A Reminder to Roll with the Punches

A gushing waterfall flowing freelyBonjour from Paris! Today I start my next European group tour. For two weeks, I’ll be taking twelve readers to some of my favorite bars, restaurants, and locations around Western Europe.

We start in Paris, a city I can’t get enough of. My countless visits here never get boring. Walking down its cobblestone streets, gazing at the Eiffel Tower, lounging in one of its parks, and smelling fresh bread and cheese at the markets fills me with joy. It’s like falling in love all over again.

My most recent journey to Paris was supposed to be easy. After my annual trip to Vegas with friends, I was to board a flight, land in Paris, and be relaxing on the Seine before you could say Les Misérables.

But it wasn’t meant to be.

After checking in with the world’s nicest agent, I proceeded to my gate. Sitting down, I noticed our flight time had changed from 10:40am to 12:40pm. That would put us in NYC 17 minutes before my flight to Paris. However, as eleven people on my flight were connecting to Paris and JFK was on a total ground stop, there was a chance my Paris flight would be delayed and all would be right with the world.

I went off to get lunch and do some work.

But when 12:40 rolled around and we hadn’t boarded, I got nervous. Suddenly, we weren’t scheduled to leave until 2pm. Now, I would definitely miss my flight to Paris. The gate agent couldn’t tell me anything, so, frustrated, I called up American Airlines reservations.

Yes, they knew about the situation and had already rerouted me.

Their solution? A 10:55pm flight to London, a six-hour layover in Heathrow, and then a final flight to Paris, landing at 4pm local time.

I was silent as my mind slowly ran through what such a long day of travel would be like. I’d get to Paris the same day, but as a zombie from such little sleep. I imagined myself shuffling my feet on the way to my hostel, chanting “sleep” instead of “brains.”

No, that was not appealing to me.

I asked if I could just come back for a flight the next day and keep my original itinerary. “No problem,” they said. I’d land in Paris Friday morning, but after a better night’s rest and without a long layover.

Hanging up, I informed the gate agent of my plans. She called down to see if they could offload my bag but couldn’t, so it would wait for me at JFK like a waiting lover before we ventured to Paris together.

Yes, this was a huge inconvenience, but it was better than all those connecting flights. If travel teaches us anything, it’s to roll with the punches.

The next day, I got on the plane in Vegas, arrived in a zombie-like state to JFK, and proceeded to find out where my bag was. Having lost bags before, I never assume my bag will get where the airline says it will go.

The agent checked her system and said, “Yes, your bag was scanned into JFK last night.”

Phew, it had made it.

“It’s all tagged for tonight’s flight, right?” I said.

“Hold on. I’ll check,” she replied.

Silence. And then disaster.

“Hmm, well that is odd. They don’t see it downstairs, but they will check another holding area.”

Minutes later…

“Nope, it’s not there either. We don’t know where it could be.”

Now I’m confused. If my bag made it to JFK, where would it go? Bags aren’t supposed to fly internationally without a passenger, and the bag was noted to go on my flight with me.

The agent investigated more but with no luck. I began to stress and panic. Don’t tell me I lost another bag! Buying new clothes in Paris is going to be expensive. What the hell, American Airlines?!

After some more investigating, it turned out my bag had been tagged for an earlier Paris flight, but it was never scanned showing it left JFK, nor that it had already arrived in Paris.

“The bag should have been scanned,” I was told.

But it wasn’t, and no one was sure where it was.

It wasn’t in the hold for my flight, it wasn’t downstairs, and it hadn’t scanned out on the previous flight. Their best guess? It went unscanned to Paris, and I’d just have to wait and see if it was there.

We’re all slaves to our past experiences. I’ve lost bags or had them arrive late before, and I was nervous that this was going to happen again. When an airline says it can’t find your bag, it normally doesn’t end well.

Stressed and tired, I got on my plane and hoped for the best. I barely slept as nightmare scenarios played through my head. After we landed, I nervously proceeded to baggage claim.

And when I got there, I saw it. My beautiful grey backpack was sitting there, waiting for me.

Despite a baggage handler’s failure to simply scan the bag into the system, the bag made it to Paris. I slung my bag over my shoulders and headed towards immigration.

My anxiousness melted away and all was right with the world.

Travel is about rolling with the punches, and it’s situations like this that remind you no good will come from stressing over mishaps. Delayed flights happen. Itineraries change. Bags get misplaced.

Whatever happens will happen.

Situations like this simply remind you to go with the flow and relax.

…and to find myself a smaller carry-on backpack when I get home.

  1. Glad your bag made it to Paris! I (luckily) haven’t had to deal with an airline losing my luggage, but I’m sure it will happen at some point on my future travels. I will have to remember to roll with the punches if it happens to me!

  2. How lucky! It’s true though, even if it didn’t turn up, you just have to roll with it.

    I only had my bag misplaced once, but as I was leaving by train from Rome, where I arrived, and going to another region that meant the promised 24 hour delivery turned into one week. I had to meet a group and start running a tour, and all I had were the clothes on my back – but it was a weekend and we were staying in a small village in Tuscany with no stores to buy even underwear at. Lesson learnt!

  3. theVeldTrekker

    SAA lost my bag while I was flying up to kenya on a mission trip. They ended up sending it to Heathrow even though it was a direct flight from Johannesburg to Nairobi… needless to say spending 2 weeks in rural Kenya with only your clothes on your back isn’t pleasant.

    Got the bag back though :) only 2 weeks after arriving home…

  4. So true – roll with the travel punches… I have always eventually been reunited with my bag, but because of the all the mix ups I only pack a carry-on now. I like packing light better it turns out!

  5. US airports are actually the only ones I’ve ever had trouble with bag loss in, haha. Actually, I really rarely travel with more than the size of the small suitcases you can have as carry on luggage. I dislike carrying more than that around with me when I arrive anywhere, and have found I don’t really need anything more that what I can fit in there.

  6. I roll with the punches too…but sometimes those punches roll me! My favorite was having an entire flight deboard in Miami to get a new ticket on the same flight we were on just so we could go through customs because we had diverted there for fuel instead of making it to Atlanta. They made us go through customs because we had a new plane that had been hand packed with our luggage in Guyana! We had a new plane because our original plane’s engine caught on fire over the Amazon. Yeah…don’t ask…long story. Suffice it to say all 200+ of us were in line on a late Sunday night in Miami when they had already shut off the reservation computers at the airport. Joy. It’s all part of the travel package though…ok, usually not watching flames shoot out of your engine at night over the Amazon…

  7. Mike Shepperd

    Great post about rolling with things – did that today. I’m in Switzerland for a month and had decided to go to Italy for the afternoon, but my first train never showed, missed the connection I’d need for the train that would get me to Italy – finally found out there was a landslide that was keeping trains from getting through. So, today became shopping day instead – off to another town nearby where I picked up some great deals on clearance and I’ll try again for Italy in a couple days.

    Bummer about the bag anxiety – I still sometimes travel with a checked bag, but I’ll pack at least one change of clothes in my carry-on anytime it’s practical to do so. That will buy me an extra day or two for the airlines to track down my luggage. When it’s been lost before, it’s always turned up within a day.

    Enjoy your trip – I’m certainly enjoying mine, regardless of whether I’m doing my planned activities or alternatives that work around travel hassles.

    – Mike

  8. Michael

    Go with the flow can still be hard even when you have no choice. British Rail lost my bag a few years ago with all my ski clothing in it. It was on the train when I started in London and not there when I got to Edinburgh in Scotland. No problems they said just fill in a claim form and we will give you an answer in 2 weeks time. Never found the bag and got equivalent A$250 recompense for A$1000 worth of gear. Thank goodness for my insurance which also took it’s time but paid full amount. Happy travels.

  9. Adrienne Morton

    THIS is a fun post for *me* to read tonight as I not so long ago flew, on no sleep to start with, back to San Francisco from Goa, India, with- wait for it- a TEN AND A HALF LAYOVER IN TOKYO. (Don’t ask- just trust me that it was the only option in the end). And upon arrival, was told that all the documentation I had gathered was not enough to pay the next leg and continue on to the US of A, as I was assured over email and phone about 11 times I would be (Yes, I have a passport! And everything else that you told me to make photocopies of which took up my last morning in Goa in a computer lab!)
    Regarding “Rolling with the punches”, I find a funny and thankfully awesome thing happens to us during these situations when you find yourself being told over and over “NO”. You go into the Fight or Flight (seriously no pun intended) mode. Don’t tell me what I can’t do!!! No matter how exhausted, beaten down, hopeless you feel, you are not going to live out the rest of your years in an airport. You find a way. I found a way, but it *literally* took me ten hours. I almost missed the flight. It was that complicated, that hard, and that frustrating. There were tears, there was going through customs at least 8 times, I am now pretty much worthy of a plaque of battle honor in that airport, but I got on the flight.
    So, Matt, no offense, losing luggage is a tough one, and I have been there too, but losing the hope of returning to your country is something else!! :) What did I learn? NEVER let someone else book a flight for you. Stupid mistake. ALWAYS BE IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT IF YOU ARE TRAVELING. I don’t care if its to the neighbors’ house or to Goa, India. Don’t let someone else tell you what you’re gonna need to get “home”. -Lesson Learned

  10. HOW does this happen so often? My father’s bag was actually lost (never to be seen again) recently. This is why I prefer to only travel with a carry-on!

  11. I´m glad you got your bag back. I have had it happen many times to me, the airlines loose my luggage but I have never got angry about it or let it affect my trip.
    Things like this happens when the the airline is hipping thousands of luggage every day, I have always gotten my bag back again sooner or later. I always look at it more as a challenge to survive in a foreign place with out my stuff.

  12. Gee, good thing you got the bag back. In any case, everything crazy that happens only ADDS to the story of your travels. We know our travels wouldn’t be nearly as ridiculous and eventful if some things didn’t go wrong!

  13. I know that feeling!

    We did our recent trip carry-on only, but on the holiday we bought a 500ml gift that we checked in in a box to bring home…

    Get home to Sydney… no box! We did all we could do, then you can’t really do anything else. Next morning I woke up to the phone ringing, they had our box, and we got it that day.

    But I have to say the “box” experience just reinforced my happiness to go carry-on only when I can!

    Glad you got your bag back too :)

  14. Mike

    Yup, some things are within your control, and some things are out of you control, so the trick is to not overly stress about those things that are out of your control.

    Good advice, Matt

  15. Too right! Getting mad won’t help the situation, but man is it hard to keep your cool sometimes. Having an emergency kit in your carry on is always a good idea. ????

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