Leave it to what was supposed to be a fun and adventurous overseas trip, to have you come home feeling unbalanced and slightly defeated, and it is not to be for the reasons you would think.
A week of fun is what it was supposed to be. The first half of the week was to be a bit more relaxing under the Florida sun. A bit of beach time mixed in with some booze and good food was all it was meant to be for the four of us. Each traveler, carrying far more weight than what was contained in their luggage, were anxiously awaiting this mini getaway from the harsh realities of a cold Jersey life. Now looking back at it, I guess it wasn’t a total shock that by day two of this 4-day excursion the group had let a small ripple course between them. Not all was lost, and we were able to enjoy the last full day we had together as a unit, but no matter. The air felt thick and I was very much ready to get to the latter half of my vacation, the one I was really waiting for.
A four-day music festival in the capital of Colombia, Bogota with over a hundred bands and DJs from all over the world were set to perform on this little trip. I had never been to anything of the sort, and I would be lying to you if I said that I wasn’t at all nervous about going. Months prior I had been invited by a good friend of mine and since then I had talked another good friend of mine to tag along with me. She was also tagging along on the first half of the trip to Florida, we needless to say, I was comfortable with leaving the good ol’ USA to head to a an “out of this world” experience. Being 36, who knew if I’d ever get a chance like this again, especially at an age that is still deemed “acceptable” for me to attend. With a bit of a rocky start to this week’s travel endeavors, I was stoked to be flying somewhere totally new. After our 4 am, hour long drive to the airport, we excitedly exited our Uber and headed inside to the terminal. Our excitement lasted for what seemed only a breath for the second we arrived at the front desk that moment of happiness was snatched up by one young lady simply doing her job.
Again, hindsight is a little bitch, because looking back, it all almost seemed too easy. We had arrived at the airport with more than plenty of time. There was no line to wait into so as soon as we printed out our baggage tickets, we were able to move right through to the very front. The girl who called us up was pleasant enough for it being so early in the morning, not to mention when we initially walked in, she was having trouble with an irate customer. She swiftly moved through all our paperwork without a hiccup, and finally with our suitcases on the baggage belt, it was at this very moment the air had been sucked out of us.
“Ok ladies, lastly I just need to see your proof of COVID vaccination card or proof of a negative test please.”
It seemed like I stared at her for a full 20 seconds before asking her what she meant, as if I hadn’t known what she meant. Was I subconsciously stalling? Most likely. I mean I didn’t have my card on me, no test, and neither did my friend. NEITHER of us had thought to look since both of us had already flown to multiple countries by this point without ever being asked for documentation. Naively, we both had thought this entire COVID shit had blown over. After dancing around with the girl for a couple of minutes in regard to what our options were, we decided to allow her to reschedule our flights for free for the very next day, in hopes that we’d be able to find some place to test within those 24hrs. Testing wasn’t going to be the problem, getting the results back in time was. Regardless, we were turned away without a way to fly, and as we sat in the airport deciding what to do next, I couldn’t help but admire our composure. Most people in our shoes would have lost their shit, and although I wanted to scream due to our stupidity of the situation, I couldn’t. I didn’t blame the airline for not sending out a reminder email that this destination was a “COVID Restricted Access” location or whatever. I couldn’t blame the friend who had invited us for not mentioning it, even if he had been flying back and forth to Colombia just recently. At the end of it all, it was our own fault.
To make a VERY long story short, we were not going to receive our results in time, and although we still took it just in case, we decided to make moves in case such was to happen. Which it did.
In our hastened (and very tired) state of mind, we ended up booking an Airbnb that was NOT what was advertised. This was the cherry on our nightmare sundae because when we arrived we completely deflated. The neighborhood was sketchy to say the least, with about 20 stray cats littering the roads, sidewalks, and driveways. Broken down cars and barred up windows decorated the, what was described to be as, a “quaint” neighborhood. Inside it was dark, dirty, and musty, not at all like the beautifully bright “cottage” stated in the ad. Even opening up all the windows didn’t help this place. There was a huge rat trap under the bathroom sink. The handles on most of the drawers throughout the place were broken or completely missing. Duct tape framed the door leading outside, most likely to help keep out the pests, and while we tried to make the most of this place, there was just no way that we’d be able to stay 4 nights here. Zero.
It was the moment that my friend and I looked at each other, our eyes meeting over top of the overused, grungy brown leather couch, that we decided to not let this ruin our trip. Since the airport, we had been firm in our decision to make the most of it, and this Airbnb was not going to make up for us missing our music festival. We put not only our funds but also our thinking caps together and made moves to turn this vacation around. We booked an affordable hotel in St. Pete, rented a car, and came up with a game plan. On our drive from the Airbnb to the hotel we did research on places to site see, as well as restaurants, bars, etc. Throughout our unexpected St. Pete 4 night stay we did all that and more.
Was this week what I expected? Was it what I thought I wanted? Nope. Not by the least bit. Can I say that maybe it was more of what I needed? Sure. Maybe I didn’t need to go into my work season with a bang? Maybe this wasn’t the time for me to enjoy my most authentic self under a barrage of musical artists and slight consumption of hallucinogenic goodies. On my way home from Florida, I discovered that what was supposed to be my flight back home from Bogota to Tampa was actually cancelled, meaning that if I had gone to Colombia, I would have been stranded coming home. The kicker was that even though my friend and I had been flying on the same flight, it was only my ticket that had been canceled, not my friend’s ticket. Could it have been fate that stood in our way that morning we were to fly out? I’m not a believer in coincidences. I am, however, a believer at looking at the glass half full. This entire ordeal could have been worse by simply allowing for external shit to affect my internal world. It was not easy, in fact, I arrived home more exhausted than if I would have spent the 4 days at the music festival. It was a test in emotional and mental strength, and I feel as though I passed with flying colors. Although in the very thickness of it I did not see what good would come, I now know that it’s moments like those that make up what is life’s real adventure.