A Volcanic Eruption, A Hurricane and a Seminar Meet

A year ago today I was in the unknown. I had spent a year planning an epic trip in detail. I had spent a year playing the wonderful experiences I was about to experience in my mind, over and over again. It helped me through challenging times, it got me distracted, it made me wonder whether I was crazy for going for it, and for going for it that much.

A year ago today, it was too late to question, for my nonrefundable plane tickets were already booked long ago, hostels and hotels have been booked, meeting up with relatives and friends scheduled, and all that was left was to get through three tiny, tiny challenges.

Bariloche, Argentina. Travel is SO worth it!

 

A Volcanic Eruption

Having planned my trip in advance to save airfare costs – and mostly because I was excited – I knew it was time to book interior flights in Argentina. Aerolineas Argentinas offered discounts to people booking 3 or more interior flights and I had long ago added it to my budget.

Yet when I came to book, news struck out: a volcanic that lay dormat for years decided to erupt. It was in Chile, sure, yet the main sufferers were the town and nature on the other side of the border, in Argentina’s lake district, where I was going to spend longer than in any other part of the country.

Volcanic ash in San Martin de Los Andes, Argentina

No one had a clue that three months later, as I arrived in September, the ashes from that eruption would still be very much present all over Patagonia, Argentina’s south. As I e-mailed with hostels, I learned that view was visible again, that the deep blue water of the lakes were no longer covered in brown ash. I wanted to go – but how?

No flights were landing in Bariloche, where I was suppose to land.

I booked everything on my own online, yet the interior flights package could not be booked by Israelis online. The travel agent I used assured me flights would probably be renewed soon. Aerolineas Argentinas promised the same. After several calls and e-mails, I managed to convince the travel agent it’s time to change the flights. I was to land in Esquel, 4 hours south of Bariloche, and take the bus.

Esquel, Argentina from the air

Fortunately for me, as I reached Esquel, I learned that a free bus was about to leave with all the people who got their route changed as I did. I was pretty much the last one on the bus – apparently the only one who didn’t know of this free service – yet for some reason, a front row seat was not taken – and I had marvelous views to myself.

The road from Esquel to Bariloche

To top it all off, the ash did not bother me at all during my trip.

The view from the central bus station, Bariloche

Had I gone to the States before Argentina instead the other way around, it would have been messy: in October, the ash was all over the place – from north to south, bugging travelers and locals alike.

Snow in Circuito Chico, Bariloche!

 

A Hurricane

About two days before I was about to embark on the night between August 29 and August 30 of last year, a hurricane started going wild all around eastern US. The news talked disaster. Houses torn apart. People’s lives taken. No electricity. No food in grocery stores.

Airports flights stopped operating.

Nor did I particularly want to find myself in an airplane that would brave through a hurricane.

Central Park, New York City

I had a two day layover planned in New York City. Given that my return flight was from the States, the cheapest flight opportunity proved to be to take the (really) long way to Argentina. From Israel, I flew to New York. From New York, I took a connecting flight to Atlanta, Georgia, and from there – it was a straight-head flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Yet during those two days, I had no idea what was going on. I read every online article I could find, I consulted a message board – and I thought that if I wait long enough on the phone to Delta airlines or the website from which I booked my flights, I’d be able to change my route and take a flight with one of Delta’s partner airlines through Europe. The options were Amsterdam or Paris, and each one of those would give me a chance to meet people I know and – you know – not get swept away in a hurricane.

At least, I thought, I would get an answer.

Boat ride to the Statue of Liberty, New York City, Manhattan in the background

Then I could explain to whoever answered that booking interior flights in Argentina might not seem like the smartest idea now, when nature is all over the place, but it made sense a few months earlier, and I missed my Buenos Aires arrival by a couple of days, I would also miss my flight to Puerto Iguazu.

Well, ideas are great, yet they become challenging when everyone else in the world thinks of them at the very same time. I used my cheap program for US calls on one phone and my new program for international calls that I had just set on my cell phone in case of an emergency when I was abroad – and I spent hours waiting on the phone. I never waited so much on the phone for someone to answer, yet I was unwilling to put myself in danger, no matter how fabulous the trip is supposed to be, and I had huge amounts of money at stake.

There was NO ANSWER.

The Statue of Liberty, New York City

If each flight contains hundreds of people, then hundreds of people times multiple flights were already stranded across the world – unable to get to or from the States, or even inside the US. Top that off with hundreds of people times multiple flights of people unsure whether they need to get to the airport now, let alone in two, three, seven days – and there was no way to reach companies who would probably just say “we don’t know” – because I assume now that they really did not know.

I was grateful I wasn’t one of the employees facing all these thousands of angst-filled callers.

I was also grateful when news sites started reporting the end of the hurricane. I remember talking to a friend about my fear of going and she recommended I take canned food – to the US! – in case there would still be no food in stores once I landed. The thought of the US having no food is unbelievable, yet people did snatch every piece of bread they could find.

Museum of Natural History, New York City

Not when I arrived.

By the time Delta sent me an e-mail requesting I check in, I was in excited anticipation mode again. Thoughts of all the dollars I was about to lose because all my flights were going to be canceled – and because this trip was indeed a big expense – evaporated, and I started realizing that this dream I had waited years to realize…. was finally happening.

As I landed in New York City on August 30, I could have never guessed a hurricane swiped through the area two days earlier. Everything was clean, clear, well-constructed and supermarkets had more food than I ever saw in one place.

Times Square, New York City

 

Seminar

Then there was the case of my seminar.

I had the volcanic eruption. I was unsure I would be able to arrive where I wanted to arrive. Because of that, I was unsure I would have where to sleep. This was my first time traveling alone. The trip was incredibly expensive and I doubted myself. The fears of traveling alone for the first time, let alone so soon after I heard a rape survivor talk about her experience, showed up more often. Then the hurricane took place.

And among all this, I had things left to do. To buy. To pack. I kept getting teased for planning my trip so much in advance – again, I was excited and it saved me hundreds of dollars in plane tickets – that I started listening to these outside voices and left minor things like packing my suitcase to the last moment.

My flight was to leave at midnight and five minutes. That meant being at the airport at nine. That meant leaving home at – I don’t know – seven?

The Dinner Party exhibition by Judy Chicago and approximately a 100 other artists, Brooklyn Museum, New York

At 4 PM I finished writing my seminar, and sent it off to three friends who agreed to submit it for me as they submitted theirs. Only one ended up submitting it, yet I wanted to make sure there was backup – that seminar had a big influence on the final grade of my degree.

I still had to shower, pack and do seemingly endless tasks before I could leave to the airport.

At least I already visited a friend the evening before to give her books to return to the library in campus for me. The whole campus was closed for a week, so there was no way for me to submit or return anything myself – even if I had finished in the morning.

THANK YOU, WONDERFUL FRIENDS!!

And at least I prepared lists of what to pack in advance, and I already had piles ready around my suitcase. It was just a matter of taking what I can and making the final decisions of what to leave behind.

Unbelievably and against all odds, I made it to the airport on time.

Bariloche, Argentina

Thank you, Godesses of the Road, for no traffic!

 

 

All’s Well that Starts Well

Lesson learned #1: Do things your way, don’t listen to outside noise.

Lesson learned #2: Even if you spend a week hardly sleeping, it still doesn’t mean you’ll sleep on an 11 hour plane ride.

But worry not, because listening to myself kicked back in after this and by the time I landed in the Big Apple it was all about making me happy. Plus, I caught up with my sleep in Buenos Aires and did pretty well balancing adventure and sleep throughout most of my trip, all the while discovering the flight hours that work best for me.

Madame Tussauds, New York City

The trip was absolutely amazing, and while there were many more lessons learned and there are many things I would do differently now, it was a journey o bliss and I highly recommend it!

 

Note: I wrote a similar post title last year which you might see in the “Related Posts” list bellow, yet that one was way shorter and concise. I had a fascinating seminar to write, you know.

 

What are some big challenges that stand or stood between you and travel? How do/did you handle them?

 

14 Comments

    • Absolutely! The tension was high, yet the rewards were well worth it 🙂

  1. I wouldn’t want to deal with that much changing of my flight plans from here, never mind from across an ocean in Israel. Good for you for sticking to your plans and getting your trip underway.
    Steve recently posted..The Rental RoundupMy Profile

    • That part wasn’t fun, yet it was worth it when the alternatives were to get caught in a hurricane or, more realistically, miss more flights. I’m VERY glad things worked out after all 🙂

  2. Oh my goodness, what a madcap series of adventures. 🙂 So glad you’re able to have such a great attitude towards it. I’m thrilled that Argentina was clean and beautiful again for you. 🙂
    Krista recently posted..Photo Essay: Rome in Black and WhiteMy Profile

    • Thanks, Krista! It was chaotic – and totally worth it. Argentina was amazing to me, not only with the ashes – it gave me enough clouds to be super happy, yet not so many I couldn’t see the mountains (among many other great things :))! It ended up being great timing to go there.

    • LOL, yeah, it was an interesting time! And that president picture was so much fun to take. When you get there, don’t forget to sit on Obama’s desk and talk on the red phone 🙂

  3. This is such an interesting look into your pre-trip life and the hassles that can accompany travel. I’m so glad you came to the U.S. and got to travel so many different places.

    I think it’s funny that people were talking about food not being available if the hurricane hit the U.S. This must have been the American media saying this, right? Maybe grocery stores would run a little low on food because people would be panicking and buying everything they could before the storm, but you’re right when you say the thought of the U.S. running out of food is unbelievable. There’s no way. 🙂
    Sabina recently posted..A Delicious Lunch…If You’re a CamelMy Profile

    • Haha, it was the actually the Israeli media, yet I ended up reading a travel trip summary on a message board from a woman who was in northeast US during the hurricane – and she said food did run out in stores. I don’t know how big or small those stores were. I guess it was a very temporary occasion, people were probably panicking and it was probably challenging to bring food to stores during the storm. By the time I came, every supermarket close to my hostel was so filled with food, it looked like nothing had happened or could ever happen.

      And thanks, I’m glad the trip worked out too, it was such an amazing experience 🙂

    • Thanks, Maris 🙂 I just Googled for photos of Taal Volcano and it does look similar. I had no idea!

  4. Lovely shots here and i enjoyed that trip while reading it!
    My favorite was the view you took from the central bus station! I love that angle!
    Melly Schug recently posted..Brisbane – Just a Great Place To LiveMy Profile

    • Thanks, Melly! I prolonged my time there because it was the most beautiful view I ever saw from a central bus station 🙂

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