Jan 27 2018– As I set my foot out of the Helsinki airport, a gust of strong icy cold wind hit my face. It was the end of January and deep winter in the Nordic. The entire landscape had turned monochromatic due to snow. That was the first snowfall we had witnessed in our life, first travel together as husband and wife. I tried to soak it all up as much as I could, fill my lungs up with the fresh air and just stand there in tranquility. The excitement of having the firsts of many such experiences clouded my mind. I was thrilled to have finally made it after all the series of disasters in the last 12 hours. We unloaded our luggage from the trolley and set it aside, I stood gazing at the cloudy sky, trying to catch snowflakes with my bare hands while Sourab called our families to let them know we have landed.
All of a sudden the bus no 561 passing by few meters away caught my attention. This was the one we had to take to reach our destination- the Airbnb room we had booked. In no time we picked up our backpacks and started running towards the bus with all the energy we had. Unfortunately, we missed it by a few seconds. I stood there cursing my fate and wondering how long would I have to wait before we get the next bus. I reached out to my pocket to take my phone and check the bus schedule when I got the shock of my life- My pocket was empty. Where did my phone go? When did I see it last? Where have I lost it? This was just the beginning. I started looking for my ruck sack as there was a possibility my phone would be lying there. Oh wait…where is my ruck sack??? Right- I had dropped it off on a bench right outside the airport while I busy was catching snowflakes. My heart missed not just one but several beats, I went blank. My ruck sack had both our passports, cash for our entire travel in 4 different currencies, all our credit cards, our itinerary, travel documents, address of the places we have booked and needless to say, my phone. If I lose it, we will be stranded in a foreign land with absolutely nothing. Getting another passport would take weeks, we had flight tickets booked to other Scandinavian countries we wouldn’t be able to go to, we would have no money for food or stay. The scenes from the movie “The Terminal” flashed before my eyes. Is this how our big adventure going to end?
Oh wait. If you are thinking this would be everything wrong that could happen to us, you are mistaken. This was actually the last of the mishaps, we have been fighting a series since we set foot out of our home.
Mishap no 1- The camera
We started packing weeks in advance, we knew we had everything. Warm clothes, ready to eat food, camera, travel documents everything set. We left our home and off to the airport in Bangalore. We were very excited, holding hands, gazing into each other’s eyes, giggling nonstop, everything gushy mushy like a typical newly married couple. We were going to have a great time together, capture every moment in our camera and cherish them forever. Hold on- where is our action camera? Right- it was sitting in our cupboard back home safe and secure from the outside world. It was Sourab’s responsibility to pack it, I had reminded him several times and he still missed it. In a blink of an eye my love for him changed to anger and I started yelling. We had to get it somehow as without it we will miss out on a lot of captures. He immediately called up his brother in law who kindly agreed to travel 45kms on his bike and drop it off at the airport. Our check-in time was getting closer and we had to get in, anxiousness was getting on to our nerves. Just at the last moment he found us and handed over the camera to the security and he in turn gave it to us. Disaster averted I thought.
Mishap no 2- The Power bank
It was a sigh of relief and we proceeded with the check-in. At the counter I asked the staff if we could carry the power bank in our check-in baggage (as we had never carried it before) and the lady in her half lost mind said we could. We got our boarding passes, completed immigration, security checks and proceeded to the restaurant to have a cup of coffee. Without a care in our mind, we chatted about the journey ahead and got so lost in each other that seasons changed outside the window. It was time for us to board the flight to Delhi from where we would have our connecting flight to Finland. We walked towards the counter all ready to board when the airline staff have me the bad news. My luggage could not be checked in as it contained the power bank. I couldn’t believe my ears, how could that happen? It was not my fault, their own staff confirmed I could carry. Then started the war of words, and as a typical airline staff who doesn’t care he kept repeating “I understand Ma’am, but we can’t do anything now” That was the last flight of the night and if we miss it, we miss the international flight the next morning too. They were not ready to go through my luggage and throw the Power bank away, not ready to book me another flight with a different airline, not ready to even consider recheck-in; mind you, we still had time. With a heavy heart I decided to stay back and let Sourab travel to Delhi alone so that I would take my luggage back and try to book a last minute flight ticket with another airline (which would be exuberant) and meet him at the Delhi airport. Thankfully I found availability in another airline and the rest of the journey went as planned.
Mishap no 3- The Terminal
After I landed at the Delhi airport, I immediately called Sourab and asked him where he was. My luggage would arrive in the belt no-3 and he said he was right there. I picked up my luggage and started looking for him, he wasn’t there. I called him up again, this time with serious anxiety only to find out that he was still waiting at belt number 3 but at a different terminal. We were under the impression that all domestic flights would land in the same terminal, which wasn’t the case. While he took the shuttle to reach me, I started finding my way into the international terminal. Thus started the longest wait of my life, every passing second was bringing me more stress. And after a lot of running around and confusion I finally found him standing across the hall, looking eagerly at every passenger passing by to find me. I ran towards him and hugged him so hard that I could hear his bones crack. I said to myself it’s all over now.
Mishap no 4- The travel insurance
It was around 3 in the morning, we sat on one of the airport seats in silence. Quietude seemed like peace while we both dived deep into our thoughts trying to find out answers to what was happening. How much more do we have to deal with before we can finally say it’s all over? Time went by…Finnair checking flashed on one of the display boards which made us get up from our seats and say the first words in what seemed like eternity- Lets go. We walked towards the check-in counter and this time with double surety that our power bank was resting safely in our “Hand Baggage”. The staff went through all our travel documents and passport and said we are good to go. However, one document that was missing was our travel insurance papers. The staff said we might face issue at the immigration if we do not have a copy, we even might not be allowed to get out of the airport. Come on now! Have the gods decided to pick on us today just for fun? We submitted all our documents while applying for the Schengen Visa and did not bother to keep a copy of the insurance with us. It didn’t even occur to us to have a soft copy on our email or even make a note of the Insurance company’s name. It was like hell broke loose on us. We were frantically trying to contact the travel agent who helped us apply for the visa.
Let’s see what were the odds.
- It was 7 in the morning our boarding starts in another hour. At this time the agent would be fast asleep in the comfort of his home.
- Even if he wakes up will he be able to remember us and find our documents.
- Let’s say he did, then can he send it to us right away or does he have to go to his office and search for it.
We were losing our mind trying to find out possibilities which seemed like a daunting task then. We somehow managed to get hold of him and he in half sleep graciously agreed to visit his office at the earliest and send us a copy. We boarded the flight eagerly checking our email box every second to see any sign of the document. As the crew announced to switch off our electronic devices, there was a ping. That was sweetest sound I had ever heard, the sound of an email entering our inbox in the form of a blessing from beyond. It was our insurance papers!
Mishap no-5 The baggage loss hoax
The rest of the flight journey was hassle-free. We hoped to have left our string of bad lucks behind while we soared through the blue skies over mountains, oceans and dry lands sipping our wine. We landed in Helsinki and followed all the passengers towards baggage claim. We waited and waited till the last luggage was finally claimed and the belt ran empty. Our bags were nowhere to be found. We checked the display to be sure that was the baggage claim belt for Finnair from India and indeed it was. So where did our bags vanish to? It had every single piece of clothing which could save us from freezing to death in the subzero temperature of the Nordic, some food, hiking shoes and so much more. By this time I have had enough, I sat down and requested Sourab to find the whereabouts of our luggage while I give my brain a little rest it deserves. He ran from pillar to post like a headless chicken inquiring where would we find it but to no avail. Alas compassionately an airport staff asked us to check at the oversize luggage counter before registering a baggage loss complaint. I could see the disappointment in his eyes while he walked towards the counter one last time.
His face suddenly lit up, he finally found our bags lying there like an abandoned child. We collected our luggage and headed towards completing other formalities wondering what made the airline think our backpacks were over-sized.
Mishap no-6 The final chapter- Ruck sack.
We finally made it out of the airport. The worst that could happen to us all at once was far behind now. The breath of fresh air was so welcoming that I forgot all that happened and began to enjoy the moment right there, hoped the land of Santa would bring us some joy after all. And there the gods laughed, the mother of all disasters was on its way to shake the hell out of us, while they enjoyed the show from far above.
This brings us to the beginning of this story. You must be wondering, why did I possess both our passports, all currencies and documents in my bag? A little background story here. Like you see, after what happened during the Mishap number 1, I decided that my husband was irresponsible and I should keep all the important things with me. What an irony!
So fast forward to the final chapter. I ran as fast as I could towards the airport, he yelling behind me wondering where was I going. I ran till his screams became faint and finally stopped, I ran blindly not looking at vehicles from either side, a thousand questions in my mind, what have I done, how could I be so irresponsible, so absent minded, what if I don’t find it, how will he react when he finds out, what next? I kept praying as hard as I could, only gods could save me now. As I reached the smoking zone panting and wheezing, my eyes found the seat where I had last seen my bag. There was a man enjoying his cigarette in peace and staring at the seat right next to him with curiosity. Alas! My rucksack was there!! He saw the panic on my face and asked me if it was mine. I couldn’t speak, just nodded my head and hugged my bag like old lovers met after eternity.
I couldn’t stop thanking him for looking after my bag while I was gone and returning it safely to me. My faith in humanity was restored. There still are good people out there and with their little act of kindness make the world a better place to live. It was time for me to say my goodbyes and get back to my partner who might be losing his mind by now. It was also time to bid adieu to the string of my worst nightmares coming true.
And thus ended the worst beginning of our first journey together. As the saying goes all is well that ends well.
Keep a checklist of all the important things before travel. There is no harm in going through it and be a 100% sure that you haven’t missed anything.
Power bank- Always in the hand baggage. It’s okay not to carry one also. World will not come to an end if your battery dies, might as well use this time to bond with your loved ones.(This is coming from a hard core phone addict)
- Try not to book the last flight of the day (If you are taking the first connecting flight next day) as you never know there might be delays or unfortunate incidences like ours. We thankfully found another carrier or we would have been stranded.
- Always check the terminals for landing and takeoff as all big airports have multiple terminals which could be very far from each other. This might come in handy while you have a connecting flight also.
- Have a copy of all the important travel documents even if you think they might not be important. You never know what could save your day.
- It is advisable to carry travelers check and credit cards instead of all cash while travelling to a foreign country. It is much safer and if you lose it, it can be easily replaced.
- Most importantly if you have a travel companion, ALWAYS SPLIT THE CASH, CARDS ETC. AMONG EACH OTHER, so that even if one is lost you have a backup.
All the above incidents happened because of a simple miss from our side, we failed to pay attention, did not do enough research and let panic get the better of us. Well as they say there is a first for everything and we learn from our mistakes.
It’s been a year since the incident and my husband never gets tired of pulling my leg whenever he gets an opportunity. “Who is irresponsible now?” he says and has this entire ordeal narrated in every party and family gathering we have been since. Gosh! I hate when he is right.
So here I am penning down this entire story so it’s out there for the world to know and saving some of my husband’s energy having it repeated every single time.