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When Travel Plans Go Wrong

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When I travel, I like to make plans. I have an idea of where I’m going, what I’m doing, how long it’s going to take. But sometimes, the world just doesn’t care and all your plans can be tossed out the window. And what can you do? Short answer? Nothing. Accept it and make the best of it. So let’s get a little real about how travel sometimes goes! I’ll add the caveat that this was a pretty minor trip, but the same answer applies even on your dream vacation (I’m looking at you, Florence).

I was traveling to a conference for work. The conference was being held in the coastal mountains just over 2 hours away. Before I headed there, I was picking up a colleague and dear friend at the airport, “Leslie”. We knew we’d have to stop for dinner along the way, and we were driving in the Bay Area (which is always crowded) but I figured this should take no longer than 3.5 hours for us to arrive.

Leslie and I headed out on our way just in time to hit the Bay Area traffic that we pretty much have to deal with for a majority of our drive. We also get caught in a torrential downpour for a good chunk of the drive. So it’s pouring rain and there’s traffic, but Leslie and I were sort of prepared for that and just took it in stride. We were so caught up in our conversations and catching up that at one point when we are supposed to change freeways, we do so—in the wrong direction.

Luckily it was a quick fix. We soon arrive at the town that’s basically our last stop before heading into the mountains (Half Moon Bay) and losing cell service. We go to a place my dad had recommended to eat; they had a plumbing issue and the kitchen was closed. So, off to another place. We find a tapas place, sit down, look at the menu. Leslie looks up at me as I at her and we both say “I don’t want any of this”. We felt bad and debated back and forth, but ultimately left. Third time’s the charm, and we found a place in town to eat, after having to walk several blocks in the rain (though they had disappointing Mac and Cheese, and if you want to feel even worse for us after reading this trip, you can read my review about that here).

We head out after dinner; by now we are just over 4 hours from the airport and still about 35-45 minutes away from our destination. We, like most people, decide to trust our GPS (specifically Waze) to tell us where to go and figure we will use the written directions once we lose cell service. Here’s where things really started to go wrong. Waze had us take a turn a few miles before we were actually supposed to turn based on the written directions. Leslie and I again are just chatting away and go along with it. Soon we realize we should have arrived. The written directions were talking about passing through towns, and we had passed by nothing but private drives. It’s also still pouring rain, but thankfully light out, and actually quite lovely; the area was beautiful and green. But we are lost, clearly.

I start worrying because we’ve lost service, we weren’t quite sure where we are because every road is an off-shoot of the one are on and they all have the same name, and I also start worrying that the people at the conference are going to be worried that we haven’t arrived yet. So yes, I start crying. Leslie pulls out her phone and thankfully we get a spot of service to get a little blue dot telling us where we are. Great, now just to find the place we are trying to go to. We zoom out a little and don’t see it. We zoom out a little more and don’t see it. We keeping zooming out, out, out, and finally—-crap. There it is. Not actually that far away but there is no nearby direct road. At this point, I said some words that would not make my mom proud (sorry mom). But we looked at our options and decided to keep going straight because if we are headed in the direction we thought we were, we’d hit a highway soon enough and we’d at least be on a more populated road.

So we do that and Leslie is tracking our little blue dot and yes! We are going the right way. Phew. At this point it’s starting to get dark, there’s only a random car or two behind us every now and then (although the same car was behind us for a long time and it creeped us out for a bit), and the stress and nerves in me make me have to pee. And eventually I ask Leslie “What are the odds we are in a bad horror movie and if I get out to pee, the world will scream at me ‘ARE YOU STUPID?? STAY IN THE CAR!!!’”. We decide the chances are low, and we were going camping so to get in camping mode…I relieve myself on the side of the road (in the rain still…don’t forget we still have rain).

Finally we make it to the highway, and then realized we have to decide which direction from there. Thankfully I have a decent sense of direction and make a decision (spoiler alert: it was the right decision). We get spotty service and my phone starts blowing up with text alerts. I can literally go days without a single text from someone, and this is the moment that my group thread with my family and a group thread with my friends both are going nuts. I’m still freaked out that we are lost, late, in the rain, and it’s now dark.

We get to an intersection with another highway we knew we needed to take, but the signage was a bit weird and it’s still raining and foggy. Oh yeah, the fog rolled into this mix. Lovely. After some more inappropriate language and probably pissing off some other cars, we get on the other highway and we can now follow the written directions to the location. Yay! But of course there is road construction because heaven forbid this horrendous drive be over. We finally start seeing the signs and markers that the written directions point out, and Leslie also points out that the written directions clearly state “DO NOT TURN” on the road she and I had been on or you will get lost. Yes, we can verify that’s true!

We finally roll up into camp (it’s still raining, guys); it’s now 6.5 hours from when we left. For a 2 hour and 15-minute drive. Yep. We give a basic rundown of what happened, unloaded the car, and get settled. Did I mention Leslie had flown across the country before all this happened? Bless her heart for not being the screaming crying maniac in the car. But on the plus side, rest assured that I’m actually a skilled mountain driver, despite the rain and fog, and at no point did any of our mishaps occur as a result of my bad driving-just my wrong turn about 2 hours earlier.

We go to bed, wake the next day and have a wonderful conference, including a session I co-led on “mindfulness”. (Yes, I see the irony that I was leading a mindfulness session and was so not mindful the day before). I’d love to say that was the end of my eventful trip. It was not. I still had to drive home that afternoon.

our beautiful work setting

I head out in the direction I need to (following the written directions, and confirmed by others). About 30 minutes into the drive, right before I get to the main highway, the road is flooded. And I’m in a small car. I pull over to the side to make a decision, as several other cars did. I can either drive through it, or turn around and add an hour to my trip. I also still had to meet another colleague back at work to give her the car to go to the exact same conference the next day.

I watch as some cars turn around and some cars go through. All the cars that go through are fine, but I’m still nervous. I call another colleague that had been at the conference in a small car and he told me he drove through it. I asked him what to do and he said, “Well if you go through, don’t stop”. Ugh! After a few more moments, a Mini Cooper goes through just fine, and I notice several other cars driving on the shoulder where the puddle isn’t as deep. So…I drive through. And I make it just fine. Phew! Thankfully, that is the last of my adventures. I make it to work, exchange cars, and meet my best girls at my place for a strong cocktail or three.

Sometimes things just go all wrong when you travel, and all you can do is take it in stride. Or in my case, scream, cry, swear, and drink.

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