With or Without

In the past, we have used travel agents, then gone without them, then added them back, and finally, we went with a tour company for our last two trips—until recently.

Just last month, we surrendered, tail between our legs, and went backward in travel time. The airline gods would not bless us with a passage from point A to point B, no matter how we tried and how many airlines, travel routes, multiple cities, and layover combinations we searched online. After two hours, we gave up.

“Honey, we have to see a travel agent.”

[Photo credit: Tom Barrett, Unsplash]

We sat across from our local travel agent—the flesh and blood kind—with another person from our foursome. They, too, had surrendered and agreed to pay a little extra for peace of mind. The travel agent cracked an indulgent smile, cracked her knuckles, and began the same search we had attempted. Her smile yielded to pursed lips, then a full-out frown. Then, the muttering started. Sweat all but gleamed on her forehead.

Two hours later, we (she) finally had an itinerary that worked. “It may be tight,” our stalwart travel agent announced. “You have a 45-minute connection between flights in the Madrid airport to achieve your final destination.” She hesitated. Then she looked at each of us individually to gauge our reactions as she said the five magic words: “It is a legal connection.”

I was game. I pulled out the airport’s map and airline gates for each of the flights we’d be taking. “It’s the same airline, for goodness sake, and the gates are in the same terminal,” I told my husband, who always fears the worst. (That would be his nickname, and I would, of course, be Tigger.) Besides, what are the best travel stories ever? They’re the ones when something goes wrong, and you have to sleep standing up in a doorway or something.

You’ve been there. You’re at a party. The conversation dims and slows, and the refrigerator hum becomes the loudest noise in the room. Finally, some brilliant soul begins talking about their latest trip. Then, before you know it, each person engages in travel one-upmanship, vying for the prize of the most outrageous (and memorable) story in the room.

What’s yours???

We travel to see the world, but we also want to find ourselves in the world. Traveling tests our resilience and resourcefulness. If we go to the gym and the library on Tuesdays and Thursdays at home every week, we don’t get to learn how fun it is to “nearly miss our train” (we did that in Pisa) or “take the wrong boat” (which we did in Venice more than once). Traveling is a battle. It’s a puzzle. It’s a joy. It’s sickness sometimes. But there are stories in those times, too!

Traveling is a test—a wonderful, expensive (usually but not always), exciting journey. And with or without travel agents, tour guides, travel companions, or itineraries, travel is always an adventure.

Besides, our travel agent was happy she had redeemed herself and protected her profession. But it was a close one. Whew!


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