A friend of mine recently returned from 62 days of adventuring in Europe. “My husband and I decided to call our trip an adventure, instead of a vacation. A vacation indicates that nothing is supposed to go wrong. On an adventure, you don’t expect everything to be perfect, so you’re more accepting of the bumps on the road.”
Well said, I had thought at the time, and yesterday, on our way from Canada to Provence, I reminded myself frequently to reframe our travels using her definition. Having spent the afternoon in the air between Edmonton and Montreal, and the night over the Atlantic between Montreal and Frankfurt, Lorne and I were looking forward to completing the last two legs of our journey – Frankfurt to Marseilles by air, and then a drive to Caromb, a small town tucked away at the base of Mount Ventoux in Provence.
We arrive at the Frankfurt airport at 6:35 a.m., our flight to Marseilles scheduled to leave at 8 a.m., and join a crush of travellers desperate to make their connecting flights on time. The German immigration officers appear oblivious to our incessant watch checking. Our security line moves comme un escargot, and then stops completely. Finally released from scrutiny, we begin the frantic dash to the gate, jostling carry-ons, camera bags, and anyone who gets in our way, The signs indicating Terminal A are interminable, pointing us onto elevators, up stairwells, through shopping areas, and onto moving sidewalks. At 7:53, we arrive… but the flight has departed.
The gate agent is only a little sympathetic. “We do have another flight to Marseilles at 4:30 p.m,” 4:30? Nothing before then? ” Well, possibly we could route you through Munich. But I can’t help you with that. You’ll have to ask at the Lufthansa Service Centre when you rebook. Just follow the signs back that way.”
We retrace our steps almost all the way to our original starting point, our bags much heavier than they were 5 minutes ago. We join a lineup of other annoyed, fatigued travellers, and present our boarding passes and our case to the female gatekeeper. She looks over the tops of her black-rimmed half glasses at a list on her desk. “I see you came in on Flight 874 from Montreal, That’s an Air Canada flight. We can’t rebook an Air Canada flight. They’ll have to do that for you. You’ll have to go to their service desk in Terminal B and then come back through security. You might want to look into some meal vouchers while you’re there.”
My sleepless night, my coffeeless morning, and the travel bag cutting into my shoulder push me out of my usual zone of Canadian compliance.”We are NOT going back out through security to Terminal B. We’ve just run miles to get to a flight that left early. As you can see, my husband has an injury” – I point to his slinged arm, the result of a cycling crash two weeks earlier – “and we want better service.”
“Well, I suppose I can get Air Canada to send one of their carts to get you. Give me your boarding passes and wait over there.”
We slump into our chairs, commiserating with each other and another couple from our Montreal flight who are trying to rebook to Toulouse. It briefly occurs to me that if we’d plunked our money down on a nice, safe guided tour vacation, none of this would have happened. Even though neither of us is attracted to that travel style, it’s easy to forget that independent adventuring involves experiencing the negative outcomes of risk taking, as well as its excitement and enjoyable discoveries.
Forty five minutes pass. The Lufthansa gatekeeper reappears, not with an Air Canada cart, but with boarding passes for the 4:30 flight. “That’s the best I can do. You’ll need to go get your meal vouchers at the Air Canada desk yourselves.”
We spend the next 8 hours eating mediocre airport food, dozing in 15 minute spurts, and spelling each other off from baggage care to wander the overpriced shops. Too tired to read, we stare out at the grey Frankfurt skies and greyer, rain slicked tarmac. The incessant announcements urging people onboard their immediately departing flights for Mauritius and Oslo, Thessaloniki and Venice, taunt us at first and then become white noise. When we finally shuffle onto our flight to Marseilles, we cross our fingers that our luggage has accompanied us onto the aircraft and that the elements of independent adventuring we enjoy will catch up with us once we arrive in Provence.