A Suitcase Full of Nothing, Body Odor, and Some Perspective

Happy holidays!  I’m writing to you from my parents’ house in Columbus, Ohio where I’m currently relaxing on the couch with some college bowl games and the company of my parents, sister, brother-in-law, their dog, and a sleeping niece upstairs.  I’ve been traveling most of December and threw a move to another state in the mix, so I’m definitely sending 2018 out with a bang, with this post being my final one for the year.  Unless I feel saucy and have some time on my hands in the next three days.  Anyhow, the holiday season is actually the perfect time to wrap up the now five-part saga of a trip I took earlier this year.  So let’s resume…

We left off with me leaving Devil’s Punchbowl with my legs afire, heading back to Orange County.  I had three days of work ahead of me before I finally made the trek back home to Cincinnati.  After nearly three weeks on the road, I had amassed quite the collection of souvenirs and gifts and had to purchase an additional suitcase from TJ Maxx so I could haul home my loot.  I’ve mentioned a few things along the way, but let me leave these pictures right here.  I promise this will be important later in the post…

I met up with several coworkers that week for meetings and you better believe we went back to Sol Cocina for dinner one night.  You also better believe we got an Uber so we could all partake in the delicious margaritas.  I had the Frozen Beer, which was a frozen margarita with a beer in it.  Positively delightful.

The next and final night of my trip found me and a coworker still in town so we decided to head out to dinner.  We wound up at the Rusty Pelican in Newport Beach, which was a fun restaurant on the water with beautiful views and great food.  I, however, do not remember what I had to eat (although I do remember it was delicious), because what stands out to me about this meal was our server.  Her name was Kelly and she looked to be college age and was kind as could be.  Near the end of our meal, she came around to check on us and asked what line of work we were in.  It was a Tuesday night, so the restaurant was pretty quiet and she hung out at our table for a while and we told her about our work and then asked her how long she’d been at the Rusty Pelican.  What she told us next simply blew my mind.  She told us that she works on and off at the restaurant because every few months, she travels to the Congo for months at a time to teach self defense to women and children.  Mind you, this girl was tiny and had a soft, sweet voice, and she was not at all who I would picture traveling to country with rampant violent crime, particularly against women.  We wanted to hear more and she told us about the classes she teaches there to empower women to fight back against the horrific culture of rape that is all too common throughout the Congo.  I was incredibly humbled to have met such an extraordinary person.  You can check out her non-profit, the Graceful Warrior Project on Instagram and see the amazing work she is doing around the world.  We met her in March 2018 and since then she has expanded her teaching to other countries around the world.  What an amazing human being.

It was during this trip that I was tossing around the idea of starting this blog.  Not really for others to read but more for me to be able to log my travels to look back on later.  After meeting Kelly at the Rusty Pelican, I knew that I MUST write this blog so that I didn’t forget extraordinary people, like her, that I meet in my travels.  I also realized I could use this as a platform (even just a small platform) to tell others of the wonderful people and places I’ve had the privilege to encounter.  The final day of my trip further solidified the need I felt to write about my experiences because travel sure does have a way of teaching you some valuable lessons and giving you some much-needed perspective.

So we’ve arrived at the last day of the trip – I’m finally headed home!  I get to the airport bright-eyed and bushy tailed.  I check my massive original suitcase, and then breeze through TSA precheck with my newly purchased suitcase.  My coworker and I had what started out as a lovely lunch until I started receiving flight delay notifications.  No big deal.  I travel a ton and flight delays are usually not a big deal.  However, after receiving multiple delay notifications during the course of about 20 minutes, I was mildly concerned.  My flight was delayed and it looked like enough to make me miss my connection in Houston.  But the airline would automatically rebook me on the next available flight to Cincinnati.  No big deal.

Wrong.  I finally make it to Houston and thanks to my airline app, already know that flights out of Houston are grounded due to weather and my flight home has been rebooked for the next day.  The flight attendants told us we could pick up checked baggage at baggage claim, so I headed straight there after deplaning.  At baggage claim, I noticed a chauffeur, you know, the ones that hold the signs with people’s names on them, who was holding a sign for JJ Watt.  I am a football fanatic and think that JJ Watt is pretty much the most genuinely good dude in the NFL so I was super excited that I might see him.  Baggage claim, unfortunately, was a nightmare with tons of people searching for their luggage and scrambling to find hotel rooms or even worse, a spot on the floor near an outlet to set up camp for the night.  In the chaos, I somehow missed JJ Watt (boo), but I did have the pleasure of speaking with an airline agent who informed me that my checked bag would be available for pickup in three hours or I could just let it continue on to Cincinnati.  I was not amused.  By this time it was about 9PM and I was exhausted so I told her to just send it on to Cincinnati, especially since I had my carry-on suitcase and surely I had enough in there to get me through another night and the following day.

With everyone’s flights cancelled, there were zero rental cars available, no hotel rooms within a 30 mile radius, and the Uber wait time (and surge price, mind you) was out of control.  I thankfully managed to get a room at a Hilton about 40 minutes away from the airport and after an hour’s wait on an Uber, I was on my way.  I managed to get checked in with five minutes to spare to order room service, so thankfully I was able to get food and a beer.  As I waited for my food, I opened my suitcase to get my pajamas and a toothbrush out.  It was then that I remembered packing my bags the night before and deciding to put all of the souvenirs/gifts into my carry-on so I wouldn’t lose them and to put all of my clothes and toiletries into my checked bag.  Crap.  As I rummaged through an assortment of clothes for a one-year old, no less than four coffee mugs, tarot cards, some vintage postcards, a few books, Peter Rabbit, a magnet made out of a doll arm, a magnificent collection of gemstones, a dream catcher, and various other sundry items, I’m able to cobble together an outfit for the plane composed of a t-shirt I wear for pajamas and some stretchy pants, both of which were being used to wrap the coffee mugs to keep them from breaking.  Unfortunately nary a pair of clean underwear was to be found, nor was a toothbrush, deodorant, hairbrush, or makeup.  I tried to call down to the front desk to see if they could at least spare me a toothbrush and deodorant but there was no answer as I suspected they were busy with the massive influx of guests due to the flight delays.

Luckily I was able to shower the next morning before my flight so I wasn’t a total greaseball, but without makeup and a hair straightener, I still looked like I’d just rolled out of bed and happened to be traveling on laundry day.  The rest of my trip was uneventful and I arrived home safe and sound with all of my luggage in tow.

This trip taught me some important lessons –

  1. When the person next to you on the airplane has bad BO, don’t automatically judge.  They may have only had access to a suitcase full of baby clothes and weird souvenirs that morning.  Eek.
  2. When your travel plans go sideways, try not to stress about it.  Yes, it’s a pain but remember that it’s not the end of the world.  I was mortified to discover my suitcase full of nothing that final night but wound up sitting on the floor of my room sifting through the ridiculous collection of useless items in my suitcase and laughing uncontrollably.  It was such a silly problem to have and it made me realize how lucky I am – for one, I have the opportunity to travel and see incredible places and meet fascinating people.  Two, I have wonderful people in my life for whom I filled up my carry-on with gifts.  And three, if the biggest of my problems is that I can’t straighten my hair and put on deodorant before a flight, then I’m doing pretty darn well in life.

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