For those of you who travel a lot, you will easily be able to relate to my experience. Even those who don’t travel, yet have a busy schedule based on specific appointments, meetings, and events, you will also be able to know how I felt on my trip from San Francisco to Rostock, GER. It had all been planned out perfectly: fly from San Francisco to Chicago, from Chicago to Copenhagen (Denmark), and lastly, take the ferry from Gedser (100km from Copenhagen) to Rostock (Germany). However, this plan did not go accordingly. It was edited multiple times before my plane ever took off from San Francisco, and even while I was in the air, changes continued to be made. Here’s my advice to fellow travelers: always be prepared for the worst and value changes as opportunities, not predicaments.
First off, being prepared can save you time and trouble. My family is used to preparing for long trips. So, before saying my goodbyes I was handed a huge Ziploc bag full of chocolate goodies, cut apples and carrots, and a warm mug of tea to take to the airport. I’d never think this snack bag would come in handy, but it actually saved me from times of despair. Due to weather problems over the Chicago airport, my flight that was supposed to leave from San Francisco at 10:20am ended up boarding, and being delayed for 3 hours. Since I hadn’t been able to check-in to my connecting flight in Chicago, I was getting a bit uneasy as the minutes kept ticking away, and one delay announcement followed the next.
Finally, I couldn’t stop worrying about potentially missing my flight, so I spoke up. Communication is the key. Talking to the stewardess initiated other ideas…like, why don’t the pilots get another snack. As a result, the crew announced that all passengers had the options of deplaning and since I wasn’t able to get Wi-Fi on the plane, I gladly jumped on this opportunity to check-in to my next flight. By the time our plane actually took off, I had called my next airline provider, checked-in online, eaten all of the chocolate treats, sent out a few emails and felt very accomplished.
Talking about changes in planes, the worst was yet to come. Realizing that Gedser was too far away from Copenhagen to allow me to catch my ferry on time, I had to make a quick decision–it resulted in canceling my ferry reservation and booking a flight from Copenhagen to Berlin. Flying to Berlin meant that although I would arrive in Germany, I’d still be a bus ride and train ride away from my final destination. All went well though, and talking to people who were experienced at the airports helped get me from one transition point to the next.
Also, whenever you travel, make the most out of each opportunity given to you to explore a new place, do something out of the ordinary, or learn something about the people and the cultures around you. Before I even set foot on the plane to Chicago I learned something everyone should know about San Francisco’s airport: the people there are genuinely nice. That’s a characteristic not every airport can boast about. Not only were the people at the gate happy to assist me by printing my next boarding pass, they even gave me suggestions while I was frantically trying to find the toll-free number for my next airline provider.
If you’ve never flown with Virgin America, I’d like to suggest trying their services next time you book a flight in the US. They had excellent service and the most comfortable seats I’ve ever sat in on a plane—now, now…of course I’m not talking about flying first class!
Try to avoid the Chicago O’Hare airport if you’re flying in the Midwest. The chaos you’ll encounter is normal there but it’s very difficult to find good affordable food and the corners that have free Wi-Fi are hard to find.
Traveling in Europe is easy—both physically and as well as it’s easy on your wallet. One of the nice things about flying within Europe is that they don’t usually charge you for checking in your first piece of luggage. If you travel by bus in Germany, you’re almost guaranteed to get where you want on time. This also holds true for the train system in Germany. Everything is wonderfully punctual.
Overall, I’m glad I safely made it to Warnemünde, Germany (it is a city on the outskirts of Rostock). I’ll keep you posted about the life of marine biologists here at the Marine Science Center and about the culture of Germany and the people of the Baltic Sea!