Describe your most frustrating travel moment.
Billy: “I was flying back from Los Angeles, from the International Science and Engineering Fair. While we were there, they had a big heat wave, so it was about 105 degrees every day. Flying out of LA, the jetport bridge jammed and they spent about an hour trying to fix it. Then, with a stroke of genius, they realized that they owned the bridge right next to it. They unloaded all of the people, moved the plane over, refueled, put us back on, and sent us off. So now, we’re an hour behind schedule and they’re emphatic that we’ll make our connections. We fly into Philly and sure enough, I see the plane that I’m supposed to be on taking off. I go over to the concierge and they say there aren’t any more flights available, there are no guaranteed seats… ‘But we’ll put you on this flight and see what happens.’ So, I didn’t get on that flight, and pretty much everyone else who was on my plane from LA was also there. Next flight: Nope. If you’ve ever been to Philadelphia airport, they have Terminal F, which is kind of its own little entity and you have to take a shuttle to get there, or go back through security. So every time I would attempt to get on a flight, it would be like, the plane’s leaving from Terminal A. Nope. Next one leaves in Terminal F in five minutes. Go there. Can’t get on that one either. So now you’re in Terminal C. And now we’re going to send you to DC, and you can connect from there… but that flight got cancelled, so, now you’re back in Terminal B. This happened like seven times. Over the course of about 16, 17 hours. And bear in mind that I left Los Angeles at 11 the previous night, didn’t sleep on the red eye, because I can’t sleep on airplanes. So after all of this, I’m trying to keep my head on straight and my eyes are literally red at this point, dealing with airport security. At long last, I finally got on a plane back to PWM (Portland, Maine) about a day after I was supposed to return. So. And I am so lucky that I only had carry-on luggage and I was traveling alone.”
What did you learn from that experience?
“You need more than an hour to make your connection on a cross-country flight. I will never make that mistake again. I don’t care if I have to sit for six hours in the airport, I will make my connecting flight.”
Edison: “This was when I was playing with the philharmonic orchestra. We traveled to France and Germany [from Ecuador]. So first, we didn’t know the language–French or German, and we barely speak English. We went to Paris and they pretty much said, ‘Okay, here’s a map for you. You’re here, and your rehearsal’s going to be… here.’ And we had to figure out how to get there. Once, I saw a couple of friends running through a parking lot. They thought it was a street, and they were running and [it looked like] this car was chasing them, and they were, like, sprinting. [Laughs.] It was so completely different than Ecuador. One night, we went out for a walk and when we came back, we were missing one guy–the pianist. We called the police and split up into groups of five or six to search for him. Finally, one of the groups found him at the last station on the Metro line, in just a t-shirt, shaking from the cold, because he didn’t know what to do. One day, one of my friends’ Metro tickets didn’t work, so he just decided to jump [the barrier] and like four police officers approached him and took him to the station. He had to pay like 200 Euro. And then, we were ready to go from Paris to Berlin, and they had this big bus, and we were missing one girl. Again, we had to split up and look for her. The director finally decided to stay behind and find her, and just as we were about to pull away, she showed up with a bunch of shopping bags. And then, the worst thing happened at the end: We had left our suitcases in lockers at the train station. Three people decided to stay in Germany illegally, so they left their suitcases and took all of their clothes, everything, and just left. They took a train to Italy. Again we waited, searched, nothing. The director planned to stay an extra day with the police, but some people knew of their plans to stay illegally, so they came forward and said, ‘They’re not coming.’ And those guys stayed in Europe.”
Like, forever? Did you ever hear from any of them?
“No, after five years, they went back to Ecuador. But just to visit. And they went to the orchestra and said, ‘I’m so sorry.’ It was really interesting… but it was a fun trip.”
Elissa: “Okay, my story is the reason that we stopped going to the beach [in Ecuador]. It was a holiday and everybody in Quito goes to the beach for the holidays, and we didn’t know how we were getting there because all of the bus tickets were sold out, but eventually, we ended up getting on a bus with [Eddy’s] friends, because they were playing at a festival. We rode down with them and it was in an old, retired city bus with like these plastic seats and we rode all night, so that was horrible. And then the beach was okay. We took the regular bus back, so we get on the bus and drive for maybe 10 minutes, and then all of a sudden, we stop. And we stay stopped. And we’re like, ‘What’s going on?’ and we find out that there are landslides in the road. And in Ecuador, people try to pass the traffic, so after an hour, there are cars lined up for miles on both sides of the street, so you can’t turn around. We waited for like, I don’t know, six hours? To see if they were going to open the road, and then the traffic started to creep. It crept all the way back to Quito. And when you go to the beach in Ecuador, unless you’re Ecuadorian, there are a lot more parasites and food issues because of the seafood and everything, so of course, I got sick in the middle of this trip. So it was like six hours waiting for the bus to leave and then another seven or eight to get back to Quito and, you know, halfway through that, I was like dying. It was really, really horrible. And I never made that trip again.”
I’m not sure [if this is the worst], but your story reminds me, I got really sick one time. I was in Sydney. I was traveling with the ASP World Tour and there was a tentative event in Sydney. I had booked a flight, anticipating that this event would happen, but then it didn’t, so I was like, ‘Okay, I will just hang out in Sydney for a month.’ With no work or anything. And Sydney is very expensive, so I quickly didn’t have enough money, and shortly after I got there, I felt really sick and everything hurt. I was staying in a hostel, and I wasn’t actually that far from reception, but after maybe 20 hours of being in bed, sweating and freezing, I called reception and said, ‘So, I kind of feel like I’m dying.’ I couldn’t even walk, really. And the guy was like, ‘We can’t have a doctor come into your room,’ so I asked if they could even just come and bring me some kind of fever reducer because it felt like I had a really high fever, and he was like, ‘No, we don’t have anything to give you. You have to go to the hospital.’ I was like, ‘How am I going to get there?’ and he said, “You can take an ambulance.’ Which seemed excessive. He said it would be easiest if I hailed a taxi, and I was like, ‘I am calling you from down the hall. I don’t think I can stand at the street and wait for a taxi to stop for me.’ I practically crawled to the lobby and laid down on this bench thing. Who knows what everyone who walked by thought. The taxi showed up an hour later and the driver was like, ‘Hey! How are you?’ I was like, ‘You’re an hour late to take me to the ER–how do you think I am?’ That cost $30. Like four hours go by in the ER waiting room, in those terrible plastic chairs, and it was a Friday night in center Sydney, so people were coming in with bleeding head wounds and stuff from concerts and fights and whatever else happens on Friday nights. They were treated before me, obviously. Around five in the morning, I was so miserable and uncomfortable and there was no care in sight, so I just got back into a taxi, went back to the hostel and slept for a long, long time, and I didn’t leave the hostel for like the next three days. I never found out what it was. But I did get some of those good human kindness moments where a stranger would check on me or bring me a banana or something. A few times, people looked me over and said, “Rough night?”