Glamorous Travel

glamorous travel

I’m sitting in the Naples, Italy airport waiting to board a yet-to-be-seen flight to Marrakech, Morocco. No one seems to know why the plane is so late or if it’s coming at all, but that’s how it goes sometimes, right? We’ve all been there, living the glamorous travel life.

It’s already been a rather long day. My family and I woke at 4:30 a.m. in Rome. We grabbed a quick bite then walked about 15 minutes to the nearest bus stop. Unfortunately, the bus was delayed so, rather than risk a domino effect of missed-transit-disaster, we hailed a cab to the train station. Ten minutes and 15 Euro later, we pulled into Roma Trastevere where, despite the cabbie’s assurances that no trains travel from Roma Trastevere to Roma Termini so we should really just continue paying him to drive us, we hopped a train to Roma Termini (also delayed – but only by 2 minutes).

We pulled into Roma Termini almost on time – and quickly walked the half-mile stretch to catch a high-speed train to Naples. We managed to board with 10 minutes to spare and set out across the Italian countryside.

Two hours later, we disembarked at Napoli Centrale, where we immediately realized we had no idea how to connect to the next leg of our trip. The train ride we’d booked went from Trastevere to Termini, then to Naples Centrale, and finally Naples Airport. It was all booked through TrenItalia but the last leg of the journey showed a bus icon, not a train. Using our extraordinary deductive powers, we followed signs to the bus lot, where we discovered a whole fleet of buses.

Unfortunately, none of them were going to the airport.

After a few confused minutes, I finally asked one of the employees where we could catch the airport bus. He didn’t understand, which means I probably said it wrong.

I tried again “Bus? Aeroporto?”

Recognition dawned. He pointed back the way we’d come.

At risk of making an overly long explanation even longer, we hurried back to the train station, where we located the special airport bus stop, just as the rain began to fall. The driver, fortunately didn’t notice (or care) that our tickets were for the next scheduled bus, and he allowed us onboard, packed like sardines with all the other airport-goers.

We arrived at Naples Airport, found the RyanAir counter and queued up to wait. When our turn arrived, we were able to explain that the RyanAir app wouldn’t give us mobile boarding passes (turns out they don’t allow you to use mobile if you don’t have an European Union passport, so that’s … fun). Fortunately, the representative kindly printed us paper passes and we were on our way through security.

Side Note – Security is usually a long tangle of both waiting and chaos, but Naples has a specific lane for families to go through quickly, making it my official new FAVORITE AIRPORT OF ALL TIME.

We grabbed a quick cappuccino inside the secured area before heading to Passport Control (which we started toward early, fortunately, because it turned out to be a cool 15-minute walk away).

Side note – Even Naples’ Passport Control has a separate family lane! BEST AIRPORT EVER!!!

Next, we located our gate, queued up and waited to board. After scanning all priority passengers’ boarding passes and moving them into the staging area, it was our turn. But they didn’t board us. Instead, the mass of passengers just stood there, priority passengers in the staging area on one side and the rest of us on the other, all waiting for the agents to continue.

But they didn’t.  

We asked what was going on. They said the plane wasn’t there.

We asked where it was. They didn’t know.

Evenutally, the plane was located – back in Rome, where we’d started (life’s funny isn’t it?!)

The advised everyone to return to the waiting area while they sorted it all out.

A one-hour delay stretched into two, then three.  

And now I’m here – sitting in the Naples Airport, waiting to board a yet-to-be-seen flight to Marrakech, Morocco, and secretly wondering if it’s going to arrive at all. We’re on a small regional carrier, and it doesn’t look like they go to Morocco from here all that often. I’m hoping with everything I’ve got that they don’t bump our flight to tomorrow (turning a two-day trip into one).

A friend recently asked me about all our “glamorous travel” This made me smile. Traveling is a lot of things for me, including one of my life’s greatest passions. Glamorous, it is usually not.

There are early hours, crowded buses, trains, and flights. Weird smells. Usually, someone coughs on your face. Yesterday I almost stepped on a dead rat outside Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Glamorous? No.

Exhilarating? Yes.

There’s a lot of work and stress (and money) involved. But that’s kind of the point. Traveling engages every ability and asset. Whether you’re trying to figure out which train stop is yours and it’s pitch black outside, the PA system is suddenly malfunctioning and your Google maps icon is wandering around the country like a drunken fool; or arguing with a security guard in a language you barely speak because your tickets show the attraction closing at 16:30 but he’s arbitrarily decided to close it at 15:00; or trying to swallow a heaping plate of flounder soaked in squid ink on a bed of tepid corn mush that you’re promised is a Venetian specialty (or a family-size serving of stewed Chickory that was listed as “roasted vegetables” on the menu … or a cone of “Sunshine” ice cream, which turns out to be made almost exclusively of Tumeric (which you really should have seen coming at a “vegan creamery”…)). The point is, all this wandering around is challenging at every level. And for me, that’s directly connected to the whole point – which is that I never feel more alive than when I’m using every faculty I possess. And traveling – well, nothing else does it for me quite like that.

At this moment, here in the Naples Airport, waiting to board a yet-to-be-seen flight to Marrakech, I’m listening to a group of travelers chatting in Arabic. I’m guessing it’s Arabic – could be wrong; but it’s incredibly melodic. I don’t understand a word of course, but I’m just letting the sound wash over me. It’s absolutely beautiful.

There’s a little British boy beside me who can’t wait for the flight to start so he can assemble his new Lego set. (Imagine that adorable enthusiasm in a six-year-old British accent – *cue heart-melting.)

An old woman in a hijab is thoroughly fed up with this whole airplane debacle and not afraid to let anyone know it, and there’s a young couple across the way who are watching a show together on a cellphone, wound up so tightly in each other’s arms and legs that it must be uncomfortable, but they don’t seem to care.

The air smells of apoxy and jet fuel, but it’s delightful here, in its own way.

(Also – thanks to a bald and bespectacled gentleman in a black wool jacket, I’ve just discovered that the odd-looking machine to my right dispenses tiny cups of coffee. Yay!)

No matter what comes next, today has already been a splendid adventure.

Hopefully we get to go to Morocco. That’s the plan anyway. We’ll figure it out as we go, just like we always do. That’s the fun of it, right?

Postscript:

We made it to Morocco!

I’m so grateful. This trip was kind of a big deal. Not like a cure-for-cancer-big-deal, just a personal big deal. You see, when I studied abroad in Italy during college some two decades ago, I hoped to visit Morocco for spring break to experience the art, architecture and culture. Unfortunately, the Iraq invasion and subsequent regional political unrest got in the way. But almost 19 years later, I finally made it!

The best part? This trip completed my goal of visiting all six inhabited continents before my 40th birthday and Morocco was the perfect place to finish the list. It’s simply extraordinary.

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