Next month I’ll be traveling to South America- my first time on that continent. Brazil -Peru- Chile at least. I’m excited.
As usual, I have no confirmed flights. I travel space available on UAL because my generous friend, Cecil, works for them. The passes he shares with me are greatly reduced, and usually I travel business or first class, but occasionally I don’t get on the airplane-for hours, or days. Mine is the lowest priority. Full fare passengers go first, followed by employees, their relatives & finally friends. We board according to the enployee’s seniority. Sometimes that’s the adventure.
A few years ago I spent 5 days with my then 16 year old grand daughter, Cooper, in “Tokyo’s Narita Airport-along with a slew of other ‘buddies.’ We spent the nights partying with other guests in a hotel on the opposite side of the runway; the days hanging out in the airport: playing cards, eating, shopping, laughing and complaining- waiting for available seats going anywhere in the US. New buddies with higher priorities than ours came and went. I learned never to travel at the end of summer.
Finally, the day before Cooper’s school started in Santa Monica she flipped. She cried actual tears-for school. “I need to go to school! she insisted.” This was a new Cooper. One I had not seen since maybe sixth grade, when she looked forward to going to school. I hoped it was a turning point in appreciation for education. Capitulating, I paid 2grand! for a ticket for her to fly home.
|Cooper & me|
That evening I got a seat to Hawaii, where I spent the next three days with my friend, Jessica, in Hilo.
Once I spent countless days at a friends while trying to get out of Chicago due to lousy weather. Another time, another city, hours and hours waiting for a seat because an entire class of students booked all of the seats. Once I had to fly into Denver after two days of waiting to get out of Anchorage to Los Angeles.
Sometimes these happen because: I forget and travel on major holidays, when schools let out for the summer or spring break, or I’m just an idiot. I love it when it’s a good thing. I flew to Singapore with new Canadian friends when the flights to Bangkok were full due to it being the Chinese New Year holiday. I’ve been incredibility lucky to get the last seat on the plane more than once.
Not having a plane reservation, means making hostel or hotel reservations pointless. Finding one on arrival requires patience, luck, and perseverance, but can have unexpected pleasant results.
|Monos playing on hostel roof Manuel Antonia, Costa Rica|
|New friends in Ulaanbator, Mongolia|
Once, some folks who showed me how to use the airport phone in Bangkok at 3am, helped me find a room, and gave me a tour of their incredible diverse city the next afternoon.
In Casa Blanca I arrived at the Guimere Hotel in a cab. “Do you have a reservation?” the desk clerk asked. “No. But, I’d like to have one. For 4 nights.”
“We are full, but wait a minute.”
“I have a cab waiting. I need to either go to another hotel or pay the driver and let him go”
‘Ok. Let him go.”
I spent the next few hours with their truly delightful chef, Mohammad while they evicted someone. He took me to the market, showed me the surrounding area, and back at the hotel, poured me a glass of wine while I talked to other tourists who had shown up.
In that room in 2009, I, and several European guests and a couple of Moroccans watched Obama become the 43rd president of the United States. I cried. The following day the hotel owner gave me the daily newspaper written totally in Arabic. Front and center was a big photo of President Obama on stage surrounded by American flags; a corner insert showed Jessie Jackson weeping. I was so proud of my country. He stamped and signed the front page.It’s framed, waiting for me to settle somewhere.
No reservations. Perhaps it’s also a metaphor for being unrestrained, flexible-ready to light anywhere. It’s not extreme adventure, nor is it necessarily out of the way or weird- just free and freeing somehow. It’s a way to meet folks you wouldn’t ordinarily meet, eat places not in a guide book, and do things unplanned.
You are in charge of your time: to spend it with whomever you like, doing whatever you desire.
|drink & soak|
|On the Siberian Express train with the Aussies|