Thursday, September 6, 2012

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Last week I traveled to Wolfsburg, Germany, for work.  It was the first time leaving Audrey and only my second overnight trip away from Barrett.  Poor Tim had to take on the task of all the childcare duties, which isn't easy.   And I knew it was going to be tough to leave the kiddos and a bit exhausting to travel overseas.  But I had no idea what was ahead...

It all started with a 9pm flight from Chicago.  This part went relatively smoothly.  The only hitch was that I had to pump.  I thought I would possibly be able to do this in my seat, since it would be nighttime and I can do it pretty discreetly under a blanket, but it felt really awkward, due to the location of my seat and continued meal service.  I hogged the bathroom for 20 minutes twice, standing in a gross airplane bathroom attached to a pump.  Keeping it classy.

I proceeded from Munich to Hanover via another flight, then took two trains and a taxi before finally reaching the hotel Tuesday night.  Total travel time = 19 hours.  Total modes of transportation =  6 (1 car, 2 planes, 2 trains, 1 taxi)  I was exhausted!

The next two days was our conference.  I was unbelievably jetlagged.  I guess that's something you get used to the more you do it, but when you average 6 hours of sleep per night and spend a night traveling, the time change definitely catches up to you.  I was really struggling to stay awake and feel okay.  Plus, pumping in the bathroom during every break wasn't fantastic either.

Of course, just as I was finally starting to assimilate, it was time to return home.  That is when the fun really started.

 Our first flight was scheduled from Hanover to Frankfort at 8:30am.  I was very nervous about the day's flights due to a pending flight attendant strike.  So when I randomly woke up at 1am, I thought I'd better check to see if the flight was okay.  Sure enough, it was cancelled.  I spent the next few hours trying to figure out what to do, going back and forth, and finally decided to wake up my coworker and try to catch the 6:30 flight.  I called him at 3am and we left the hotel at 3:30 to depart in his rental car for the airport.

Then the highway was closed.  Oh joy.  As cute as I think those rural German towns are, I didn't plan on seeing them at 4am!

We ran into the airport and made it to the gate.  Relieved, as I continued to see that my flight from Chicago was still on time! I made it to Frankfort, enjoyed all the luxuries that airport provided (tiny dirty bathrooms, crazy crowds and chaos and employees and passengers yelling and overflowing trash cans) only to see that my flight was suddenly delayed as it was scheduled to board.  Flights all over the board were cancelled, so I had no choice but to hold out hope for my scheduled flight to eventually make it out.  I was seriously concerned that I may be stranded in Germany indefinitely.

At last the gate clerks announced it would be departing!  We all herded around like cattle, as if the plane would pull away again and we'd still be stranded there.  Just as they were close to opening the doors, someone vomited all over the floor at the gate.  And no employee cleaned it so everyone had to walk through/around it to get onto the plane.  I alternated feeling like I was on candid camera or in a third world country.

Finally, at 9pm that night (4am German time), I made it home.  Total travel time = 25 hours, total awake time = 27 hours.  Tim kept the kids awake so I couldn't have been happier than to wake through that door and see all my babies.

I knew Barrett would miss me, which he did.  Since I've returned he's been crazy clingy to me and my biggest fan.  That could also have something to do with my insane work schedule in the last week since I've returned, including working Saturday and Sunday and working until 10pm Tuesday night.

But I didn't think Audrey would really mind me being gone.  Turns out I was wrong.  Everyone commented that she just wasn't herself - that she wasn't as bubbly or happy as normal, was much more subdued and that it seemed like she missed me.

Needless to say, after this experience, I don't plan to fly again anytime soon.  In all my years of traveling for work (which were a lot, since I traveled non-stop for my first job), this was by far the worst travel experience I had.  So happy to be home and with my family again!

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