Privilege Blog

The Privileges and Pitfalls of Traveling Abroad

This is a guest post by Barrie Davenport of Live Bold and Bloom.

As you may remember, a while back I wrote a post for Barrie’s blog, about how to live boldly, even when you’re terrified. Since that day, Barrie’s blog has become a Big Deal. However, she has the good manners, even as a Big Deal, to return the favor and tell us a story. To wit, her recent trip to Marbella. If I were pitching it as a movie, I’d say Michelle Obama goes to Spain on a luxury vacation and meets the enraged friends of that flight attendant who took his job and shoved it.

Hello dear and devoted readers of Privilege.

I asked Lisa if I could write about my recent trip to Spain, and she gave the go-ahead, as long as it related in some way to “privilege.” That part is easy — it was a privilege to go, a complete and total privilege for which I am profoundly grateful. I got to leave my three hormonal teenagers, the 100 degree Atlanta heat and humidity, and a minor home construction project to travel to a coastal Spanish beach resort with a girlfriend for an entire week. That’s about as good as it gets, and I know it.

But no privilege can be completely appreciated without examining the accompanying pitfalls. Anyone who has traveled abroad knows that pitfalls are inevitable. I accepted that premise going in and was frankly too over-the-top with excitement about the trip to fret about potential annoyances. I started the adventure in a very privilegy mood.

We flew out of the Atlanta airport to JFK. Things did not go well at JFK. Our flight to Spain was delayed by an hour before boarding. Once aboard, we taxied to the runway, but we had to taxi back to the gate because there was a problem with one of the doors. It shouldn’t take long they said.

We sat for three hours with a plane-load of restless and drunk Spaniards and a guy from Brooklyn behind me who punctuated his F-word vocabulary with the occasional conjunction and preposition. We start to taxi again — briefly.

Now here’s the exciting part, and I don’t know if this would count as privilege or pitfall because frankly, it was kind of thrilling.

As we are pulling out of the gate, a group of Spaniards start to protest. They demanded recompense for being delayed. They wouldn’t sit down, they wouldn’t be quiet, they wouldn’t get off. The flight attendants and the captain tried to humiliate them into submission, but they weren’t having any of it.

The F-word man was screaming at them to f-ing sit down and shut up. The rest of us were snapping photos. Then, five Port Authority cops board the plane. More shouting, more refusals, and finally a threat of arrest. They ultimately escort two Spanish women off the plane. Two women! Our 7:00 flight took off at midnight. I guess the real privilege part of this leg of the trip was that I had a sleeping pill.

I haven’t told you where we stayed — Marbella, Spain, a coastal town in southern Spain where vacationing Europeans and hob-nobbers hang out. Michelle Obama and her daughters were there a few weeks before us.

Part of the attraction of Marbella is Puerto Banus, a luxury marina and shopping complex for the jet-set and the super rich. The King of Saudi Arabia berths his yacht there. We decided against staying on his yacht.

Our hotel was absolutely dreamy — a pension in Old Town Marbella called The Town House, and it was perfect. Look at this yummy room:

Here’s a shot of the lovely rooftop patio where we had coffee.

Privilege was a part of every day while we were in Marbella. We slept late. We had coffee and breakfast on the rooftop patio. We either went down to the beach (where we had the privilege of keeping our tops on) to read and watch people, or we shopped in Old Town to walk and watch people. Everything around us was lovely.

Old Town could have been plucked from a storybook. It exceeds the description of quaint European village. Narrow cobblestone streets, whitewashed buildings, and an abundance of flowers. The weather stayed in the low 80’s during the day, and there was no rain in Spain during our entire stay.

Lunch was at 2:00. Siesta until 8:00. Dinner somewhere around 10:00. The streets, restaurants, and shops were packed at midnight. We also had some wonderful day trips to Ronda, Ojen, and Monda — all small Spanish villages within a couple of hours of Marbella.

We had one travel pitfall during our stay, and sadly it was my fault. We planned a day trip to Grenada to see the Alhambra. You must buy advance tickets to see the palace, and I booked us for the wrong day. We decided to go anyway to see the gardens and try to get palace tickets at the door. It was a 3 and 1/2 hour bus ride each way. We couldn’t get into the palace. The grounds were beautiful, but we spent nearly 8 hours traveling for a two hour garden tour. Here’s the Alhambra at night. It’s beautiful, but worth a two day trip.

The next day we were scheduled to fly home. All in all it was a trip of far more privileges than pitfalls. Our beautiful hotel, the beach with the clear Mediterranean water, breathtaking Old Town, perfect weather, and fun day trips. We were sad the last day was spent mostly on a bus, but it made us appreciate the other parts of the trip even more.

We arrived at the Malaga airport at 9:00 a.m. for our 11:30 a.m. flight to JFK. We see a huge line at the one and only Delta counter. Our flight was canceled.

  1. No other flights are departing to JFK for two days.
  2. We wait three hours in line to book a 6:00 p.m. flight to Madrid.
  3. We wait in the airport for six more hours and board the plane to Madrid.
  4. We take a shuttle from the airport to a Madrid hotel and stay overnight.
  5. We take another shuttle back to the airport at dawn’s crack and fly home to Atlanta. (That flight was delayed too.)

That all sounds like the crowning pitfall, and it could have been. But when you are stuck overseas, dying for your own bed, toilet and shower, nothing better highlights the privileges of your own home and family than being kept from them, even one more day than you anticipated.

Traveling is exciting, uplifting, educational, and so much fun. But when it comes to feeling really privileged, it sometimes takes a trip abroad to realize there’s no place like home.

Barrie Davenport is a career and life coach and the founder of Live Bold and Bloom, a blog about fearless living. She is also the editor of The Daily Brainstorm, a blogazine.

*Note that I am a contributor and editor for The Daily Brainstorm. No compensation of any sort was involved in this post.

20 Responses

  1. Nothing, absolutely nothing makes you appreciate your own home like travel abroad. Even after a trip to the chicest resort, your own home seems inviting.
    Marbella sounds lovely from your description, but Delta, what a sorry excuse for an airline.

  2. I'm so sorry you didn't get to see the Alhambra. (And I also discovered tickets had to be bought way in advance–we spent a few days there so were able to be up at the crack of dawn to get in.) I hope you still had a wonderful time in Granada, though, wandering through the Albaicin or visiting the Sacramonte or drinking mint tea in the courtyard of a Moorish restaurant. There's still plenty to see and do. Your post brings back so many wonderful memories of the sunny, gorgeous southwest coast of Spain on a flat grey day in the Midwest…thank you, and thank you for reminding me what a privilege it is to be able to travel occasionally.

  3. It was magical and wonderful in spite of the airline glitches and Alhambra ticket mix-up. I would love to go back to Granada and see the palace and the entire city. It is definitely not a one-day trip! Thank you all for your comments!

  4. Skye, Barry,

    Hilarious. I can see why you two superb writers found and appreciate one another.

    On another note: Love your black dress, as you thought — sleeves too short. I have quite amazingly looooong arms and growing up (well actually still today) sleeves are often not long enough and it drives me crazy. Three-quarter feels strange on me even though I have nothing against my forearms to date.

    Size 40, hmmm. Tres bien.


  5. I loved this post!! I really want to go to Spain. Did you eat your body weight in tapas and have lots of ham? The food and people watchig is almost the best part I think.

    Travelling is wonderful but coming home is pretty good too,

    I read somewhere that Americans do not on the whole travel overseas (which you might call abroad) as a nation and that only about 20 % of the population holds passports. Is this true?

    Australians love to travel. You can't keep us out of plans and we laugh in the face of a 17 hour long haul flight. In London I once met an American woman who complained about the 6 hour flight form NY. Since I'd been on planes for almost 24 hours to get from Oz to to the UK I thought this was funny.

  6. It's the transit part rather than the destination that's the nightmare, especially if visiting a place as dedicated to developed-world comfort as Marbella. This is a sad, fairly recent turn; thanks to your forebearance it did not wreck your trip.

  7. Lovely. I've lived this, absent the Spain bit (about which I'm no small amount of bitter, never you fear). The transportation bit of travel so makes one savor the destination (usually) and then home, no?

  8. I like Spain. Barcelona is a conference destination in Europe and we've had good times traveling around the country afterwards. It's a country with a lot of style and I enjoy being there.

    From my own experience I'd say that travel privilege is being or traveling with a million mile flier. Mishaps get resolved with a lot less agony when you can flash your card and get into the short lines for rebooking!

  9. Americans don't seem to have a lot of patience with traveling long distances I guess, especially since 9/11 when air travel turned into a complete nightmare. I started the trip knowing that something was bound to go wrong with the travel, because, really how often does air travel go completely smoothly. So I wasn't too discombobulated when it did go wrong. Just today I got a $200 voucher from Delta (although they promised $600) for the canceled flight. Thank you Duchesse and Faux Fuschia for your comments!

  10. Love love love this post. I think we must all prepare for unexpected delays at any airport now. Take a snack with you, pj's, Rx's, Kindle & a good friend. However dreadful, the end result of going somewhere beautiful is worth every minute. xx's

  11. I spent a week in New York 3 years ago but my baggage was elsewhere for the whole holiday and arrived the day we were leaving.It was either going to spoil my holiday or not.I wasnt going to let it get me down.I went to Gap bought jeans and tops .The salesman was great and when I told him my tale gave me a discount!Duanes for toiletries and a wonderful time was spent in the Big Apple.I often travel as I live on an Island in the Mediterranean. I now know that nothing is really important other than medication, credit cards and a passport.I have learnt to smile when things go wrong ,12hour waits in airports,over booking etc I have met some interesting people in these situations.Always take a book ,water, a pashmina and lots of good humor.Remember , you will only remember the good times.Liz

  12. I have the déjavue of Lisa's vulcanic-experience earlier this year. Maybe it is a good year for staying at home or within the radius of a few hours by car. Maybe …

  13. Splenderosa, thank you so much. I'm glad you liked it. Yes, preparing for the inevitable air travel pitfalls makes it easier to cope with the frustration. I've traveled to NYC before when my toiletries bag rode away with the taxi. Good old Duane Reade to the rescue! Thank you all of your comments.

  14. Oh Barrie, that hotel looks like something out of a dream. I might be happy with just the rooftop patio…….

    Sorry for the travel woes, but thank you for the wonderful triplog!

  15. You are welcome Patsy. The hotel was fabulous and really reasonably priced. It made up for the trip woes!

  16. the joy of travel – not the actual part when you're travelling, delayed flights and cancellations are not a joy, but being somewhere exciting and new with lots to discover.

  17. So wonderfully told–I really enjoyed this! And so true about delay making returning even better. I was stuck in Europe (oximoron) for 6 days after 9/11 and was so happy to be back, yet still think of that trip as one of my best.

  18. Thank you Imogen and Mary Jo! Getting to enjoy Europe for a week is definitely worth a few hassles. I think if you go into it expecting some problems, it doesn't bother you as much. Getting "stuck" in Europe is so bad.

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