As we all packed up to leave Slovenia — some of us forever and for others, just for a little while — we reminisced about the fun times we had and the new life experiences we gained on this trip. I have spent the last week and a half talking about a variety of topics regarding Slovenia and the different companies we visited. And while all of these things made a great impact on my life, and the conscious decisions I will choose to make going forward, I feel like this trip has taught me a lot of lessons I didn’t expect — or want — to learn.
My first ever all-nighter was the day we arrived in Slovenia. I definitely didn’t expect to have an experience like that quite so soon. Throughout this whole trip, I have tried to make having a positive outlook on anything, regardless of how bad it seems, a habit. I did not expect to be put to the ultimate test over the last 36 hours, but I can say I learned a lot about myself as a result.
It all started when we woke up to go to the Ljubljana airport at 4:30am local time (that’s 9:30pm Wednesday Kansas time if you’re keeping track). After a smooth couple of flights from Ljubljana to Zurich and Zurich to Washington D.C., I was getting anxious to get home, take a shower, and get a good night’s rest in my own bed. Unfortunately, life had other plans and wanted me to learn one last major lesson about myself and what I could handle before this trip ended.
Every traveler’s worst nightmare is a canceled flight, especially after a long day of traveling. That’s exactly what happened after a 4-hour delay in Washington D.C. This was an experience I had never had to deal with before. I am someone who is extremely Type A and uncomfortable when anything stays from what is supposed to happen. As you can imagine, this was extremely difficult for me.
Luckily, everyone was rescheduled to different flights home, however, I was assigned the worst possible option. I was scheduled to leave D.C at noon the next day en route to Denver where I would have a 6-hour layover before flying to KC where I wouldn’t arrive until almost midnight. Another full 24 hours of travel. However, I was still trying to have a positive outlook on the situation so I decided to try to get some sleep in the airport. I was woken up less than an hour later by a vacuum cleaner. Little did I know that was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. A couple of SELFs got tickets on a flight to KC through Chicago but the plane was flying out of Reagan National Airport almost 30 miles away.
I decided to test my luck at one of the kiosks next to a very long and hostile customer service line. Thank goodness for that vacuum because I was able to book the last seat on a flight to Chicago and therefore get on the flight to KC. I didn’t have my luggage but I had a new flight and two people to share an Uber to Reagan with and that’s all I needed.
Eventually, I made it home 12 hours ahead of my original flight (with my luggage that miraculously made it to KC before I did). Back in a familiar environment, I was able to reflect better on how this experience has made me more willing and able to go with the flow. I understand that, no matter how much I would like to, I can’t control every situation. Sometimes you need to step out of your comfort zone (like driving across Washington D.C. at 2:00am) to get things done.
Regardless of how much this situation has taught me, I do not want to step foot in another airport anytime soon. However, all of this was worth is because I was able to make the best memories in one of my new favorite places in the world: Slovenia.