I am exceptionally grateful for the opportunity to travel. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. However, travel is definitely the worst part of travel. Re-packing luggage, lugging it somewhere to stand in slow-moving lines, to eventually get on a form of transportation with some degree of discomfort because it’s a plane/train/bus/car seat and not a couch. Even if it were a couch, it would be surrounded by strangers agitated by having just done the same pack-lug-wait dance.
Maybe other travelers don’t share my opinion. I suspect I am more easily annoyed because my natural tendency is to seek efficiency. It drives me crazy to see people’s time wasted unnecessarily. Additionally, I’m frugal. I will agonize between two options based on a three-dollar difference. My sister once said to me, “Josie, you are a yogi. You trust in God. Yet, you waste so much time being crippled by choice.” I didn’t like hearing it at the time but it has served me well when I remember it. Bottom line, I want to make the best decision possible given my options, and want that for random strangers too. So, when I’m standing in a security checkpoint determining which line to choose, you can imagine how my mind starts grinding.
The Barcelona airport, however, has a genius security line system. As in America, there are the bins atop a conveyor belt. However, in Barcelona, that conveyor belt is U-shaped and much longer. It allows you to slowly de-pack and de-clothe while you’re walking your bin toward the scanner. Smart, right?
Even with this clever system, there was a line before the conveyor belt. I chose mine (with the appropriate degree of mental anguish) and regretted my decision as we approached the belt, thanks to the couple directly in front of me. The woman was half-way down the “U” while her partner was de-packing and de-clothing there at the starting point. Why have a genius system of preparing while you proceed if this bozo is going to disregard it and stand still? I waited patiently until I just couldn’t any longer. I reasoned that sometimes people jump in line if they only have a few items, and since that description fit me, I stepped around him (but behind his travel partner) and put my three loose items into a single bin. The couple started talking to each other and chortling. The man was trying to catch my eye with his semi-passive aggressive comments. I chose to ignore him, again, until I just couldn’t any longer. At this point, I opted for the ‘unaware foreigner’ act and said, “Oh! Sorry. Inglés?”
Then, in English, he said, “there is a line, you should be behind me.” I dropped character and said, “Ah. I assumed you would have moved along the line. I’ll just keep standing with everyone behind you.” I grabbed my bin and returned to my position. Two seconds later, lo and behold, he rolled his bins down to catch up with the woman. They continued making comments that I’m sure were targeted at me but I decided to chalk up my poor behavior to a decent blog anecdote. Also, I think I was right. (I’m sure that will not surprise anybody.)
I’ve stayed in enough Airbnbs that odds were good for me to get a lemon at some point.
I landed in Lisbon around 8pm and secured my taxi. The pleasant Lisboan dropped me off — in a dimly lit, cobblestoned street that is probably charming by day but felt very dingy and alley-like at night. I was supposed to meet a guy at the apartment to receive my key. There was no one. I messaged my contact letting them know I had arrived, reminded myself I was 10 minutes early, and did my best to just relax. Several minutes passed with no response. I had noticed a little cafe up the street and was hungry so messaged my contact, “I will be at the Qualhora cafe. Please respond when you are here.”
I finally heard back when I was equidistant between the cafe and the apartment. “Let me check.” I was relieved the person was responding but it wasn’t a very helpful message. I stood another five minutes in front of a random door unsure whether to head to the cafe or go back to the apartment. Feeling vulnerable with my luggage on a dark street, I decided the cafe was the better choice. I ordered some veggie soup and a beer. My choice was validated when the Airbnb contact messaged that they were sending a woman to let me in and she was 20 minutes away.
I finally met the woman at the apartment and received my key. She told me she didn’t speak English so we pantomimed, “How do I turn on the heater?” and “Where is the laundry machine soap?” and “Enjoy your stay!” with each other. The apartment was very cute but freezing. It also felt damp. It was late and since I had just had soup and a beer, I leveraged that warmth and buzz, cranked up the heater (it was in Celsius and 30 was the max so it’s what I chose), and forced myself asleep. Of course, several hours later, I woke up in a sweaty bed. Turns out 30-degrees Celsius is 86-degrees Fahrenheit. I adjusted the thermostat and fell back asleep.
The next morning I went to a coffee shop to research where I should head next. I had (thankfully) only booked two nights in this particular Airbnb. I decided on Lagos, a shoreside town in southern Portugal. My web search told me the train required a transfer at a station notorious for being delayed. Bus it is! I was able to book my tickets online and felt pretty darn good about myself. I got ready to pick my Lagos Airbnb when I recognized the dates didn’t match with the bus dates. Crud, I had booked a bus ticket for today not for tomorrow. Ugh.
The waiter at the coffee shop was very friendly and spoke a decent amount of English. I explained to him what I had done, showed him the confirmation email, and asked if he knew whether I would be able to change my ticket. He noticed a customer service number, grabbed his mobile, and called on my behalf. They said they couldn’t change it over the phone but if I went to the station I might be able to do so. I felt less darn good about myself.
Fortunately, the bus station was easy to find via the metro. I told myself it was fortuitous that I was going to the bus station a day early so I’d be better prepared for tomorrow. (I’ve been called a Pollyanna.) The ticket agent was able to change my ticket. Hallelujah. However, I had also purchased a return ticket for a day earlier than I had intended. If I was investing 8 hours on a bus (round trip), I wanted to spend as much time in Lagos as possible. She couldn’t change future tickets and told me to go to “line 12.” I assumed that perhaps someone there could help me — but “line 12” was just a bus pulling out of its stall. I looked around, figuring I must have misunderstood. I saw an office door across the way, knocked, and was greeted by a lovely woman who re-issued my ticket. Hallelujah squared.
Now, with my new dates secured, I was able to book my Airbnb for Lagos. Given my experience in Lisbon, I made sure to select one with the ‘self-check-in’ feature. Which, turned out to not be necessary because the host offered to pick me up from the bus station in Lagos and drop me off at the apartment. Finally, I could actually feel good about myself! And, I could go off to explore sunny Lisbon.