I got bitten by the travel bug in my early years. Well, the years when I really started living. Right around the time I graduated college. I always think it’s a cruel joke that when we have the most adventurous spirit and the luxury of time, we almost never have the money to take advantage of travel opportunities.
I didn’t let it stop me and was even more enchanted by travel when I got to do it on the corporate dime. Here’s one of my experiences that was pretty amazing then and still pretty amazing now.
I once lived a glamorous life. Or at least it sounded glamorous. I worked for a high-tech company that worked in the data warehousing space. I helped support an international sales team that sold the software I worked on.
During the course of this glamorous period of my life, I was asked (actually work required me) to go to two international conferences. Yes, that meant hopping on a plane to Europe having an all expense paid trip to a fabulous destination.
Do you hate me yet?
It was a working trip. And I did work. But as with most things, I always make it a point to get out of the board room/conference room/expo hall and take in as many of the local sites as I can.
One year, the trip was to Nice, France. You know, the city in the south of France just along the Mediterranean Sea? The one right next to the celebrity-ridden city of Cannes? The one that’s so close to Monaco that you can drive there? Yes. That’s the city.
I’m not trying to downplay how incredible the trip was. I did get to stay at Le Meridien, a luxury hotel that was literally across the street from the Mediterranean Sea. I did get to eat at local cafes where the waiters took pride in their careers as servers. I did get to eat fresh lobster at an outdoor restaurant along a cobblestone street . And I did fall in love with one of my favorite sandwiches, the Croque Madame.
I did work during the day. I stood in the expo hall and talked at great lengths about the software I was demonstrating. I ended up speaking to “very important people” without even knowing it and apparently cast a favorable impression of what we were doing.
And then in the evenings, there were customer events. We had a cocktail party under a tent on the beach. We had champagne and hors d’oervres at the Princess Grace Rose Garden in Monte Carlo. Looking back, I guess those were glory days.
But the traveling to and fro sometimes marred the trip. This particular trip was not a great traveling experience for me.
I was tasked with bringing two laptops with me. Doesn’t sound like that big of a deal but ten years ago, it was a very big deal. My laptops weighed about 12 pounds each and I wasn’t advanced enough to have wheelie bags.
I landed in London to change planes and had to hand carry a very heavy bag of toiletries (because a girl can’t always travel light) and a very heavy bag of computer gear. And I wasn’t just going from gate to gate. I was going from terminal to terminal.
I made it, huffing and puffing. I boarded a British Airways flight headed for Nice. I was tired, exhausted, and my muscles hurt. I was mildly amused by the offering of water (sparkling or still?) but was less amused with the “meat” pie they served as the meal.
I made it to Nice in one piece and somehow managed to use broken French and find the right bus to the right hotel, all the while lugging my baggage. I finally made it to the luxury hotel ready to relax for a few hours before the first customer event.
Upon check-in, I’m told there is a message for me. Just like in the movies. I’m kind of excited until I read that it’s from my boss. He’s planned a customer meeting that he wants me to attend in 15 minutes.
I drop my bags in the room, throw on some make-up and attempt to have some clue about selling CRM software to a South African furniture company.
I made it through the next few days and soaked up the Mediterranean culture. I found a few souvenirs and took a few pictures and then got ready for my return home.
This time, I was scheduled to travel from Nice to Paris and then Paris to home. I arrived at the Nice airport with little time to spare (in true Fadra fashion). As I’m wheeling my large suitcase to the check-in counter, the zipper decides to break. When I say break, I mean that the zipper became completely detached from the suitcase leaving all of my clothes and, ahem, garments scattered all over the terminal.
I pleaded with a airline personnel for some help. They had none to offer me. With a red face, I managed to wrap my entire suitcase in an obscene amount of tape. Ah yes. The glamorous life.
My flight was late departing so luckily I made it in time. I was not so lucky in Paris. I got confused as to what terminal my connecting flight was in and ended up missing my connection. I remember crying my eyes out at the Air France desk wondering how I would survive a night alone in Paris.
Again, you must be thinking that surely a night in Paris can’t be so bad. Well, I regret to inform you that Charles de Gaulle Airport is about 45 minutes outside of Paris proper. I was stuck in the suburbs.
Air France graciously gave me an overnight kit. It had some face cream, a toothbrush, and an Air France t-shirt. That shirt became my nightgown that night, as I had none of my toiletries with me.
I was also wearing contact lenses and had no solution with me. I wandered around the airport trying to find a place to purchase saline solution by pointing to my eyes and using broken French. I eventually purchased a small bottle for $20 USD.
All was not lost, though. I stayed at a Parisian hotel. Or whatever you would call the French equivalent of a Super 8 motel. I ate at the buffet downstairs, stared at the TV in a language I didn’t really understand, and went to sleep.
I made it home the next day and all was right with the world again. It wasn’t until I was recently traveling again that I was reminded of some of the crazy situations I’ve been through. Ah yes. The glamorous life.
What was your most glamorous trip?