It’s time for part 2 of my story of my first real trip abroad.
If you recall from Part 1 I was just about to board a flight to Belgium for a sold-out music festival and then prance through Amsterdam and Paris. But I forget to change the name on my passport after getting married.
You can read part 1 here if you need to catch up. Now, let’s go back to 2012 and the United counter at DFW airport.
If you were hanging on to the seat of your office chair (or toilet, also a great place to read) to see if I was going to get on the plane, then let’s get to it.
I was told, that despite my name not matching on my passport (my old, maiden name) and my ticket (my new, married name) that I could still fly. BUT I might run into errors along the way. Especially since we had 3 connecting flights. Dallas to Newark. Newark to Geneva, Switzerland. Geneva to Brussels, Belgium.
The woman at the counter said she could, “Kind of change your ticket to show both names.”
But now, I would have to print off a new boarding pass at every stop. So that meant one in New York and one in Geneva, Switzerland to get to Belgium.
That sounds all fine and good until I looked at how tight our layovers were between flights.
I decided I would have to suck it up and make the best of it. After all, I wanted to get on that flight and eat some delicious (er…questionable) plane food and watch movies.
I was flying with Michael and our friend Josh, I took the window seat so I could occasionally stare out the window and imagine myself in Paris, Amsterdam, and dancing at the music festival in Belgium. I kept checking our flight pattern and then my watch.
“It looks like we’re kind of running late,” I leaned over the seat to ask Michael, “Or am I wrong?”
The flight attendant heard me and explained, “Yes, we will be late arriving to Newark.”
Immediately my heart started pounding faster. I pull out my trusty orange folder of information. “We only have an hour between flights and I need to re-print out my boarding pass, do you think we’ll have time?”
She half-smiled, her mouth a tight red line, “Yes, you should be fine.”
She was wrong.
Our flight was too delayed and we missed our flight to Geneva, Switzerland. Which also meant we’d miss our plane to Belgium… would we miss the festival?!
The problem was, my name was still incorrect on my ticket and so every time we talked to someone new at the Newark airport to rebook our flight, it became a clerical mess and a manager had to be called.
Was this a bad sign?
I felt a bit embarrassed. Out of Michael and Josh I was the most traveled having gone to London with my parents every summer when they taught a study abroad. How could I forget to change the name on my passport?
After about 3 hours of shuffling, we were able to make it on a flight to Switzerland. We also had to rebook our flight from Switzerland to Brussels, Belgium and it was on a much, much smaller plane.
But the perks were it had lovely Swiss cartoon people painted on the side, Bonus!
We made our way to Belgium, but there was one slight problem. Josh accidentally left his phone on the plane.
He sprinted back, dodged people screaming that this was “Verboten!” (forbidden). But he prevailed and got his phone.
Finally, we were on the train to Mechelen, and with very little sleep we dropped our stuff and decided to have a quick lunch before heading straight to a music festival. (Tell me you’re an American with less than 2 weeks vacation without telling me you’re an American with less than 2 weeks vacation.)
A quick lunch in Europe doesn’t exist. We sat at an outdoor cafe in our neon gear waiting and waiting and waiting for the food, and then the waiter, and then the check. Now, it was time to sprint to the train, then sprint to the bus, and then sprint to the music festival.
How I imagined I looked in Europe:
The Tomorrowland festival was nothing short of mind blowing. If you’re ever with Michael and I, just ask us the best day of our lives. We’ll both say it’s a tie between our wedding and going to Tomorrowland for the first time.
It wasn’t just the best DJs in the world, although they had that too (Avicii, Martin Garrix, Calvin Harris, Kaskade) it was that it was so well organized. We could easily get away from the craziness of the 100,000+ person main stage and go have french fries and mayo (which I learned, is awesome).
There were 16 stages, fireworks, great food, cherry flavored beer, Australians that asked Michael, “Hey, wanna swap sunnies mate?” (which, of course he did), and more people from around the world representing their country than from the Olympics.
It felt like heaven.
But our trip was far from over.
First we went to Amsterdam where we took our life in our hands by renting bikes (you better know how to bike or get the hell out of the way), and bought a map the size of a small country.
One day we had beer inside a windmill and we met an older man and he asked us how many hours a week we worked. “About 40,” my friend Josh said, “But most work more. I work about 50, sometimes more.” I’ll never forget what he said (and it might have just changed my life), “50 hours a week? That’s criminal.” He went on to say that he moved around and could work from wherever, he just took a black sheet with him and put it behind him on video calls so no one ever knew where he was.
Next, we took a train to Paris.
To say I was so excited was an understatement. I had dreamed of this city all of my life and and now I was finally going.
We walked around the city in disbelief. It was just so mesmerizingly beautiful. We went to a cafe for French onion soup (or… just onion soup here) and it was the best I’d ever tasted in my life.
Everything felt like the best in my life.
To quote my favorite movie, Midnight in Paris, “Because you look around and every street, every boulevard, is its own special art form and when you think that in the cold, violent, meaningless universe that Paris exists, these lights, I mean come on, there’s nothing happening on Jupiter or Neptune, but from way out in space you can see these lights, the cafés, people drinking and singing. For all we know, Paris is the hottest spot in the universe.”
We barely slept the next few days, enchanted with all the city had to offer. The mighty Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, charming boulevards along the Latin Quarter and Champs-Élysées, the stunning Font Alexandre III bridge, it was all just so wonderful. We day tripped to Versailles, snuck into the Louvre (but that’s a story for another day), and climbed to the top of the Sacre Coeur. And, of course, the glittering Eiffel Tower. As we gazed at the Iron Lady, Michael and I looked at each other knowingly: maybe one day we’ll move abroad?
On our last night we decided to forego the hotel, since we had an early flight the next morning. We figured we’d just party at a Paris night club until 4am (despite literally never doing this) and then high tailing it to the airport.
I put on my best little black dress (which was a cotton dress from Target) and we danced the night away at the club.
We got to the airport promptly at 4am, since we had flight problems the week before.
But there was one issue: the airport wasn’t open yet.
Exhausted, we sat, slumped on our backpacks before the airport opened at 5am.
Swimming with fatigue, we made our way to the counter to check that everything was okay with our tickets. The plan was again a lengthy journey home: Paris, France to Frankfurt, Germany to Newark, New York to Dallas, Texas.
Because we missed our flight from New York to Switzerland, it cancelled out our plane tickets for the rest of the trip, unbenounced to us. Michael had no seat. They told him he would need to fly stand by.
Meanwhile, I had no seat at all. I was trying to explain my situation about the name mix-up but they seemed uninterested to talk to someone that didn’t speak French.
Finally, they were able to find a seat for Michael and I and get our tickets transferred for this flight. But they warned us, “The tricky part is going from Europe to the USA, with a suspicious name change they might not let you through.”
After miraculously boarding the plane I knew there might be trouble ahead in the Frankfurt airport.
Again, we had a tight turnaround between flights, I hadn’t slept, I was wearing a little black dress from the Paris night club, and my name didn’t match my passport.
We hopped off the plane and Michael suggested, “Let’s just try to go talk to the gate.” But we were knew we were in trouble as soon as we tried to get through security. A loud, tinny “ehh ehh” sound alarmed as they tried to scan my ticket.
“You can not go to America with two different names!” security announced. It felt like large neon “X’s” were suspended over my head to not let me in.
We told our friend Josh to go ahead, “If we don’t make it home, you can tell everyone why.”
Michael and I didn’t have time to spare and started running around Frankfurt airport to try and find someone to help. I imagine I flashed a lot of people running around as my backpack bounced and my short dress whipped around me in our fury.
Our first step was to talk to the American consulate. I told them our situation and they shuffled me into a room to make a call to see if someone could help. I was in this weird beige room with low lighting. It felt very clinical, like the waiting room of Doctor Doom.
I made the call and a sweet southern accent picked up the phone. After I relayed the situation, “We cannot get on a flight back to America, sir.” I was met with this answer, “M’am, honestly, you’re in deep shit.” I was so taken aback I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “But it appears you might be staying in Germany.”
Michael actually started to look up what to do in Frankfurt since it looked like we had no other option.
“Wait,” the man said before hanging up. “I would go talk to the German airlines, they might know a way around it.”
Again, we ran. And I flashed people.
But who cares! We were on a mission.
Sweating, hungry, and tired, we went to the desk of the Lufthansa, the German airline.
We found someone that looked helpful, although he kept speaking German over their shoulder and snickering.
After lots of keyboard tapping, 20 minutes before our flight was to take off he looked at me and said “You need to show proof of your marriage to go home.”
But that’s the thing… how in the world could we do that?
At this point in the story you might be thinking: why wasn’t she prepared? OR, why didn’t she have a backup pair of leggings to throw on under the dress?
Good questions. And the honest truth is, I just didn’t know any better. I’m a BIG believer in learning as you go.
Now that I am a “travel blogger” I feel pretty confident in traveling, packing, and planning. But things go wrong. Unpredictable things happen. We learn from our mistakes and adapt as we go.
To me, the beauty of travel is not just in seeing an incredible destination, but what I learn along the way. I learn about different people, cultures, ways of life, and even about myself. Travel is such a great metaphor for life. It’s fun and exciting, but also challenging and draining.
Things can and will go wrong. The trick is to understanding that it will happen and and to not lose hope along the way but, instead, treat it as a lesson.
I think the real secret to life is being curious. To constantly seeking answers and understanding. We’ll never know it all and isn’t that incredible?! There’s always something to discover. I’m a huge advocate in continuing education. After all, I became a full time blogger after I finally took some classes I had been thinking about for years.
Every year I offer this free Instagram stories training because I know that stories are the most powerful way to connect. But more than that, we get to learn from each other. We get to share what’s working, or not.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes Instagram Stories (and just the app in general) are a rollercoaster of emotions and frustrations. You are putting yourself out there- why aren’t you getting the feedback you deserve? Why do some posts do great and others fall flat? Why aren’t as many people seeing my stories as they used to?
While I KNOW (believe me, I know) it can feel disheartening, it’s also an opportunity to learn and adapt. Click here to sign up for the Instagram Stories training that starts this Thursday. It’s super casual – you’ll just get an email every day for a week with tips!
Stay tuned for the final part 3 of my story and see if and when we ever get home.
It’s All Good,
P.P. S. Looking for more stories? Michael pulled a rather insane prank on me on Saturday and convinced me he got a puppy. See all the antics here.