Monday, 30 September 2013

My Unexpected Travel Adventure

A business trip to Minnesota claimed to be more than just a business trip, it was a real experience to say the least.

I booked my trip well in advance to take advantage of cheap flights, as I planned to fly out a day early, caught an early flight, thought I’d do a little shopping at the Mall of America in Minneapolis during my stay.

I arrived at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on time, in fact, surprisingly a little early. I then proceeded to hail a cab from the airport to my hotel, no need for a rental car, at the time, maybe it would have been the best choice in the end!

Checked into my hotel room, did the usual ‘observation’, all seemed to be in an orderly fashion, up to my specifications anyway. Clean room, clean bathroom, etc. I gently placed my large suitcase and carry-on bag onto the hotel room floor, as I wasn’t going to need to take anything with me to the mall. I’d require both hands to carry all my purchases! What was I shopping for anyway? Nothing, just a woman on a mission to shop.

Now, it was time to hit the stores! Imagine, an entire day to myself? That doesn’t happen too often. I took the hotel shuttle across to the mall, tipped the driver, and off I went.

WOW, what a place, levels upon levels of everything from amusement rides to shops to restaurants. I'm thinking I should have booked a few extra days, not just one.

After an entire day of shopping, I was completely exhausted, but happy with my mall experience.. The question was now “how was I going to stuff all that I bought into my suitcase? I knew I could do it, but the real question was “how was I possibly going to lift it?”

The weather in June was scorching hot in Minnesota, who would have thought? The forecast for the following next few days would remain the same. I unfortunately hadn't checked ahead of time. 100 degree temperatures to contend with, one fall weight business suit, and two pieces of luggage.

The next morning I woke refreshed, slept in a little later than I should have, but still enough time to shower, dress, but no breakfast. I was hungry, but ready for my day. My transportation from the hotel to my business meeting location was about a two hour drive. Again, rather than a car rental, I thought I would arrange this transportation through the hotel. Maybe a limo to chauffeur me there. The cost wouldn’t be much more than a cab. I could spend time preparing for my meeting during the trip. Great idea, I thought!

The limo ended up being a Lincoln Navigator arranged by the hotel. Plenty of room, and most importantly, a comfortable ride. As we left the hotel parking lot, a little idle chit chat with the driver, and off we went. The ride seemed a little bumpy, the driver assured me it was just the road. I trusted his words. About 30 or so miles into the ride, I was beginning to question the road conditions, I was beginning to believe it was the vehicle. My seat belt was fastened securely, otherwise I would have had some serious brain damage. I felt as if I was on a roller coaster ride, my head would have hit the interior ceiling of the SUV if I weren’t belted in.

Up, down, up, down, up down, I was bouncing in my seat, this was no exaggeration ..this was beginning to worry me. The driver admitted he was having car trouble, what was my first clue? At this point, he needed to immediately pull off the road, the back end of the SUV had some serious issues, as I knew it wasn't me. I was almost feeling ill at this point, all the up and down motion which seemed to get progressively worse after each mile.

He took the next exit, pulled into a convenience store/gas station in the middle of nowhere, and told me I needed to find another source of transportation, and demanded I pay him the entire cost. I told him I’d pay him half, considering he only got me this far. He called a tow truck, and off they went.

Left standing in one hundred degree plus temperatures wearing a business suit, two pieces of heavy luggage stranded in literally the middle of who knows where.

My business meeting was scheduled to begin in an hour, I was now in panic mode.

After standing outside pondering for quite some time, I walked inside the convenience store, explaining my situation to the young man behind the counter. I asked him who I should call for a cab, and how long he thought it may take for one to arrive. He answered “most likely an hour, there is no cab company close by.” As we further discussed the predicament I was faced with, a young man of an ethic background walked in, overheard my dilemma, and offered to help. He said he was on his way to where I needed to be, and would be willing to drive me there. How kind was that?

As excited as I was to jump on the offer, I was also a little hesitant, not because of his ethnic decent, it wouldn’t have mattered who offered me a ride, it was just the fact that it was total stranger. I obviously wasn’t thinking too clearly at the time. I seemed to be more concerned about making the meeting than what was at risk, that being my life. As desperate as I was, I took his offer.

I followed him to his car, wheeling my suitcase behind me, carrying the other bag over my shoulder. I made sure I had my cell phone in hand, 911 already keyed in, ready to hit if needed.

When I approached his very small car, he mentioned his trunk was completely full, therefore I had to sit with my luggage on my lap.

The car windows were down, I noticed two others sitting quietly. One in the front, one in the back. Two women covered from head to toe in their native dress. All that was noticeable were their eyes. I reluctantly got in the back seat, placing my large suitcase across me, the other next to me. We then drove off.

No words were spoken to me. The only words exchanged were between them, sadly enough in their language, which was completely foreign to me.

After what seemed like hours in the car, it was only about 15 minutes. I then tried to make small talk in order to break the silence, our situation was noticeably uncomfortable. I only realized these women feared me as an American Citizen, as much as I feared them as who they were. My cell phone rang, I immediately answered, it was my daughter! A comforting voice just when I needed one. After a very brief conversation, my last words to her were “I love you too.” Just those few words, "the international language" broke the ice. I then showed them the screen on my phone which presented my beautiful daughter. Arriving safely at my destination, we all built a trust in one another.

No matter where you travel, it’s always taking a risk. Whether you take a flight, rent a car, hop on a cruise ship, stay at a five star resort, you just never know what may become of your next vacation. The experience is just part of the adventure.

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