Backpacker Blindly Chooses Destination While at the Airport

“Majorca. . . Is there a bus to Barcelona?”

Photo by Marco López on Unsplash

** Republished from 2017 **

Throughout my years of traveling, I can admit I’ve built up quite a list of stories; the kind of stories that sometimes I don’t even believe myself. From getting arrested in Poland to sleeping under a bridge in Poland to almost dying atop Long’s Peak in Colorado, I’ve managed some pretty interesting situations.

However, none, in my opinion, top this one. I got a rush like no other from this and I still do when I tell the story to this day.

I had just spent a few days in Stockholm, Sweden, and was about to board a flight to see France for the first time in my life. I made it to the airport in ample time. As the airport express was making its rounds to each terminal, I reached in my pocket to check my boarding pass for which terminal exit I needed to get off at.

There was no terminal listed on my boarding pass. I exited the train to ask someone about it.

That’s when it hit me. . .

I’m an idiot!

How did I just assume there was only one airport in Stockholm? From the very beginning, I bought a return trip on my airport transfer ticket when I first landed in Sweden. It had been in my head for days that I’d be returning to the same airport.

To sum up, what you can already probably assume was the case; I was at the wrong airport.

Quickly, I went to the help desk hoping they could tell me there’s a way to make it to the correct airport in time. They said the only chance I had was by taxi. The taxi would run me just south of $400 for the hour and a half ride to the other Stockholm airport. What a joke.

Well, that was that. I missed my flight to France. Luckily it was just a Ryanair flight meaning it didn’t break the budget. I canceled my hostels and bus tickets I had in France for the following days. That was the easy part. Forming a new plan would be the difficult part.

It was in that instant that inspiration came to me. Instead of making this a negative thing, I could do something crazy — something that I would normally never have done. I could go somewhere completely new. I didn’t have any obligations or schedules. Suddenly, I saw this as an opportunity of a lifetime to do something I may or may not regret. Either way, I wanted to make an unbelievable story out of it.

I approached the Norwegian Air ticket counter and explained my situation to the kind Swedish woman working behind the desk. Then, I said, “So I’d like to go somewhere tonight — I have no preference — will you please pick a flight for me to get on tonight?”

She was caught off-guard. I’m sure it’s not often that a customer asks her to choose where they fly to. Actually, by the way she responded, I would bet I was the first one who has ever asked her to do that. Here came the adrenaline rush.

She laughed. She was completely confused. She said, “Really??” with an astonished tone and a smile.

So she did it. She chose a destination and I bought the ticket. I was going to a Spanish island I’d never even heard of; Palma de Mallorca (which I’ve since learned is quite a popular holiday spot).

I couldn’t even pronounce it correctly. “Palm de. . . what?” I asked her. She told me again. I still didn’t catch the pronunciation. “Ah, O.K.” I replied, still not knowing any more about where I was flying to, “Wait, is that an island?” She laughed and told me she couldn’t believe I was going to a place I couldn’t even pronounce or find on a map.

“I’ll learn all of that on the plane ride there”, I said with a slight smile as I was walking away with a boarding pass in hand.

I felt so alive; so high from the entire situation. To be honest, I felt the same way as her. I couldn’t believe I just did it. It turned what otherwise would’ve been a travel buzzkill into a thrill of a lifetime.

Thirty-five minutes later I was boarding a plane to Palma de Mallorca.

This not only makes for a decent travel story but it also served as few good reminders: Plans are for architects and sometimes, when traveling, all it takes to make a bad situation into a great one is an open mind. That’s why this was the coolest thing I’ve ever done.

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