Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Home (barely)

Guys, I woke up yesterday morning in Stockholm, Sweden, and went to bed that night in Toronto, Canada. I do believe we live in the age of miracles.

Well, miracles with the occasional bump in the road.

Late Monday afternoon, I headed from Gamla Stan to the Central Station, where the Arlanda Express reaches the airport within twenty minutes. It's more expensive than the Flygbuss, but what the heck, I wanted to ride a train. Can confirm that it is probably the easiest way to get there from downtown. I had an early morning flight (6:20, ugh), and didn't want to shell out for a standard airport hotel, so I chose the Rest and Fly. It's located in Terminal 4 at Arlanda and is essentially a hall full of tiny rooms with just enough space for a bed (think ship's cabin). There's also a WC and shower and a couple of other amenities. It's meant to be a quiet space specifically to get some sleep before your flight, so the guests are very respectful. I think I got the best sleep of the trip here, despite having to get up at 3 AM. Price is reasonable, too. I'd recommend it for anyone flying out of Arlanda - many airports in Europe have recently begun to add similar facilities, so make sure to check! 

Flight out of Stockholm went very smoothly (I played my Sad ABBA playlist and moped), until we landed in Amsterdam. Worst turbulence I had ever experienced at that point - that is foreshadowing, guys. I don't know what was up with the weather that day, but based on this and later events, I'm pretty sure they need an exorcist.

I had four hours in Schiphol, which is kind of the worst amount of time for an airport layover - not enough time to go into the city, but more than long enough to get boring. I mostly spent the time looking for outlets. (Seriously, Schiphol, you need more of those. I don't care if you make them pay-to-use, I will still camp out next to them.) Miiight be a dumb idea to keep a boarding pass on your iPod when you are travelling all day, for future reference - I think next trip I'm going to invest in one of those portable chargers.

I was obediently at the gate for my flight to Toronto, and it seemed to go well at first. Takeoff was a little rough and the plane seemed to be vibrating, but I figured it was just the weather. About forty-five minutes in, as we were crossing the North Sea, the following announcement came on:

"One of our four engines has died and another is making a strange vibrating noise - but do not worry."

Of course, this had the exact opposite reaction, and as the pilot explained that we had to head back to Amsterdam, people started to get very edgy. Fortunately, the KLM staff handled it very calmly and professionally, so we didn't have a serious panic. Coming into Amsterdam, though, we had even worse turbulence than in the morning - the plane was shaking from side to side, we kept dropping unexpectedly, and I was quite convinced we were going to die. Lots of shrieks from people around me. 

Once we were on solid ground, perfectly intact except for a few extra gray hairs, the Schiphol staff assumed we were a normal flight and made us go through security again, which they weren't supposed to do. I'm just glad it wasn't passport control - imagine having 200 people who had left the EU earlier that suddenly try to get back in again. Nightmare. 

We had a couple of hours to go, so KLM handed out some food vouchers. I grabbed a panini and went on the time-honoured tradition of the Outlet Hunt, which was successful. Hurray for charged iPods.

(Side note - I got this iPod touch for my birthday last fall, and it is so functional that I have been essentially able to use it as a second computer, including updating this blog. Age of miracles, guys.)

Right before we left, the co-pilot explained what had happened - some seagulls got into the engines as we were taking off and got, uh, mulched, so that was the cause of the trouble. Honestly, it wasn't all that upsetting to me, especially since the staff was so calm and we just went back to Amsterdam instead of landing in Orkney or something (or worse, crapping out in the middle of the Atlantic). I had taken nine different flights in the nine days since I'd left Toronto, so I guess one had to have a hitch or two. My poor mom, though, was tracking my flight from a website where you can do such things (because that is a sane and normal thing to do for your twenty-four-year-old who has a blog's worth of travel experience under her belt), and she kind of flipped out when the site mentioned they had lost contact with the plane. Mom, you weirdo.

(I was personally hoping for an apology flight credit to fund another trip to Europe, but it was not to be. Dang.)

Other than some turbulence that continued until we were pretty far out over the ocean, the flight back to Toronto was fine, though everyone was very tired at that point. My seatmate's screen wasn't working, so she moved to a different row and I had three seats to myself. This, as we all know, is the equivalent of being crowned Queen of Economy Class, so I built myself a fort of pillows and blankets around the window seat and stretched out in my luxurious new space. There was a brief terrifying moment where it looked like KLM had lost my duffel bag, but the bag (nicknamed Little Bastard, from my repeated grumbles of "Where are you, you little bastard?" at various luggage carousels) was located quickly. With the delay and the long stop, it took about twenty-two hours to get from the Rest and Fly to my home in Toronto - and many others on the plane had travelled even further, or had to go on to another place. I was pretty much comatose by the time I got home, to the point where the cab driver urged me to get some rest.

So - I am back in Canada, safe and rested and easing back into graduate school. Was it a great adventure? Absolutely. Would I do it again? In a minute. Is there anything I would change? Bring snowpants. I had a fabulous time in the Arctic, and Stockholm, and now know that I am perfectly capable of packing up and going somewhere whenever time and money permit. Especially since I have learned to pack light (one teeny duffel bag, small enough to carry on my back through Gamla Stan all day, for an ARCTIC WINTER trip), and have become one of those annoying travellers who side-eyes those people taking three big suitcases for a week-long jaunt. The world is out there, and it is waiting for me, and all I have to do is meet it. What a gift.

And that concludes my travel blogging for the time being. Other than a brief trip to the States this spring, which might be one blog post max, I have no current plans for more travel - though I do have dreams, oh, I have dreams. And one faint hope, that in the near future I will go home again. Stockholm. Maybe. That is my prayer.

Until then, safe journeys to all of you.

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