Posted May 23, 2016 in Adventure Journals by Jim Markel
Our Ambassador Katie Jackson recently found herself halfway around the world without her luggage. Here Katie learned the Red Oxx travel philosophy number one the hard way: Carry-on. Her checked bags checked themselves out somewhere between here (Montana) and there (Iceland). Here’s her story.
Yes, airlines can lose your luggage, but no, it can’t happen to me. That’s the lie I’ve told myself for the past 27 years. Until two weeks ago, my checked bag record was as clean as Howie Mandel‘s hands. Today, it bears the scars of six days of being placed on hold by Delta. Six days of 50 shades of stress. Abandoning the theme of six, here are seven signs my bag was MIA. To keep calm, carry-on!
1. Drinking crummy coffee – Whoever set up the coffee station in Delta’s lost baggage office in Newark Airport meant well. However, it irritated me because it implied you’d be there for a while. And I was. For an hour, while the employee behind the desk attempted to confirm my bag did not make it on my flight to Newark, I stared at a foam cup filled with some instant product they package and sell as coffee. I was a Starbucks loyalist trapped in a K-cupper’s purgatory. I didn’t even want coffee! I wanted peace of mind that my bag was going to be in Iceland when I arrived.
2. Soaking wet in Iceland – Did you know the Made-in-China umbrella you buy for $5 in the U.S. goes for $15 in Iceland? Did you know the same umbrella lasts about 15 minutes in Iceland’s wind and rain? These were two key learning’s from my first day in Reykjavik. Without my luggage, which contained my warm layers and rain gear, I was virtually naked in Iceland.
It was raining lions and wolves, and I only had the clothes I’d worn on the plane—a light sweatshirt and leggings. It was impossible to stay dry and warm, so I had to miss the Labor Day parade and concert the rest of the locals and tourists enjoyed.
3. Sweating buckets in Spain – After Iceland, I flew to the south of Spain, still sans luggage. When I arrived at the airport in Tenerife, I’m pretty sure I could have made huevos fritos on the sidewalk. I had to go to the bike shop to pick up my rental, and when I arrived, the employees stared at me in my sweatshirt and leggings like, “Did you not get the memo that it’s wicked hot here?” I wiped the sweat from my brow and bought expensive cycling shorts and a tank top, on the spot. They were $100 but there was no way I going back out in the elements to melt to death.
4. Dusting off the Twitter – My Twitter account has been practically dormant for years. But after three days of being put on hold and trying to understand, and be understood by, a Spanish-speaking operator, I traded cell phone for social media. To its credit, Delta is very responsive on Twitter. Still, I was in Tenerife, home to Europe’s most visited national park, El Teide. I should have been out hiking instead of trying to find a free WiFi signal so I could exchange tweets with a customer service rep who thought my bag had caught a flight to Amsterdam.
5. Befriending a pharmacist – Besides prison and a hospital, the pharmacy is the last place I want to be on holiday. Still, I found myself in one: staring at bottles, tubes, tubs and packets that I needed but couldn’t buy until the pharmacist translated their ingredients, listed in Spanish. Delta gave me a doll-sized, one or two-use toiletries kit when they first lost my luggage. But that was six days ago.
If I hoped to make any friends in Tenerife, I needed the facewash, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, etc. that was in my missing bag. I also needed my medication. I have Crohn’s disease and a case of OCD nearly as bad as Mr. Mandel’s. Six days sans 80 mg of Prozac/day results in a Katie who counts every tile on the floor. And then RECOUNTS them.
6. Crying in a fitting room – If you’re a woman and you’ve ever tried on a swimming suit in a fitting room, you’ve been to hell, and assuming you survived, and back. I’m a little dramatic, but even if you’re a size 2, it’s a demoralizing place where all of your body-image demons attack at once.
Since the swimming suit I bought two years ago, and the one I’d hoped to wear my entire life so as to never go through the fitting process again, was in my missing luggage, I found myself crying behind a curtain in the back of a surf shop. European bathing suits are slightly better than their Brazilian counterparts, but I swear they don’t offer as much coverage as America’s.
7. Crying at the airport – Six days after my bag disappeared, I was notified it was at the airport in Tenerife and I could go collect it. Unfortunately, there was no point person at the airport because Delta doesn’t fly there. So, I had to go from counter to counter to office to customs officer trying to find someone who could locate my bag. Tears rolled down my cheeks as one after one, they argued with me in Spanish "Delta no vuela aqui!" They looked at me as if I was crazy. Perhaps, off my meds…
Eventually, after a tweet or two to Delta, those tears of frustration turned to tears of joy. I was told which European airline my bag had caught a lift on from Amsterdam. Armed with the flight number, a friendly customs officer took me to a small room where all of my things, including my beloved plush Tramp, awaited. If you have ever seen a kid re-united with their favorite blanket or stuffed animal, you have seen me at the airport in Tenerife.
Lesson learned. If you do ever travel checked bags, we recommend that you find a box of tissue and a good translator and pack both in your Personal Item.