One of the fun things about traveling on your own (that is, not with a guided tour) is dealing with stuff that happens. You can plan all you want, but there’s no way to figure everything out ahead of time. Sometimes you just have to react and take care of it! I thought I’d share with you a few of the Panic Potential moments that we have experienced on previous European vacations. I’ll let you guess which ones we handled gracefully and which ones caused us to hit that panic button. After the list, I’ll tell you “the rest of the story.”
- We were in the wrong toll booth on the French freeway and had to back up into freeway traffic
- The train stopped in our destination town, and we couldn’t get the door open, and the train took off again
- At another French toll booth, we couldn’t find the control to roll down the window to pay the toll
- The bus that we reserved to take us from one airport to another in London failed to show up, and when the next one showed up, it was too full, and when the next one showed up, the driver refused to let us on because we were late.
- We arrived in Paris, called the landlord of the apartment we had rented for a week, and he didn’t answer. Repeatedly.
- We got on the wrong train in some English town and found ourselves heading south instead of north.
And now for the exciting conclusions to our panic stories…
- Surprisingly, we handled this one pretty well. Karen was driving, I turned around and quickly calculated that the driver approaching us would see our back-up lights and have time to slam on his brakes. I told her to put it in reverse, I found the right booth about three over from where we were, and we crossed three lanes of traffic (which were miraculously open) at a right angle to get to the toll booth that would take our money. And then we sent up several prayers of thanks!
- Yes, this one caused some panic. I had no idea how to get back to that town, or even how to get out of the train! (This was our first trip to Europe.) A nice man came through. He spoke English. He calmed us down. He showed us how to open the door. He gave us some advice. We got out at the next town, and were (eventually) able to get to our hotel.
- A minor panic, I guess. The car was a French Citroen and the window controls were in the center column, not on the door! We couldn’t find them while we were at the booth so Karen opened the door, got out, paid the toll, and got back in. We got beeped at, but survived.
- OK, for this one I had a full-blown panic. We had to catch a plane to Rome and they were refusing to take us there. I went to the ticket office and let loose with my full baritone until they finally let us on the bus (with suitcases on our laps).
- No panic. Just a little anxiety. We decided to find the apartment, so we took the metro and walked to it. We had been sent the combination to the street door. Inside on the bell list we found our apartment and, with great excitement, another apartment with our landlord’s name on it! We buzzed and woke him up. He said “I thought you were coming tomorrow.”
- I panicked. We got off at the next station, figuring to take the next train north. Unfortunately it turned out that the station we’d chosen was one that most trains pass up; it only had one per hour! And there was no town nearby. (Why was there a station?) So we waited for 45 minutes in the sun. And it was hot!