Europe

A Tourist…by Accident(s) (Part 1 of 2)

A couple of these properly-filled suitcases and I'm ready to go.

It’s midnight on the morning of Friday, June 25. I’m in the airport in Lisbon, ready for my 12:15am flight to São Tomé e Príncipe. It took some time (and effort) to get here- I had left on Wednesday afternoon from the comfort of my dad’s cute apartment in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and now it was Friday. I was stressed but had made it out alive.

A couple of these properly-filled suitcases and I'm ready to go.

Traveling with 30 computers (which equals out to two suitcases, a zipper tote bag and two boxes, not including my own computer bag, of course) is no easy task. I was smart and had arranged with both the U.S. and São Tomean embassies, as well as the directors of both the airlines I would be taking, to ensure that the computers pass through the belt without me paying excessive baggage fees. I’m bringing the computers through to benefit the São João School at no cost to them. For this non-profit work I got a break.

Security in the USA, as I expected, was a breeze. The USA director of SATA, Nuno Puím himself, was at Logan to greet me and ask if there was anything else he could do to help. At the baggage claim in Lisbon, I saw my cousin, Marina. I knew that she works at the airport in Portugal but it was still a pleasant surprise to see her. After a brief hug she asked me if I had managed to speak with the director of TAP Portugal to be sure my luggage would make it through ok. I told her I had. She said she wished she could have helped me with my computer challenge, but unfortunately she only works in the lost baggage department.

It was funny she had said that- half an hour later we were back together again. SATA had lost my tote bag and Marina was there to help (thank God…after hardly sleeping or eating for days and just arriving in Portugal, my Portuguese was not doing so well). Luckily none of the computers were lost. Unluckily, the tote bag was filled with my own clothes, toiletries and gifts. I was still grateful- I had made it through to Portugal with, as far as I knew, all of the computers (the most important part of this trip) intact.

Despite the fact that I would now grow a beard, smell like all hell and wear the same pair of jeans for a month unless that bag was found, I was respectably calm. I had to be, anyway. I had two Euros on me and a 16-hour layover in Lisbon. To ensure I’d have enough time to get through any potential troubles with the computers (or perhaps just out of extreme boredom), I checked in four hours early. It turned out that there were quite a number of troubles, after all. A communication mishap between the USA and Portugal branches of TAP led to no message being received in Portugal about permitting my computers through. But an hour or two later, after multiple Skype calls to the USA from my computer in the middle of a crowded airport while carrying four suitcases (and a number of curious people bearing witness to this incredible feat), they made it onto the baggage belt.

So finally I am sitting in Lisbon at Gate 41A on Thursday night, waiting for my plane to São Tomé. One suitcase gone, no sleep in two days, nothing besides an iced tea in my system since noon on Wednesday, and ready to roll.

Then finally, someone turns the mic on and we’re off. Except that’s not what happens at all.

“We are sorry to inform you,” the announcer at the gate says, “that your flight has been cancelled due to technical difficulties.”

To be continued next week!

Beth Santos
Founder and CEO of Wanderful, creator of the Women in Travel Summit, enthusiastic lover of ice cream, picnics and art.

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