Heeb

Landlocked

Ever since Drake popularized the lyrics, “Running out of pages in your passport,” I feel like it’s been littering the instagram captions of every wander-luster or travel blogger (or anyone who has ever gotten on a flight, really.)

Why would you possibly want that?

Do you know what happens when you run out of pages in your passport?

You have to march your pretty little self to a post office, give them all your money and wait until they decide to bless you with a new one 4-6 weeks later. (Or give them even more of your money and wait only 2 weeks.)

And you know where you’re going while you wait for your new passport?

Nowhere.

On Christmas Eve, I realized I had ran out of pages in my passport and immediately went into panic mode.

“I am landlocked,” I wailed dramatically through my house, “this is a disaster and everything is ruined.”

“Were you already planning on going somewhere in the next few weeks?” my mom asked, unamused by my antics.

It was a fair question, and the answer was no. It wasn’t like I already had flights booked somewhere that I would have to scrambled to change.

I just sleep better at night knowing that I can go somewhere when I wake up. And right now, I was a bird with clipped wings.

Fortunately, my father came to the rescue casually pulling out an application for a new passport out of his nightstand.

(Everyone has those lying around in their house, right?)

I frantically filled out the form, as if every moment counted (fully knowing that it didn’t because the post office wouldn’t even be open until after Christmas.)

Within the next two days, I had taken a new passport photo, braved the US Postal Office and gave the government a pretty penny to get this thing expedited.

I can breathe easy again, and start letting my mind wander (as if it ever stopped) to all the places I want to go in 2018.

Now accepting suggestions and invitations.

Baja

photo by Christian Heeb

Fiascos and Flights

This morning I woke up at 8 am. Which was a problem because my flight was taking off at 8 am.

I have been on hundreds of flights, and I’ve never missed one before. I suppose that’s what happens when you book an early flight the day after a holiday party, though.

I’m visiting my dear friends in Mexico for the week, and since I booked my flights pretty last minute- I had to get creative. Detroit has lousy connections, so I picked a flight from Chicago to Cabo. I figured I could just catch an early flight from Detroit and make it to Chicago in time for my 2pm flight. It was risky, but totally do-able.

When I got home from my company’s holiday party, I debated staying up until my flight but thought it would be best to just “rest my eyes for a bit.”

I realized how terrible of an idea that was when a text from my roommate wishing me safe travels woke me up at the same time my flight was departing.

I darted around my room muttering “fuck, fuck, fuck” and throwing things into my suitcase. (I had the ambitious idea that I would pack for my trip in the morning before heading to the airport. Another poor decision.)

I didn’t know if I wanted to laugh or cry, but I didn’t have time for either of those so I went into crisis management mode instead. There were no other flights that would get me into Chicago in time for my 2pm flight. No train or bus either, and I didn’t know of anyone driving there today. I don’t own a car, but realized that would be my best chance at making my afternoon flight, so I rented one.

By 9:30 am I had acquired a snow covered little blue car with Texas plates, and I hit the road.

The drive between Ann Arbor (where I live) and Chicago is about 4 hours so I had almost no margin for traffic or winter roads. I was taking a big risk, but I really didn’t want to have to rebook my flights. Luckily, the sun was shining, the roads were clear and the traffic was moving. I drove much faster than I probably should have been driving, but I was making really good time. Things were looking up!

Then, of course, with about 30 minutes left of my drive, the gas light went on. I really didn’t have the time to get off the highway and get gas, so I just kept going. The gas light is just a warning, right?

I started to get more and more nervous the closer I got to the airport. With about 10 minutes left the gas light started blinking and I knew I had a problem on my hands, but at this point I was nowhere near a gas station. (Should I just rename this post: Poor Decisions?)

Now, I’m not a gambler but today was already so full of taking risks, I figured one more couldn’t hurt.

About a minute away from the car rental drop off the car started making some funky sounds and started slowing down, and I held onto the wheel for dear life as if I could somehow will it to keep going. And it did.

I pulled into the car return port, amazed at how perfect the timing was. There’s no way that car would have made it another mile. I handed over my keys and hopped into mama Kulka’s car (mom to the rescue!) and we sped towards the United Terminal.

She handed me a Tupperware of her homemade persimmon walnut bread, and I raced to the check in counter with my glorious food in hand. I was going to make it!

I scanned my passport and to my surprise, I saw a message pop up on the screen, “No reservation found for this passenger.”

How could this be? I could not have gone through this entire ordeal and not have a flight. I aged a couple years in just one morning, and it couldn’t be for nothing.

Fortunately, I realized that my flustered self had just gotten the airlines mixed up and I was just at the wrong terminal. The bad news was that time was still of the essence, and I broke a sweat just thinking about how fast I would need to move in order to make it to the next terminal. For the umpteenth time today, luck was on my side. My mother is a very smart lady and very good at this airport drop off thing, so she had waited out front, “just in case.”

With her help, and the help of TSA precheck, I made it to my gate with time to spare.

I’m currently on my flight to Cabo, smiling to myself about how sometimes in life, “things just work out.”