Goal: Fly standby to Madrid, spend 24 hours there, fly standby back to NYC. Land Sunday afternoon. Rest. Go to work on Monday like normal. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!
Just a quick note about flying standby: You get to fly if there are open seats on the flight. For example: if a flight is cancelled, all those paying passengers fill up the empty seats on any flight after the cancelled flight that they can get on because their flight was cancelled. The non-paying (standby) customers wait until ALL the paying customers have made it on the flight and if there are empty seats you get to fly. So potentially, if you fly somewhere standby, and your return flight gets cancelled… it could take you days to make it onto another flight because all the other customers would be taking the handful of empty seats on each flight after… are we totally confused?? I digress… those details don’t seem important right now because the flights look great, lots of empty seats. I’m GOING FOR IT!
Friday, January 10, 2020 – 7pm – I board my standby flight, headed for Madrid
The flight is wide open so I get upgraded to first class. SO nice for this trip… ideally I’ll sleep the entire flight and wake up at 8am in Madrid.
After the meal wraps up, I put my seat down into a bed to try and catch some ZZzz’s… I’m not very tired because it’s only 8pm so I don’t sleep well… I don’t sleep well at all but who cares. 8AM. Landing in Madrid. TIME FOR ADVENTURE!
Saturday, January 11 – 8:30am (2:30am in NYC)… I jump on the train from the airport and head toward my hotel… checking out the map I realize there might be some cool stuff so I decide to get off early and see what Madrid looks like…
Okay NOW I’m totally hungry and I realize I’ve wandered a few miles…. uh… kilometers away from the train so I guess I’m just going to look around for the cutest cafe and have a go.
Oh wait… it’s Spain and it’s 9am… nothing is open. Well… things are just starting to open and… wait a minute… this place is SO cute. Hold on, let me take more pics. Okay, I’m going inside.
“Hola, una mesa para uno por favor?” (The hostess smiles and takes me to a table and hands me a menu).
Well I’m glad I read about this in the travel blogs… they aren’t going to bring me my check until I ask for it. Ummmmm…. “La cuenta por favor?” *nervous smile*.
Okay I’ll explore a little more and then I need to get to my hotel!
The hotel looks good, nothing impressive but I’m not here to hang out in my hotel. It’s very close to the center of the city and there’s lots of activity… this should be a great place to be!
For lunch I’m meeting up with an Instagrammer (Manuel Rodriguez, we’ve never met in real life but we thought it would be funny to make a video together on Instagram). He lives in Madrid. He’s a comedian and apparently is quite famous but I wouldn’t have known if it weren’t for his 800K Instagram followers because I can’t really understand his videos… as it turns out… he doesn’t speak much English……. and I don’t speak much Spanish… so we laughed about that, and used Google Translate for about 75% of the conversation. “Uno momento por favor.” *types furiously in Google Translate so I can say something.* I tell him he should order for us since he knows the menu… Well he either thinks I’m REALLY hungry or thinks I eat a LOT… WOOF I’m so full from this meal I can hardly breath. [No pictures from the meal… I was too busy trying to speak Spanish that I completely blanked on taking pictures, sorry!]
Lunch really did turn into a multi-hour event, just like they say about Spain. We ate and laughed and spoke in broken English and Spanish and then Manuel gave me a little tour around part of the city! We grabbed a cafe con leche (as one always does in Spain) and had a great time!
We decide to meet up with another Instagram friend at a food market (but like… I’m still so full from lunch!)
We follow the night wherever it takes, laughing and trying to speak each other’s language the whole way until I finally realize I haven’t really slept in I’m not sure how long and I really want to find some churros before my time in Spain comes to an end. I say adios to Carlos and Manuel and head out to find my churros. 🙂
I walk into an open air churros spot in the center of the city, order, and then find myself standing at a high top table with a stranger… we both mind our churros – a seemingly religious experience for him… a definite religious experience for me as the chocolate sauce drips down my chin and into my beard from the corner of my mouth. I just smile to myself and think, wow… I can’t believe I’m in Spain.
Sunday, January 12 – 12:30am (6:30pm in NYC) – Back to the hotel to try and get some sleep! I get ready for bed, so content, full, and exhausted but I’m so WIRED from the last 24 hours… it takes me a while to fall asleep and then finally, I sleep for 4 glorious hours… wait… now it’s 4:30am and I’m awake? What? Um… okay… I tried and tried to get back to sleep. Ya know what, screw it – I’ll just get up. I get ready, grab a cafe con leche (obviously) and a few croissants and head to the airport.
Sunday, January 12 – 7:30am (1:30am in NYC) I arrive at the airport for my flight back to NYC. My brain was spinning from all the excitement of the last 26 hours and I feel SO fulfilled and inspired and just… in awe. Okay, my flight is at 10am… It’s delayed… oh well… I’ll get some goodies from the duty free and just wait.
Fast forward to 2pm and what’s the Spanish word for “cancelled.” Cancelado… That’s what they’re saying about my flight now. Oh boy!
Now… I LIKE adventure. I LIKE spontaneity. Don’t get me wrong… when I said, “Sure, I’ll take a standby flight to Madrid for a 24 hour trip,” I knew I was signing up for a bit of an adventure… Being lost in Barcelona was not on the agenda but here I am. – Wait, Dan. Stop… did you say Barcelona? I thought you were in Madrid. Oh yes. I AM in Madrid… Remember what I said earlier about flying standby… well yeah… now it looks like I won’t get back to NYC for a few days…
[insert classic airport breakdown, sobbing in front of the gate agents… my phone ran out of international data, the wifi won’t work… oh yeah and my phone is dying and my battery pack is empty… cry some more… wipe tears away… okay… do something… do something on the 5 hours of sleep you’ve had in the last 2 days… go for it Dan… DO SOMETHING!] Put me on that flight to Barcelona so I can get back to NYC!
Sunday, January 12 – 6pm Barcelona time (12pm NYC time… I was supposed to land in NYC about now) I get off the bus from the Barcelona airport, about a half mile walk from my final destination, I will be staying with a friend of a friend (Saleh) who lives in Downtown Barcelona and said he had an extra room. I had to get out of Madrid because I can’t make it on any USA bound flights from Madrid as a standby passenger.
[Notice the pictures stop for a bit… no phone… *nervous laughter*]
*Knock knock knock* – I’m pretty sure this is the right address…. *knock knock knock*. Okay, I have 5% battery left… I’ll call. “Hi Saleh, this is Dan… I think I’m at your house?” [Fast forward] – No, I am definitely an hour away from the right address in the middle of some suburb of Barcelona and the sun is going down and I have no idea what to do… ALSO no Uber available in this area. The sun sets.
*Dan stands on street corner in the dark and cries*
I’m just so tired that like, I can’t think…
*Dan cries some more, then sees a few ladies walking by… maybe they can help*
“Hola… Hola mi amigas… perdón… um… estoy perdido? Um I’m like… MUY perdido!” (Perdido = LOST if you haven’t figured that out)… The ladies back away thinking I’m a crazy lost gringo… which I AM… “WAIT! “Ayudame por favor! Estoy perdido! Donde estas un estacion de TAXI!?… HABLAS ENGLISH?!”
Oh my gosh, thank God one of them speaks English! She points me up the street about a mile and there is a taxi station, and I cry a little bit more, and say thank you… uh… gracias, and go find the taxi. Well… the taxi driver speaks less English than anyone I’ve ever met in my life but I have the address written on my hand and I show it to him and he says okay. [Fast forward] I make it to the apartment in downtown Barcelona and they welcome me and I can charge my phone and everything is okay… I’m just a little sleep deprived and stressed.
They are going out for the night so they leave me alone, so I charge my phone, shower the travel dust off and then decide to head out for TAPAS & SANGRIA!
Okay… After tapas and sangria I’m so tired and satisfied that I decide to go back to the apartment… oops, sorry… I decide to go find dessert (hehe).
So NOW I head back to the apartment. Call the office and let them know I will definitely not be coming in at 10am tomorrow but I’ll get there as quickly as possible and now…. sleep.
Monday, January 13, 2pm in NYC (8pm in Spain) I land safely at JFK, jump on the A train and head to the office.
Monday, January 13, 7pm in NYC (1am in Spain) I arrive home to my apartment, head straight to bed and think to myself… “I can’t wait to do this again.”