BJJ Globetrotter by Christian Graugarrt

Headed to Copenhagen; Finally Read the Book

I like books.

When I travel to a new city, I always wind up popping into random bookstores I see along the road and look around. Even if the books are in another language and I can’t read a thing. It doesn’t matter. I still look through them.

I also take note of interesting books and add them to my Amazon Wishlist. To come back and read some day. The number of books on that list just keeps growing. And growing.

I will never read all of them. Lots of interesting books.

I don’t really carry physical copies of books around with me anymore. Its a lot easier to just carry a Kindle. 50 books in my pocket.

One of those books is ‘The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Globetrotter’ by Christian Graugart. It had been on my Wishlist ever since Masa first told me about Christian and his trip well over a year and half ago. Before I even knew much about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ).

BJJ Globetrotter by Christian Graugarrt

This one

But, I never bought it. I thought I had. I looked through my Kindle, but it wasn’t there.

I had read a few travel memoirs before and the idea of traveling and training at various Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gyms was interesting to me.

In fact, I even started doing it myself. I started training BJJ in September 2013 when I was in Taiwan. Since then I’ve trained in 10 different gyms in 7 different countries.

I joined Graugart’s BJJ Globetrotters team when I first heard about it, and I’ve even used it to find places to train at while I travel.

But, I still hadn’t read his book. It just sat there on my Wishlist: one of those things “I really should read one of these days” along with the many other books on that list. They pile up like documentaries in a Netflix queue.

Flight ticket frustrations and change of plans

Last month, after a couple of weeks of surviving solely on espresso shots and Pastels de Nata, and in between blowing up eggs in the hostel’s microwave (true story), I got paid for a project and decided to sit down and figure out my travel plans. I could buy my flight tickets and finally get back to Texas for the holidays, after two and a half years of not stepping foot in my home state.

Pastel de Nata

Everyday in Portugal

My original plan was to go from Portugal to Ireland, spend about a month in Dublin working and training BJJ and then fly back to Austin. The reason I had this plan was because I thought the flights from Dublin to Austin were fairly inexpensive.

They weren’t.

All the prices that were being shown were lies. Completely untrue. No matter the flight aggregate site: Momondo, Skyscanner, Kayak. They were all lying to me about the price of this ticket. It looked fairly inexpensive, but every time I went to buy it, it jumped up 250 Euro (about $300) from the advertised price. I eventually figured out why. The airline was pushing half the price of a roundtrip ticket to these aggregate sites, rather than the true price of a one-way. So, the prices that were being shown were prices that didn’t actually exist. I’m not paying this much. I refuse.

I start looking for cheaper alternatives. I still wanted to get to Texas for the holidays, but now I didn’t know how. It took almost a whole day of searching and playing around with alternative routes, but then I stumbled on fairly cheap flights being offered by Norwegian Airlines.

Extended layovers: one of my favorite travel tricks

Whenever I find a certain airline offering a good price on a route I usually look into doing an extended layover in the country they are based in, just so I can see another place. This is how I visited Seoul (Korean airline flight from Shanghai to Singapore), Dubai (Air Emirates flight from Singapore to London), and even Dublin the first time in 2012 (cheapest route from UK to Boston).

So, now I’m looking at Air Norwegian flights. Do I want to spend a few days in Norway? In December?

It sounds cold. And dark. Only a couple of hours of daylight. I don’t even have a good winter coat. I had one when I lived in Boston, but I left it in the US when I bought that one way ticket for Singapore. No winter coats are needed by the equator.

Then, another thought occurred to me: all of Scandinavia is pretty much the same, maybe the flights would also be cheap if I did a layover in Sweden, Finland, or Denmark, instead of Norway?

Yep, they were.

Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway

Thanks Google

I’ve gotten a lot better with world geography over the past few years as I’ve traveled, but I still knew nothing about Scandinavia. After a quick brush up familiarizing myself with the major cities there, I was reminded that Oslo is in Norway, Helsinki is in Finland, Stockholm is in Sweden, and Copenhagen is in Denmark.

Copenhagen? Oh, that’s where the BJJ Globetrotters guy has his gym.

Now, I had an idea. No. Now I had a plan.

I booked the flights and emailed Christian. He told me I picked good dates and invited me to his Christmas party. Traditional Danish Christmas food on deck.

I should probably read his book before I get there.

It’s been on my reading list for awhile. So, I bought it and read it while I was traveling around Ireland (and training BJJ at academies around Ireland).

The book inspired me

It inspired me to keep training. It inspired to me to keep traveling.

But, mostly, it inspired me to start writing again (Hence, the blog is back)

I knew about the hospitality of BJJ guys around the world, having experienced a bit of it myself while traveling. But, its always interesting to see someone else’s take on his own travel experiences. It was really interesting to see Christian reflect on his trip and how it shaped his life thinking even after returning home.

Overall, I just like to hear other people’s stories and experiences, and this book had plenty of that.

It’s a book that should inspire you. Whether you train BJJ or not. You can still take on the world. And win.

—-

Mentioned in the post:

‘The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Globetrotter: The true story about a frantic, 140 day long, around-the-world trip to train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu ‘ by Christian Graugart.

Four Entrepreneurs Aim to Get Back to the Heart of Tourism: Learning from Locals

We live in an interesting time. One where travel is more accessible than ever.  It used to take days just to get from one village to the next.

To go from Europe to America, it used to take 65 days plus.

Traveling out to Oregon took another 4-6 months along the Oregon Trail.

To go from Shanghai to Beijing once took 33 hours by train. Now it takes 5.

view-from-the-fastest-train-in-the-world-china

My view from the Shanghai-Beijing train, the fastest train in the world.

The world is more accessible than ever. Because of technological advances in aircrafts, rail, and… don’t forget, the internet.

With being able to scan for the cheapest flight, renting out somebody’s house, or just crashing on their sofa ….. travel is very accessible these days.

And more and more interesting opportunities keep popping up at the intersection of travel and technology.

The latest of this being a new website, GrandtourGO  – which allows locals in any country to act as social media entrepreneurs in their own right by offering tours and activities to travelers, and it allows travelers to get away from the guidebooks and actually learn from locals first-hand through inexpensive tour options.

It’s like AirBnB for local tours. Anywhere.

I had a chance to catch up with Miquel, one of the founders of GrandtourGO, the other day and he was able to fill me in a bit more on the business and where they plan to take it.

Background: The Name

GrandtourGO takes its name from “The Grand Tour”  – which was a trip that young European upper class men would take in the 17th century. They would travel around the European continent and immerse themselves in other cultures, developing social, intellectual, and artistic skills in the process. It served as an “educational rite of passage”

The Grand Tour was initially started by, and undertake by wealthy Englishmen in the mid 1600s, who would travel around the European continent, experiencing other cultures and languages, but by the early 1800s, the advent of the steam-engine made the trip much cheaper and safer – and opened the doors for many outside of the aristocrat classes to partake on it.

The tour was so popular it began to catch on with Americans and other Europeans as well. Some believe The Grand Tour is where the “tourism” first originated.

466px-Pantheon-panini

The Grand Tour

Miquel and his team hope to build on this tradition with their GrandtourGO, by allowing anybody to travel and learn from locals. “We wanted to get back to this. To original tourism, far away from mass tourism.” A chance for people to see things through a local’s point-of-view.

The Team and What Else Inspired Them?

Miquel and his other co-founders, 4 in total, share responsibilities for the venture. “One is coding, one is handling social media, one is like a product manager, and the other is handling finance.”  They have all traveled around extensively themselves and they realize that locals really help to personalize any trip. “We always thought that meeting local people is the best”

They felt that just visiting a place is not a lasting enough impression – you don’t really experience a new culture from a plane ticket and hotel room. You experience it through meeting the people.

So, they set out to create that experience.

The site launched in April. And already offer tours in more than 45 countries. “In only 3 months. We are quite happy. It’s growing at a good pace.”

They plan to continue growing rom there and would like to offer more travel features in the future.

“It’s not all about booking the activities. We want to promote free communication between travelers and locals.”

It’s collaborative consumption. A marketplace that builds and grows upon itself. Locals in virtually any city in the World can start their own side-business or even full-fledged business by offering a variety of experiences from classes to tours to interested travelers.

Locals anywhere can use this as a means to set up a new side business, or even possibly a full-fledged business. “We believe it could be a really good thing for people – especially in developing countries. It can allow people to be micro-entrepreneurs. That’s the idea. That’s the goal – to help to promote micro-entrepreneurs worldwide.”

Here are some of the current offerings, as described in the latest press release, just a sample of what is possible:
•    a Baroque music tour with original instruments in a 17th-century Borromini’s church,
•    an archeology tour with a passionate archeologist or a Vespa tour in Rome,
•    a sea turtle camp,
•    a volunTourism week camp or a safari just for girls in Mexico,
•    a cooking master class with a renowned chef in New York,
•    an antique shopping and wine tour in the exclusive Bordeaux,
•    discover an amazing skyscraper inspired in the Masonry and in the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri in Buenos Aires,
•    a meal with a local Senegalese family,
•    a tour with a professional photographer at the cosmopolitan Paris’ Marais,
•    a street art workshop in Berlin,
•    an underground Mediterranean diner,
•    a kids interactive tour or a balloon tour over Barcelona,
•    a Favela or Bossa Nova tour in Rio de Janeiro,
•    an international camel derby or giraffe feeding experience in Kenya,
•    a summer cruise in idyllic Santorini,
•    a whale watching activity in Reykjavik,
•    a mountain bike tour in Machu Pichu,
•    an alternative tour of Lisbon in a classic Beetle,
•    a floating market and elephant tour in Bangkok,
•    an East Docklands architecture tour in Amsterdam
•    a Presidio exploration hike in San Francisco
•    and much more to come.

At the end of our conversation, Miquel also pointed out.. “In Tokyo, we have a guy offering a Ninja training tour.”  Hmm…. I might have to check that out.

—–

Check out GrandtourGO.com  to learn more about their business, and/or explore travel plans and options for your next trip.

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I Moved Out of Texas So I Could Read More (How to Read 30 Books in 6 Months)

 Don’t Know When I’ll Be Back Again…

Outta here…

A couple of years ago I made the decision to move away from the place where I’ve lived all of my life: Texas.

One of the main reasons I moved out was because I wanted to read more books.

I’m being serious.

Well, I felt like I was just wasting too much time driving. I know I was wasting too much time driving because I would put a CD in the deck and before the end of the day it would be back on track 1. Sometimes back on track 10.

I’m talking about 80 minute CDs here. This means I must’ve been spending like 100 minutes driving per day.

Way too much. For what? To turn a wheel around. To move my foot up and down between two peddles. How is any of this productive? How does it benefit me in the long run?

What else did I do while I was driving? Well, I would listen to music. Or I would think about things. Just flesh out ideas. Think and think and think.

I like doing both of those things. I like listening to music. I like thinking.

But, I don’t really need to drive to do either. I can do both of those just fine walking around aimlessly. Or sitting in a park.

I guess one benefit of driving is I could talk out loud to myself. But, I can also talk to myself while walking around aimlessly. Or even siting in a park. Passer-bys might think I’m crazy, but that’s okay. I used to do that in college too. My roommate back then once said he’d drive by sometimes and sees me walking around with headphones on and talking to myself. He said I was one of the few people who could get away with doing that, because people would see me and think, “oh, that’s just GP.” That’s what they used to call me back then: GP.

So I’ve been crazy. It’s okay.

Metros & Inspiration

I went to London a couple of years ago. I thought riding on the Tube was awesome.

Everybody I met in London complained about how bad the Tube was. But to me it was awesome. At least I didn’t have to drive.

I started to think about all the cool things I could do if I lived in a city with a good metro system (Americans call it a subway system). I could read more books. I could talk to random people.

I can’t do either of those when I’m driving.

I mean you can try. But, then you’re doing things like trying to get the girl next to you to write her phone number on the windshield before the traffic light turns red. Yeah, it’s not impossible. But, it’s logistically difficult.

So I sold my car and left Texas. I just didn’t want do drive anymore.

I wanted to read more. I wanted to talk to random people.

read more

Or he’ll eat you

So, I’ve spend the last two years living in cities. Big cities with metro systems. Cities where you can walk around a lot. And just explore random neighborhoods. Just wandering around random streets. I’ve never gone this way before… So then I go that way.

I’ve also been reading a lot more.

I started out reading on an iPad. Then an iPhone. I had a Kindle app. I didn’t understand why people would need a Kindle when there’s Kindle apps.

But, then I eventually did understand.

I got tired of reading on those things. So, I quit reading.

My eyes would hurt. My head would hurt.

The Need to De-Screen

Too much time on backlit screens. I would spend all day looking at a computer screen. Now, I’m spending my commute time looking at a screen too. Too much screen time.

I got sick of it. I wanted to de-screen.

When I was in Taiwan, one of my mates (he’s Australian, so I think the that’s right term) had a Kindle. I asked him about it.

Then, I read about Kindles. I looked into it. They are made to read like a book. Without bothering your eyes like a screen does. It’s not a backlit screen. It’s e-ink. But, I was in Taiwan and there’s no Amazon there. I guess because it’s not a real country. I don’t know. I didn’t know Amazon played by the UN’s rules. Actually, I don’t know what they do. How do people in Taiwan shop on Amazon? I still didn’t figure it out.

So, then I looked up Kindles in Japan. Japan has become my go-to place to buy new electronics, because everything is so cheap here. I don’t know why. Maybe because the Yen is falling to pieces. I don’t think that’s the whole story though. I don’t know why really. All I know is when I bought my MacBook in Japan it was $300 cheaper than they are in the US.

So, I looked up Kindles. The new Kindle Paperwhite was $120 in the US, but only $70 in Japan. So, I waited until I got back to Japan to get it.

Actually, I think the money I’ve saved on my MacBook and my Kindle has probably paid for my plane tickets to Japan. But then again everything else in Japan is twice as expensive, including food and transportation, so it probably doesn’t work out if you actually take into account everything and do the math. Ahh, well… forget your numbers.

“You can make numbers do anything you want them to do. Including make yourself sound like an idiot.”

By the way that quote is from Kobe Bryant, so I should credit him for it. I don’t even like Kobe Bryant, but that’s a great quote. It’s even better in context. The context is: Kobe was on a radio show talking about how good Larry Bird was and that people seem to have forgotten how good Larry Bird was. And, some guy tweeted something like “if you look at the numbers, Larry Bird wasn’t even that great of a shooter.”  See. I told you it was even better in context.

Anyway….

 The Goal: 30 Books in the Next 6 Months

read fast 4

Clockwork…

Since getting the Kindle I’ve definitely seen my reading go up. I’m finishing a book every couple of days now. And, I try to keep at least 5 unread books in waiting. That way as soon as I finish one, I can flip through and have a decent choice based on how am I’m feeling to determine what I read next.

I’m nowhere near Scott Young’s or Claire Diaz Oritz’s pace. I’ve only read about a dozen books in the past 9 months. But, that’s partly because I’ve still gone through 3-4 months periods without really reading much at all.

I’m actually starting to realize those kinds of numbers are possible.

For myself, I’m setting a goal to read 30 MORE books by the end of the year. Yeah, 30 books in 6 months is quite a jump from 12 in the past 9 months, but I’ve put some “hacks” in place to help me get there.

And, I know how to get there:

  • Keep my work locations and home location separate. Don’t work from home. Home is a place to relax. There’s an old saying “don’t shit where you eat” – rather vulgar, but it gets the point across. So, that means I have to have a daily commute. Commute on the metro everyday. This not much else to do on the metro but read, so this forces a good everyday reading habit. Especially now that I have a Kindle.
  • Spend weekends outdoors. I need to get away from the computer more. Get away from work more. And just overall relax more. One way to do that is to spend more days in the park on at the beach. Since I travel a lot there’s almost always a new park, a new beach, or even a new temple or something to explore. So, at least one day a week, I’m going to just leave my computer behind and head out with only my book and my camera. Relax and read.
  • Take advantage of reading time wherever and whenever. Another good thing about having a Kindle and having a daily reading habit as mentioned above is I’m going to wind up getting really into a book. And not want to set it down. If I take advantage of this by just dropping by a cafe and continuing to read when the mood strikes me, I’ll be able to chill there for a couple of hours. Then, I’ll really get through books in no time.

Yeah. 30 books in the next 6 months. I’m going to make it happen. Which means I’m also going to stay out of Texas.

child

Explore the world, travel and read…

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“I Wish I Could Travel Like That.” Then Do It. Here’s How.

All-American Access

I’m always amazed by most Americans’ view of travel. Like it’s so “exotic” or something special or something everybody can’t do.

Me, on a beach somewhere "exotic" like the UK

Me, on a beach somewhere “exotic” like the UK

But, that’s completely false.

If you’re American, you can travel.

All you really need to do is get your passport.

Personally, I feel like as an American, we are blessed to be able to travel. That USA passport is equal to visa-free access 166 countries in the world.  Why the hell would I not take advantage of that?

Yet, I see it all the time: “I wish I could travel like that.” I see comments like this on my stuff, all over Maneesh’s blog anytime he goes somewhere, all over Benny’s posts all the time. It seems to be a common thought.

But, I think to a large extent – it’s just not true. You don’t really wish you could “travel like that.” Not with any real desire anyway. Because, if you did, you would do it.

Listen to Nike

Listen to Nike

No. Instead, you probably just like the “idea” of travel. It sounds a bit fancy. Travel. New countries. Exotic locations. Foreign cultures.

So, special…. but, also, so.. not special.

I don’t know why most Americans don’t have a passport, or even bother to get one. But, I was that way once too. I didn’t get my first passport until I had already graduated college – and then I got it, and looked at it and thought, “This thing is valid for 10 years. I’m definitely taking advantage of that!”

And, so I did. Or I guess you could say I do.

In the past year, I’ve been in 10 different countries. 6 of them you could say I “lived” in. The others were just short trips.

And, I’m not sure I’m going to stop anytime soon.

Frankly, I don’t even know where home is anymore. In the US, I’ve lived in 3 different cities: Houston, Austin, and Boston. Yet, Singapore, Tokyo, and Taipei seem just as much as “home” to me as any of those cities do. It’s an interesting conundrum I suppose. I have little pockets of home around the world… but no real “home” to speak of.

Maybe I have no heart

Maybe I have no heart

But, anyway – back to why most people don’t really travel.

They don’t really want to.

Because if they did, they would.

Why do people not travel?

“But, I don’t have the money”

Well, most would say it’s because of money. But I’m not really buying that argument. And, if you’ve ever actually travelled and stayed in a youth hostel you’d know why… plenty of travelers do not have money. At least from what I can tell. I’ve met tons of travelers who essentially travel just to travel. Who eat Ramen noodles, or an equivalent of it, everyday for lunch in the hostel’s kitchen. I’ve met tons of broke travelers. I’m quite certain my non-travelling friends in America have more money than these traveler types. Even the non-travelers who think they’re broke.

So, clearly  they don’t really want it. Or they’d do it.

Travelling is not that expensive, especially these days now that the internet exists. You can book hostels or apartments on AirBnB for fairly cheap – hell, you can even CouchSurf and find free accommodation. With the advent of budget airlines and aggregate sites, flights are cheap. And, in most countries the cost of living is lower than that of the US.

So, it’s really not money holding you back. Money is not stopping anybody from travelling. At least not any Americans. You live in the richest country in the world. Even when you feel broke, even when you’re unemployed, you still have more money than 80% of the people on the Earth. Naw, money is not stopping you from traveling. At all.

Money is just an excuse. But, it’s a common one.

But, the real “players” in life, don’t let money stop them. From anything in fact. Just ask James Altucher, who once said of buying a company: “We had no money to buy anybody but if you ever let that slow you down you might as well run around naked in a football stadium with 60,000 people watching you.”

Yeah. Money is just an excuse.

Excuses, Excuses

But, there may be some real reasons why people don’t travel when they “wish they could travel like that”. And those reasons probably come in the form of real life obligations:

Work obligations – you have a job. Places you actually have to be at certain times on certain days. You can’t just get up and leave. And, I’m assuming you want to keep your job. (Otherwise, you could get up and leave – I once walked out at lunch on a job I didn’t like and never came back).

Family obligations – I’m assuming this means you have kids. Yeah, I could see how kids could get in the way of doing things you would like to do. I don’t have that problem, so I don’t really relate to you, but I get it – your responsibility to your kids and their schedule is important.

Those are probably the two biggest obligations that could serve as reasons for not travelling. School is one too I suppose – but school is a bit more flexible: you usually have scheduled breaks, you actually could miss a couple of days and not get fired, and a lot of times you could just study abroad. So, school provides options for travelling. Any other obligations you might have would probably fall fairly similar to work as: “Places you actually have to be at certain times on certain days. You can’t just get up and leave.”

Obligations do make things more complicated, I’ll give you that. But, you could likely still travel if you really wanted to. I’m sure you’re smart enough to figure out how to travel and handle your obligations during the trip. I mean, anything is possible, and I’m sure there’s people in your situation who have done it before.

Naw, you really just don’t travel, because you don’t really want to.

Otherwise you would do it.

Money never stopped anybody.

The World is Yours

The World is Yours

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The Crazy Flight: All I Wanted To Do Was Get to SXSW

Some of you may have already seen this post, as it was a note on my Facebook page from about a year ago. Nevertheless, I figured it’d be a good re-post here, because I wanted to start the blog off on a fun note….

United_Airlines_-_N771UA_-_Flickr_-_skinnylawyer
All I wanted to do was get to Texas for SXSW…
So, I had a flight from Boston to Houston, with a layover in DC.

First, I Have to Actually Find My Flight at Logan

I head out of the house early…. 3 hours before my flight. I NEVER leave that early, but for some reason I’m being good today. I get on the shuttle and tell the driver I’m flying United. He takes me to Terminal C, then he gets unsure and tells me to wait a second – they just made the Continental in Terminal A United as well (merger just went through) – so he double checks, but the United flight to DC is in Terminal C, so I’m good… or so I think.

I try to login, but the Kiosk can’t find me – I go up to the counter – the lady can’t find me in the system either. “Are you flying to Dulles or Reagan?” I check my itinerary from Orbitz – “Reagan”. “Oh, that’s US Airways in Terminal B”. “Umm… ok.” I look at my Orbitz itinerary again, no mention of US Airways anywhere – everything says United. But, whatever….

I trek across the parking garage over to the other terminal. I get there and I’m not in US Airways system either – “You have to go down there to US Airways Shuttle”. Ok, third ticket counter and finally they find me in the system… so eventually I get to my gate. Still almost 2 hours early.

“What the hell? You can do that?”

I send out a couple emails, get on the plane, fall asleep; everything is going well. I wake up and we’re out on the runway – across from Constitution Beach about to take off…. And this guy from near the front of the plane gets up and walks back to the toilet. All heads turn around and watch him walk back, I’m thinking “wait.. you can do that? Go to the toilet right as the plane is about to take off?”

No, you can’t. They flash the seatbelt sign along with the beeping noise. I guess he doesn’t get the memo – or it’s too late – he’s already in the toilet. They flash the seatbelt sign and do the beeping noise again. He stays in the toilet. Now, the pilot announces over the intercom “We’re clear to take off if we could please have all of the passengers return to their seats, we could be in the air shortly. We can’t take off until everybody is in their seats.” Heads turn around and look toward the bathroom in the back – we know who they’re talking to. Still no response or acknowledgement from this guy though.

The flight attendant gets up and walks to the bathroom and knocks on the door. From inside the bathroom the guy yells out “Don’t Fuck With Me!!!” I’m thinking “what the hell? You can’t just yell that at flight attendants – especially on flights to DC of all places.” Eventually, the guy comes out of the restroom and gets in the flight attendant’s face pointing at her like an MLB Manager yelling at an Umpire for a bad call, “what is your name?!? what is your name?!?” He’s yelling at her. She’s trying to be calm, but gets a little sterner (obviously), “Sir, if you could please just return to your seat. RETURN TO YOUR SEAT SIR.” It’s a crazy sight to see… but the guy does go back to his seat.

This, on a runway in Boston

Next thing you know we’re back at the gate and the pilot makes an announcement, “we have a gentleman that’s going to have to deplane and as soon as that happens we’ll be on our way.” The flight attendant is still in the back of the plane, she hasn’t moved. The guy is still sitting down in his seat – he doesn’t look back, but he reaches his hand back and throws his middle finger in the air – and it’s clear who it’s directed to – the flight attendant.

Two Air Marshalls come on the plane and go up to guy and escort him off. The whole back of the plane claps (because we’re the ones who witnessed the whole thing). The flight attendant has to give her statement; they have to remove the guy’s luggage from below. The whole thing takes quite some time actually. Now, I’m starting to hope I don’t miss my connecting flight in DC.

Eventually, we get off of the ground. The rest of the flight is normal. We get to DC and it’s raining a bit – which means a little bit of turbulence… which always happens when I fly to DC. The most turbulent flight I’d ever been on was a flight from DC when I was in 6th grade – I think everybody on that flight vomited. That’s how bad it was. I was also once stranded on the runway in DC for 5 hours due to rain. But, the rain this time isn’t that bad – minor turbulence is all.

A Race Against The Clock in DC

Then as we were landing I felt lucky to be flying into Reagan – got an amazing view of Georgetown’s campus and then of the Washington Monument, The Lincoln Memorial, and the Capitol – I felt like I just got a whole tour of DC in a 5 minute plane landing. I guess I don’t have to go back to DC anytime soon – which is good, because who in their right mind really ever wants to go to DC?

Anyway, now I’m wondering what my chances are of making my connecting flight to Houston. I look at the time: its 7:18, my flight leaves at 7:30… 12 minutes?!? I doubt I can make it. I walk through the airport and I can’t even find Gate 11 – so I go up to the US Airways help desk. Since this is US Airways and my next flight is actually United, she can’t even check to see if the plane is still here or not, much less book me another flight – “You either need to go to your gate, which is in Terminal A, meaning you’ll have to leave this terminal and go through security again anyway, or you can leave this terminal and go upstairs to the ticket desk.” Either way, I have to leave the terminal, so I do.

I’m walking to Terminal A and I figure I might as well go upstairs to the ticket counter since its right here. I’m waiting in line and the lady behind the counter is chatting to some guy and she says to me “you can check in using the Kiosk, sir.” I flash my ticket and say “I missed my flight.” “Oh okay, well somebody will be right with you.” 10 minutes go by… she’s still talking, “you can just check in using the Kiosk sir” she says to me again, like she’s impatient because I’m standing there. What the hell? I don’t have time for this. I decide to go to the gate.

I go through security and there’s no line at all. I get to the gate – and there’s nobody there. Nobody working there, nobody sitting there waiting for a flight – nothing. All three of the United gates – nobody around at all – it’s like a ghost town… and it’s not even 8pm. This is just odd… I walk over to one of the Delta gates, “I know you work for Delta and all, but why is nobody at any of the United gates.” She smiles, “Yeah…. I have no idea why there’s nobody at the United gates. Like you said I work for Delta.”

Reagan Airport: United Terminal, at 8pm

I explain to her what’s going on and her suggestion is I should probably go back up to the United ticket counter again. So, I do that… and this time the lady helps me.

I explain to her the situation and she calls it in, she also tells me that my flight is still there – that I haven’t missed it. “There’s nobody at the gate.” “Oh… well, we could put you on a 10:05 flight to Houston out of Dulles, but we’re not paying for the cab fare – it’s either at your expense or you can see if US Airways will give you a voucher for it, because it was their flight that was late and caused you to miss your connecting flight – not ours.”

So, she calls US Airways and then tells me I’m better off just going down there but in the meantime, she’ll book the ticket for me. So, I walk down to the other end of all of the ticket counters and tell US Airways what’s going on – that there’s another United flight at Dulles, but United says US Airways would have to give me a voucher for the cab ride. She says, “Okay, I can do that, let me go check with my supervisor.”

She goes to check and 5 minutes later she comes out shaking her head, “There’s not enough time. Per FDA regulations you have to be there and checked in at least 45 minutes before the flight leaves. So you would have to be there by 9:15.” I look at my watch, its 8:18; “You don’t think I could get to Dulles in an hour? Remember, I have no luggage, only this carry on.”

“You have a good point” she says, “let me go see.”

And, she goes back to check with her supervisor again. About 5 more minutes go by and this time she comes out with the taxi voucher in hand and fills it out right in front of me and tells me to take it downstairs to the taxi counter and they’ll get a cab for me. Ok. I take the voucher and I’m about to leave and she says, “oh, wait, I need to print you your ticket” So, I stop and she prints a couple of things for me – one says Flight Itinerary and I assume the other is my boarding pass and then she tells me that I need to hurry and to tell the cab driver to “go fast”. So, I take all my stuff and head to the elevator.

While I’m getting on the elevator, I hear an announcement, “William Terrible can you please come back to the US Airways ticket counter immediately.” Is that me? Did they just butcher my last name or are they talking to somebody else? I swore it sounded like they said “William Terrible”, plus I’m supposed to be in a hurry – if they are talking to somebody else – I’d really look stupid for going back. I check and make sure I have everything – yeah, I have my ID, I have everything else. I don’t turn back. I go down to get a cab. I get in the cab and tell the driver to take me to Dulles. “How long does it take to get to Dulles by the way?”

“30, 40 minutes”.

I look at the time, it’s exactly 8:30. I’m hoping it takes 30 minutes, because we’re cutting it close now. While we’re driving, I pull out the two things the US Airways lady just printed for me to take a look at my boarding pass and my gate and terminal and all of that. I look at them both, one says “Flight Itinerary: Not To Be Used For Travel”, the other says “E-Receipt: Not To Be Used for Travel”. Neither one of them is a boarding pass. I guess the “William Terrible” call was for me – she realized she hadn’t given me my boarding pass after all. I bet she’s freaking out right now, she authorized a taxi voucher on behalf of US Airways, and I might not even make it on time. Now, I’m starting to feel the time crunch as well – I can’t go straight to security when I get to Dulles – I have to go to yet another ticket counter and print my boarding pass. While the taxi is driving, I know we’re getting close to Dulles and I feel the cab sputter a bit like an old car does when it’s low on gas. I look up and sure enough the cabby’s gauge is on E. “Just what I need” I think to myself, “the taxi to run out of gas on the way to the airport – that’d be the perfect thing to happen right now.”

But, the taxi doesn’t run out of gas and I get to Dulles. The time pressure to get my boarding pass printed and get through security is on, but when I get up to the United ticket counter, the line is just way too long. So I duck under the ropes and just skip everybody. I skip the whole line and nobody says anything to me, so whatever… I got away with it… I go up to one of the kiosks and pretend I don’t know what I’m doing so somebody will come over and help me.

The Final Stretch

Which is exactly what happens: an old guy comes over. I hand him the crap US Airways gave me “US Airways printed this for me at Reagan, but they didn’t print me an actual boarding pass.”

“Ok” he says “Can I see your ID?”

So, I hand him my ID and he goes to punching away on his computer. For the next 10 minutes it seems like he’s pressing buttons, getting confused, and typing my name in again. What the hell is going on now? Maybe I shouldn’t have gone to the old guy. I least I’m able to amuse myself at his name – he’s an old, white guy and his name tag reads, I kid you not – Michael Watts. I wish I had a camera to take a picture, because that’s just classic.

Anyway, old man Michael Watts screws and chops me up a boarding pass eventually and says to me, “They had it all messed up but I fixed it.” Ok, cool. I look at the boarding pass – flight leaves at 10:05pm, boards at 9:30pm, and it’s currently 9:20 and I still have to go through security. 9:30 comes and goes and I’m standing in line at security.

Clearly, a different Michael Watts

Eventually, I get through and there’s still a shuttle I have to catch to get to my actual gate – Oh, Dulles! I remember this shuttle actually, Déjà vu, I’ve been on it before, years ago…. When I got stranded on the runway for 5 hours…

So, in a hurry to actually make this flight I’m running through Dulles airport past Five Guys and plenty of other places that I would love to eat at right now because I’m dying of hunger.

What’s the use of being in three airports in one day if I haven’t even been able to eat any airport food? What a waste…
Anyhow I finally get to my gate and they are now “boarding all zones” so I hop in line and get up to the counter, let them scan my newfangled boarding pass and it beeps… REJECTED.

What now? I look at the screen “Invalid Flight.” The lady looks at my boarding pass, “Oh, you’re going to Houston. This flight is to Denver, it was delayed – the Houston fight will board next.” Are you serious? I walk back to the Arrival/Departure screen… Houston: Delayed until 11:19pm. Oh, snap, I still have an hour! After all that….

I welcome the extra hour at Dulles with open arms; it means food and some time to charge my cell phone. And, eventually, I actually do get on my flight and make it to Houston, albeit at 1:30am instead of the originally scheduled 9:38pm, but there is a silver lining to all of this…. At least I had the window seat on both flights! Word to Erykah Badu

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