Rachael Adams: Going home for Christmas is great until you have to hitchhike

For me, when it comes to writing a blog, one thing that is for sure is it can not be forced. Not only is it not fun, but it begins to feel like a homework assignment if you’re not in the mood or feel inspired. I don’t know what it is about December, but once it is here I all my blogging inspiration is gone. Maybe the snow, maybe missing home, or who knows what else. And I’ve been focusing a lot of time on co-running Athletes Abroad. Last year I didn’t have the time or chance to go back home to America for Christmas, but I was able to venture anywhere in Europe. So when I caught word that we would have a good amount of time for Christmas this season and I was allowed to go home for the holidays I was BEYOND excited. tumblr_lcihk4FfGC1qdnhza The hardest thing about being able to go home for Christmas is not looking  past the last few matches you have before you go home. It’s so easy to start packing your bags, getting excited and making mental list of all the things you’re going to do, see, and eat, but I waited till last minute so I didn’t get to ahead of myself and forget I have a job to finish before I get all Christmas cracked out. anigif_enhanced-buzz-23361-1384374611-24 I’m going to have to use ALL of my brain power to think back on all the crazy events that led up to my arrival back home in Cincinnati, Ohio for Christmas. To start, my last meal in Poland was from the Pizza place across the street since I had cleaned out my fridge before I left. Note: Notice how the the pizza sauce is served on the side. Polish style.

January 20th

IMG_2678 That moment, being able to go home, couldn’t have come soon enough. December is the perfect halfway mark to go home and take a break and after not being able to go home last season I was determined to soak up and appreciate every second.

January 21st, 10:40am flight

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IMG_2687 While I was waiting to board my first flight, these two young girls were practicing their English by telling a scary story to their mom. They were super enthusiastic and kept cutting each other off to attempt to tell it the best way. I enjoyed the free entertainment. It’s not very often I get to eavesdrop on side conversations. “No I want to tell it in English” “No no no that’s not how it went, let me tell it!” “Mom are you listening?” IMG_2691 My first flight was perfect. No body sitting in front of me, behind me, next to me, and I had plenty of leg room. I tall persons dream. IMG_2695 My first leg of the trip was from Katowice, Poland to Frankfurt, Germany.

2 hour flight.

IMG_2696 IMG_2700 IMG_2703 During my layover in Frankfurt I found a relaxing area, bought a nasty sandwich, and read my book till my next flight.

4hr 35min layover

IMG_2705 IMG_2708 Crumbs on my shirt, nothing new here. I still eat like a 5 year old. IMG_2709 After a flawless flight from Poland to Germany I thought this trip couldn’t get any better.

January 21st 4:00pm [Germany]

IMG_2712 But it did get better. I snagged an another exit row for my 8hr+ flight to Toronto, Canada.  I hate boarding international flight.. they take FOREVER. IMG_2714 At least I wasn’t the only player one having travel problems. An entire airline shutdown? No thanks. IMG_2718 I should of known that after all these great things happening that crazy times awaited me…

8hr Flight to canada

IMG_2723 IMG_2725 Exit row on an 8hr flight, free wine, flight attended thinking and asking me if I was some model, good movie selection.. travel life couldn’t have gotten any better. Smooth sailing to America. Oh and I watched Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters  IMG_2729 IMG_2734 IMG_2736 By the way, this travel started on December 21st. IMG_2738 I was getting nervous as we were closing in on North America because my connection time was getting shorter and shorter… I think I was suppose to have around an hour and a half to land, go through passport control, and get to my flight to Detroit, Michigan. IMG_2741 Due to bad weather we got redirected and were going to be in the air a little longer than planned. The flight screen in front of me kept updating itself and would constantly tell me the calculated arrival time… which kept getting shorter and shorter. Hello stress. I tried to keep calm and eat my little food pocket they served. tumblr_mdoy6hmLsb1ro2d43 Keep calm and eat food. IMG_2743 Welp, I kept calm and my flight was cancelled. When I landed with 20 minutes until my next flight I started running as soon as the plan landed and they let us free. There was no way I was missing my flight to America. I didn’t care if I looked like that crazed idiot running for my fight, bags swinging everywhere, hair flying, and dodging through people. Yep, I was that person. When I finally reached the screen that would tell me what gate my flight was at I read “CANCELLED” NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. I just wanted to go home. I went to the information desk and they told us all the bad news. Flight cancelled, they had a pre-paid hotel, and my flight tomorrow would be at 4pm. Um 4pm? No thanks. If I was home for a month, ok I would wait till 4pm, but when I am home for less than two weeks I’d rather not spend my time in another country, another hotel room, and surrounded my complete strangers at the airport. I tried weighing every option. I was only 4 hours away from Detroit and Ameirca. 1. Wait till 4pm for flight to Detroit 2. Rent a car and drive 4 hours in an ice storm to Detroit — I was that desperate. I was willing to pay $400+ for a one time rental car. The high fees came from (1) Being under 25 (2) One way rental – charged for not returning the car. By the time I finally said “WHATEVER” and gave in to paying a ridiculous amount of money for a rental car for one 4 hour trip I couldn’t even buy it because they didn’t take debit cards, only credit cards and I didn’t have one with me. I was about to cry. Actually I did, let’s be honest. At that point when I realized I was officially stranded for the night I had to let a few tears out. 3. Someone else pick me up from Canada — it was Midnight and everyone that was awake didn’t have a passport or it was expired. 4. Fly to Cincinnati the next day — had to wait till 6pm 5. Fly to Windsor, Canada  — directly across the boarder from Detroit. tumblr_mfcxlbSnKH1rzbvsto1_500   And this is another reason why I hate traveling in North America. If I was in Europe I could have easily reached so man places by train. Really, four ours and I can’t get home? I really missed Euro public transportation during this time. IMG_2744

January 21st Midnight [Toronto, Canada]

I ditched the airlines offer for the 4pm flight on the 22nd to catch a 2:25pm fight to Windsor, Canada, grabbed my little “we’re sorry” bag, took the free shuttle to the hotel, and looked to see what I was working with in my carry on. Luckily I have a million things in my carry on. My trick to traveling overseas and not having an overweight suitcase is to load everything in my carry-on since they never weigh it. IMG_2745 IMG_2746 And I received a free breakfast voucher for the breakfast bar and an omelet. So when I woke up I checked to see how the flight were looking and ate my breakfast. There were some early morning cancellations which made me nervous.

January 22nd 9:00am 

IMG_2748 Oh, I might have not mentioned this, but there was a HUGE ice storm in Toronto and everything was shutting down. Not just snow, but it rained and everything froze. IMG_2749 Headed to the airport extra early just in case there were long lines or anything else crazy. IMG_2752 Hello madness. Still a million flight cancellations. More with the flights that we’re trying to get out at 10am or earlier so the afternoon flights were still looking ok and running on time. IMG_2753 I couldn’t wait in the normal check in line since I had to get my baggage transferred to my new flight. So I stood with all the other flight cancellation people… for THREE HOURS. IMG_2754 IMG_2756 IMG_2758 IMG_2759

January 22, 2:54pm

After three hours I received my ticket, went through security, and sat happily at my gate thinking about America. Too good to be true? Yep. 2 minutes before our scheduled boarding time a lady comes on the intercom “We’re sorry to tell you but your flight has been cancelled” IMG_2761 Random – Donation jar with some many different currencies. I love it. IMG_2763 IMG_2764

January 22nd 3:15pm

So now what? I try to quickly find the nearest place to reschedule a flight. Another long long line. The airport helper informs us that “If your flight has been cancelled there are no more flights today to get on and all flights tomorrow are fully booked”. Ok Rachael. Be calm. HOW DO I GET HOME?? I was getting desperate. I just wanted to be home for Christmas and each second that went by was a second less I had to spend with family and friends back at home. I’ve never hated Canada so much. So close, but sooo far away. So what to do? There is no way I can catch another flight today or tomorrow and I’m not even going to try in this weather. AND I’m not staying another night in a hotel. The news said it was only going to get worse and rumor had it that airline workers weren’t even coming into work due to the weather. Ok, think.. think..think

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As I was furiously texting everyone back home that my flight was cancelled yet again I saw a group of guy pull of in line and gather in a circle. It was time to make moves. Desperate moves. I walked in on the circle and asked them what they were talking about. “What are you guys talking about?” “Renting a car to Windsor, Canada and splitting the costs” “Count me in, I’m coming” “Ok” *everyone introduces themselves* “Ok let’s go” Yep, you read it correctly. I committed to getting in a car with 3 other male strangers to drive 4 hours to Windsor, Canada. I didn’t care, I wanted to get home. After living overseas I have developed a radar for feeling out sketchy people and situations, so call me crazy, but I could tell we were all just 4 desperate people trying to get the heck out of Toronto, canada and home for the holidays. I would be flying with them on a plane, so being in the car would be a little similar. Kind of. We debated on bus ticket/greyhound, but that involved even more waiting around, slow moving busses, and tickets were  going at a fast pace to renting a car was ideal. Since the guy renting it was older than 25 and was returning to Canada later, the price was even cheaper. IMG_2765 We left just in time,  a few hours later flight continued to be cancelled and on the 23rd (the next day) this is what Toronto looked like – I did a little googling for a few images. [Source news.nationalpost.com]

New source pictures

Ice Storm Day After
ice_storm_day_after-15 Ice Storm Day After
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torontoicestorm

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TRAVEL DELAYS CONTINUE Really? I decide to connect in a city that has a “rare and vigorous” winter storm. It even has its own Wikipedia page. Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 2.29.41 PM Ok back to my hitchhiking to America. Technically Canada to Canada, but we’ll just say America. I wrote down notes while I was in the car about each passenger so I could later tell the story. It was interesting sitting in a car with three complete strangers with one common goal, which was to get home. Four hours of conversation. The Sailer – talking about living life on deck, liked heavy metal, and Canadian. The Bartender – Girlfriend was still stuck and waiting for a connection to Canada, Canadian, and he was stuck a day longer than me. The Driver – From London, girlfriend was Canadian (I think), was on his way to breaking up with her (said long distance was hard and they we’re probably going to break up after this trip), and enjoyed Adele and relaxing music, The American Volleyball Player – me IMG_2766 Of course I learned a lot more in 4 hours, but this is all I wrote down and what I remembered. Oh and I didn’t even have my suitcase and I didn’t care, I just wanted to get home. They ended up flying it to Cincinnati when I had three days left at home. IMG_2767 When I finally arrived to Windsor and made it to Detroit, I had spent 40+ hours traveling from Poland to the US. IMG_2771

January 23rd

And then on the morning of the 23rd I arrived to Cincinnati, Ohio. Home sweet home. IMG_2773 IMG_2776 IMG_2778   All the travel craziness was worth it because it was honestly one of the best holidays home I’ve ever had.

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