DAY ONE: FLIGHT ONE
We should probably just entitle the travel portion of my trip to Africa – the time I had to buy a t-shirt in Houston because I was so sweaty from running through the airport. I think that pretty much gives you a good idea of how seamless our two travel days went.
I appreciate a full experience but I probably wouldn’t have been sad if our travel days hadn’t included delayed flights, canceled flights, insurance calls, changed airlines, gate changes, last minute checked bags, and a run through security. I won’t go into detail on any of the low points but I will tell you about the four high points (the four best that is) that happened during the otherwise unwelcome excitement.
The first happened while running through the Houston airport with both mine and my friend’s luggage. I tell you what, you need a compass and a prayer to navigate the beast that is the Houston airport – so confusing. While desperately searching for my airline, I met an amazing lady who happened to be from Kenya. She and her absolutely adorable daughter stopped me out of the blue and asked if they could help me – I mean is that an answered prayer or what? Not only did she me walk to my airline counter, but she gave me a hug which was much needed, and taught me my first word in Swahili – Jambo (hello).
The second bit of happiness happened at the ticket counter in Houston. I went to the front of the line, apologizing for being that frazzled traveler who is late. Nobody in line really seemed to mind, as a matter of fact, everyone was beyond ready to let me go in front of them. As I got to the counter an older man standing close by asked me where I was going – I tell you what, you never know who you are talking to or who you are going to meet. It turned out that he was the executive manager for the airline at that location. He put everyone in motion – assuring me that my bags would make it onto the plane. Not stopping there, he walked me through first class security – making sure I made it to my gate with time enough to stop and buy a shirt. Yes, I was that gross at that point – running 70 pounds of stuff through an airport will do that.
The third was much less exciting but just as impactful. KLM – the Dutch airline we flew was absolutely amazing. After the morning we had, had it was refreshing to be taken care of. Nothing exciting happened, they were just good at their jobs and it made flying nice, enjoyable actually, and how often can you say that on a 10 hour flight? To cap off the nice flight, the man sitting next me was incredibly nice, putting our bags in the overhead for us, regaling us with amazing stories of travel, and making sure we were always awake when food came around. It is the simple things in life sometimes.
The last came on our last flight. That’s right, you read right, we had ANOTHER flight (hey you do what you got to do when adventure calls). I sat next to a man who was with a group of 20 friends. They were from all over and were hiking Kilimanjaro with a guide from Colorado. Are you beginning to see that I talk to everyone? I find people’s outlook on life and travel so interesting. Anyway, here comes the high point – he told me that one of the members of his group was blind and a few others were amputees, war vets. And that they climbed mountains all over the world – rock climbing, bouldering … nothing held them back. Talk about inspirational. I thought about all the problems we had with flights and they just seemed silly at that point. It was the perfect lesson in perspective, and very timely as we landed in Kilimanjaro and the next part of our journey began.
Here are a few life lessons I learned from all my missteps:
- It pays to fly with sister companies, especially if you are going internationally
- Spirit Airlines has around a 56% on time rate – so don’t count on that – also they charge A LOT for checked bags as well as carry on bags
- Having a travel wallet is a life saver – keeping a pen in it is beyond helpful as well, I liked the one I bought for the trip.
- You probably need four hours between connecting flights when going from one airline to the next – the standard three doesn’t leave room for cancelations or delays and will just leave you stressed
- Most likely your gate will be changed in Amsterdam. Even more likely, they won’t announce it. Keep an eye on that flight board.
- There are free samples of cheese at the shops in the Amsterdam airport – and they are delicious – do go and enjoy yourself some free cheese.