Family

How I Won My “Independence” from Spain

Tomorrow is a pretty significant holiday for the United States. Every July 4th we celebrate our independence from Great Britain by setting off explosives in the sky. The colors are all so pretty and the noise is significantly loud. Fun times for everyone, except people who hate loud noises (aka myself as a child). I used to think of it as just a day to pass the time and watch fireworks (from afar of course). However, one year it became the best day of my life.

View from the Walls of Avila
View from the Walls of Avila, Spain

It was in 2008; I went to Spain for the summer as part of a foreign exchange program with my university. (I double majored in English and Spanish.) It was my first real trip away from home; everywhere I had traveled before then was with family or near family. Even going to college, though out of state, was near family. I’ve always been a family oriented person, so traveling out of the country was terrifying. I wouldn’t have gone if it weren’t for the school trip, despite the fact that the only person I knew was the professor.

It turned out to be a fun experience, though there were some definite rocky moments from the moment I arrived. At some point, I told my mom that it was so much fun, I didn’t know if I wanted to come back.

You know what they say about being careful what you wish for? Well…

Our professor was leaving a day before the rest of us. My friend and I had a trip planned that last day of school to go see Grenada. We were all set to buy the tickets until our professor told us that anyone who missed the last day of class would fail the course. We were upset, especially since she was leaving early, but we weren’t about to have the experience be wasted. We needed to pass in order to graduate.

We forgot about our trip and decided to take a train together back to Madrid to leave on the morning of June 28th since my host family wasn’t going to drive us there. I was 30-60 seconds past the end of boarding time. Seriously, there was at least half an hour before the plane took off; they could’ve let me on, but they did not.

I was stuck in Spain.

Will the plane take me home?
Will the plane take me home?

I had to pay for another ticket, which required calling home frantically and asking for more money to be put on my card. I had to call my host sister and explain that I was stuck. On top of it all, the earliest flight back was July 1st. It wasn’t too terrible since I only had to wait about three days. Thankfully, my host family let me come home, though the host mother was pretty angry about the whole situation. I pretty much hid in the basement where my bedroom was and avoided her the whole time. It was not a fun situation.

I remember calling the night before to check when the last boarding time was to ensure I would get there in plenty of time. The company told me that I was supposed to be on the plane right now. I looked down at my phone. It was June 30th. No, I’m supposed to be on the plane tomorrow.

They couldn’t fix my problem over the phone; I had to go to the airport. Cue another trip on a train to the Madrid airport. I told the front desk my problem, and they said that I was booked for a trip June 30th, not July 1st. On top of that, they said that if I intended to leave, I needed to buy another ticket!

So I asked if they had anyone there who spoke English because while I was complaining in Spanish and doing all my transactions in Spanish, I did not know the words I wanted to say.

I explained the situation in English and, with persistence, finally managed to have them give me a ticket for July 4th.

Sculpture of St. Teresa & her brother as children
Sculpture of St. Teresa & her brother as children

I went back to my host family, explained I wasn’t going home tomorrow like I thought, and faced the wrath of my host mother again. I hid in the basement like Cousin It, and then on the night of July 3rd, I went to the airport with all my things. I decided to sleep in the airport so that I didn’t miss my early morning flight.

I slept on and off when I finally got on the plane, and I remember the sun rising. I arrived at home in late afternoon or evening I think. And my stamp on my passport was on the page with a liberty bell. It dawned on me then that it was July 4th.

When I saw my parents I declared that I had finally escaped from Spain and gained my independence once again. How fitting. We laughed about it.

The funny thing? My professor later asked about my trip to Grenada. When I told her we didn’t go because of the threat of not getting credit for class, she informed me that she had been addressing the students who had planned on ditching class to go party and drink.

Well, I guess we could call this whole thing a ginormous case of miscommunication!

I still don’t know how that second ticket got mixed up. I can only imagine that they printed my ticket and entered in another date. Whatever it was, it definitely reminded me to be careful what I wish for and that home is definitely where my heart is.

Your Turn

Has a miscommunication ever caused you trouble? Have you ever missed your flight? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Featured image of fireworks by bayasaa from Flickr (Creative Commons). All other photos by me.

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2 thoughts on “How I Won My “Independence” from Spain

  1. Oh man, these are the things that can put someone off traveling forever! It really does stink to have plans go so awry, and how irritating your host mom was so bitter about the whole thing :/.
    I had a horrible experience in Miami just this last March, actually. I was on my way to Havana, Cuba for a week of research with some fellow Honors students, and once I arrived in Miami I COULD NOT catch a shuttle to our hotel to save my life. Over the next three hours, I was told 7 times by the front desk that the shuttle was “20 minutes away,” and then watched the shuttle pass me by TWICE as I waved frantically and yelled and jumped up and down and nearly threw my phone at the van to catch the driver’s attention. When I finally resolved to find alternate transportation to the hotel, I was verbally abused by a cab driver, dropped the envelope of all my money for the trip (somehow, magically, did not lose even one euro to the breeze) and then was grudgingly granted a seat on a shuttle by a guy who told me to “stop crying.”
    Found out later that an Muslim woman shouting something in Arabic had attempted to drive a car into the ticketing area in the next terminal which had led to a level-wide shutdown that backed up traffic for two hours all the way to my hotel (20 minutes away at a good moment).
    I have never been so happy to arrive to a sketchy hotel. I had puffy eyes from sobbing, a headache and a stomachache from not eating, and the sincere wish that this was not an omen of how the rest of the trip was going to go.
    Happy to say it was actually a beautiful trip and I fell completely in love with Havana and her people. That’s my rough travel story. 🙂

    1. Oh my goodness! What a terrible experience! I would have been tempted to just go home at that point. At least you were just checking into a hotel at the moment rather than catching a flight or bus to somewhere farther away I suppose. Still, rough!

      My host mother and I had problems at the beginning too. I forgot to post about that. I’ll have to write it up and share it with you sometime.

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