Packing and leaving are not our favorite activities. We travel with four carry-on suitcases and one medium-sized suitcase. On departure day, we push and shove, curse, sit or stand on the suitcases, and sigh in relief when all are closed. The family hostel in Athens didn’t have an elevator. After the packing grumble, my husband and I dragged our five pieces down the stairs, from three floors high. After I placed all packages on the marble floor of the lobby, I pulled out my wallet to pay. The host looked at me puzzled. “Did I already pay,” I asked.
“No, but why are you leaving?” he replied, “Your departure date is tomorrow.” I turned to my husband, who had no clue, then shuffled my papers, pushed some buttons on my iPhone, and concluded that he was right. It meant three floors back up with five suitcases, and another day of unpacking and packing, but also a bonus day in Athens. All was well.
Upon leaving Athens, we visited the (South) Black Forest in Germany, and family in Switzerland. WorldTripGirl wrote about both, Germany and Switzerland. After Switzerland, we returned to the (North) Black Forest, as I had found a very cheap flight to Brazil, our next destination, from Frankfurt. We had convinced my parents to join us for the last couple of days in Europe, and Eilam’s mother decided to fly in from Tel Aviv as well. To accommodate all, I cancelled our AirBnB and booked an apartment hotel for the family reunion. We had three wonderful days together. We hiked up a gigantic spiral overlooking the treetops, traveled through Baden-Baden in an antique carriage, and had wonderful meals together.
“When people ask me what I think of your world trip, I don’t comment,” my dad said over Thai food on our last night. He probably thought we were crazy but decided to defer commentary until after our year. With eleven months behind us, it seemed he was getting ready to pass judgment. “I want you to help me form an opinion,” he continued. “After returning home, send me a letter with your evaluation, and I will return a cash gift for your piggy bank,” he promised the kids. Nine fell on the floor in shock. I wasn’t sure whether he was shocked by the promised cash, or by the prospect of writing a whole page to my dad. We discovered during our homeschooling sessions that both our boys are allergic to writing.
The next morning, the day of our departure to Brazil, I snoozed in bed and grabbed my laptop to check on the baggage allowance of Condor. I reflected on how far we had come. My dad was right that it was time to take stock. It took me five years to convince my husband to take this family sabbatical around the world. My daughter was an accomplice and our two sons can be considered victims, though they never objected. My husband left most of the planning to me. It was the price I paid to live my dream. So far I reserved thirty flights, seven trains, one RV, one sailboat, one cruise, nine cars, sixteen AirBnB apartments, three HomeAway houses, three youth hostels, three fishing trips, and twenty-five hotels, not counting any of our excursions or the campings we used with the RV. My husband has reserved one apartment, via friends, in Israel. He also arranged for the kids to go to school there, and planned a few excursions.
Before I closed my laptop to start the dreaded packing, I scanned the Condor confirmation one more time. Flight from Frankfurt to Rio, May 26, five people, twenty-three kilos per person. All seemed well. Wait. I felt my stomach turn as on a roller coaster. A wave of cold rippled through my body. Then my heart accelerated and I realized what was wrong. The calendar on my laptop indicated the date: May 27. Somewhere along the way, a May 27 arrival had become a May 27 departure. We had missed our flight to Brazil!
I informed my sleepy husband of our misfortune and asked him to distract the kids. Next, I called the airline. They informed me in a heavy German accent that, “There is nothing we can do.” I felt tears welling and decided that a little crying would perhaps convince Condor to put us on standby for their next flight. I was wrong. It stayed a big, fat N-O. Our flight had left, the reservation was closed, the money was gone, and the next flight only available in four days. My husband poked his head around the bedroom door and announced we had only twenty minutes left to check out of the apartment. We never packed our bags so quickly. A cup of coffee later, we accepted our new reality. The kids didn’t try to control their emotions. They were ecstatic. They put together two and two quickly and realized we would wait out the four days at my parents’ home in The Netherlands. The kids absolutely love spending time there.
Missing flight number twenty-two out of thirty turned into the best mistake I have made during this trip. We had an amazing weekend in my hometown with my parents, my brother, and his family. We managed to re-arrange our Brazil itinerary and to recoup some of the lost money,by canceling an internal flight and a tour in Rio. We later learnt that the days we missed in Brazil were all storm and rain. Nobody can take away the extra family time we got in return, both in Germany and The Netherlands, and of course, the whole family can forever laugh at me for my silly mistake. Perhaps if I charge per smile, we will actually come out ahead.