Ok, so we’ve all seen the insta-perfect travel pics, and don’t get me wrong – huge fan! However, whether you use public transport for your daily commute, or you’ve negotiated all the world’s continents; you will know that travel is not always smooth. There are delays, cancellations and… good old human error. So in the spirit of full disclosure, here’s the #nofilter version of our latest trip…
Starting off on the right foot…
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? Even though I know this is true, I’m not great at following it. However, on travel days I’m all about the hearty breakfast (or brunch!). Lucky for us we had a great little Vegetarian cafe practically on the doorstep of our Krakow apartment. If you’re ever in Krakow’s Jewish quarter, get yourself some banana pancakes or the vegan breakfast of bread, salad and dips! Once we had some grub and packed up the Game of thrones themed apartment (more on that later!) we got an Uber to the train station. Stage one complete, no dramas. At the train station, we find the correct platform (3) and purchase the tickets to Krakow airport (18 Złoty for two. Leaving at 13.03) off we go to get on the train. We hop on the 13.03 from platform 3. And this, my friends, is where things go a little pear shaped…
Are we there yet?
Obviously, it’s only 15 minutes to the airport, so we stand between compartments at the door. At some point Lee points out that a sign on the wall says the train is going to Warsaw. After it’s been via Krakow airport though, right? Lee is starting to get concerned at this point. I’m staring, oblivious, out the window at the white fields, smiling to myself (Snow is so pretty!). Eventually I start to wonder what the time is and why we haven’t stopped at any stations yet when I see Lee frowning down at google maps. We spend the next 20 minutes googling and hoping for the best. Eventually we admit defeat and accept that not only are we on the wrong train, but its a direct one. It won’t be stopping anywhere for at least the next 2.5 hours, and certainly not at the airport. Shit.
Plan B, C & D
Ok, so now what? We were due to fly to Edinburgh from Krakow and that flight is definitely being missed. The ticket inspector hasn’t been round yet so we need to make a few decisions. Do we get off at Warsaw Central and find somewhere to stay? Our flight home is still booked from Edinburgh in 4 days though. We could head another 3 hours back to Krakow and find somewhere to stay there. We could fly to Edinburgh on the next available flight, or do we head home? After a few searches on sky scanner we decide that our cheapest and simplest option is going to be to stay at the airport overnight and get the London flight first thing in the morning. Edinburgh isn’t going anywhere and the Airbnb returns most of our money for cancelling; which we’re gonna need in train ticket funds! The ticket inspector comes round eventually and after not-so helpfully pointing out we’re on the wrong train, charges us the equivalent of £30 for the privilege of standing for 3 hours on a train we didn’t want to get. We spend the rest of the journey planning and booking our onward travel from Warsaw and laughing about our unexpected adventure.
Where’s the airport anyway??
Unsurprisingly, we’re a little over cautious with the next leg of the trip. We check the screens, we check the flight booking for the name of the airport, Modlin. We check it again. Definitely Modlin. Purchase tickets from the ticket desk. “That’s two tickets please. Modlin, yes, Modlin airport. leaving at quarter past. Quarter past, right?” Off we go to the platform (1). We’re 15 minutes early but I don’t even risk going to the toilet. I’d rather wait the hour. Another hour on a train isn’t the most appealing so the laughter has turned into quiet frustration now. The platform is then divided into two sides. Tracks 5 & 7. (Tracks? The ticket lady said nothing about tracks!?) My eyes flit nervously between the two for a few minutes before the screen flashes up with ‘Modlin’ and I remember to breathe again. I’m just asking Lee why the sign doesn’t actually reference an airport at all when we overhear an Italian man talking to some more tourists. “Everyone gets out at Modlin and says ‘where’s the airport?’ but it isn’t near the train station. You have to get a bus”. Two things are crossing my mind at this stage. One doesn’t need repeating and the other is a vow not to let this man out of my sight until we’re inside that airport departure hall. The train arrives and we all squash in. It empties out a few stops before ours and we finally sit down for 10 minutes. When we arrive, I make a bee-line for the Italian man heading up the stairs before seeing a sign for the airport bus. It’s already waiting at the stop. We look between the ticket office and the bus for a second and decide to just jump on. At this point Lee attempts to buy tickets from a lady with a machine sat at the front. She reassures him that they accept card, then gets off the bus without taking anyones money. Strange, but we’re not complaining! After stopping for what feels like an hour at train gates, we set off and finally reach the airport! Those pancakes are starting to feel like a distant memory…
The slip up
Modlin is essentially a coach station with planes. There’s a bar on the upper level and we order the only thing that vaguely resembles a vegan meal, chips. After dragging out the ‘meal’ for as long as we can, we find ourselves some cosy seats at a coffee shop with charging points. Feeling a little sorry for ourselves now as the realisation sets in that we’re going to be here all night. We work out that the good seats are only going to be available until 11pm when the place closes, and that we’re going to have to keep purchasing drinks to be allowed to keep them. We take turns to go up the counter each time one of us runs out. Tea, coffee, tea, coffee. And this is when I crack. I’m tired, annoyed and hungry for something that isn’t beige. Next thing I know, there’s a brownie next to that tea I’ve ordered and I’m paying the lady. They had sugar-free brownies, gluten-free brownies, blessed by the frigging ghost of Christmas past brownies. But no Vegan brownies. So I bought it, and I ate and it was good… Although the guilt afterwards wasn’t so sweet.
On the move
Eventually the time to go through security rolls around and we race over, ready for a change of scenery. After I refuse to pay for a plastic bag for a single hand cream and we’ve proved ourselves safe enough to fly by unpacking just about every item, we reach the departure gates. After holding out hope they might sell something edible here, we quickly learn that hotdogs are apparently the breakfast of choice for the people of Modlin. Great. We settle for a bag of crisps. After what feels like another lifetime and being made to wait outside in the below zero temperatures, we board the plane!
3 hours of attempting to sleep without causing permanent damage to my neck, and we finally touch down at London, Stanstead. We run into M&S and grab some sandwiches and head over to the coaches. Luckily this wait is short and we jump onto the National Express to Victoria Coach Station. When we arrive we have 50 minutes to kill before the next coach. In a little shop of ‘Sweets and Treats’ we find Vegan Samosas, which is easily the best thing to happen in some time. In any other situation, they may have been average, but on this day they were the most perfectly cooked, crisp, delicious, mouth-watering-ly spiced snacks I have ever eaten. Things are looking up! Both National express coaches are spacious and have charging points. I don’t brave the toilet but it’s reassuring to know it’s there. Overall, it’s not the worst experience. And at a last minute price of £55 for the 2 of us, we can’t afford to complain. Once we reach Southampton (I have never been so relived to see that old Guild Hall clock tower!) We hop on our last mode of transport for the day, a local bus. We’ve been travelling all day by this point and when the bus finally reaches our stop, we have to fight through the crowds of school kids all heading home for the day. It’s ok though, because after more than 24 hours since getting on that wrong train, that’s exactly where we have arrived too. Home!
What have I learnt?
The obvious one would be don’t get the wrong train of course. Double check and use your vocal chords. We’re a generation inclined to look to our phones before we look to those around us. Had we have said a quick, “is this the train for Krakow airport?” to a conductor or fellow traveller we may have made it to Edinburgh after all. But, we live and we learn!
Travel with the right person – this one is so important. Sometimes you may feel pressured to travel with a certain person or group, but you need to be a good match. Whether it’s a friend, a family member or a partner. How you get along will ultimately affect your trip away. It’s on occasions like this one that I am especially grateful to have someone that remains so calm and manages to smile throughout. Don’t get me wrong, we get tired and frustrated and hangry at times! But ultimately, we remind each other that the only way is forward and you can’t change what has already happened. Best to take any situation and turn it into an adventure. We were able to make some pretty quick decisions once we realised our error, no blame was placed and added costs from coaches and flights were split. I know that with some, this wouldn’t have been so simple. If you’re travelling with someone new, have a chat about a few different situations. Try out some what ifs and even discuss some plan B’s. Dependant on how big of a trip you’re planning, this could be make or break!
Shit happens. Sometimes you just have to realise whats important and move on. This goes for food choices you make too. When you brand yourself with the ‘Vegan label’ you give yourself a harder time than anyone else can when you slip up. But I don’t think we should. Ultimately, Vegans have made a promise to live as cruelty free as they can, it isn’t a test or a competition and whether intentional or accidental, slip ups are going to happen. So if you’re reading this and you’ve had a similar experience, don’t beat yourself up about it. It isn’t like a diet, when you eat salad all week and then you find a 2 for 1 on Pringle’s and ‘once you pop you can’t stop’. Next thing you know, you’re covered in crumbs, crying over the scales and thinking you might as well just get that dominos pizza anyway because you’re never going to lose any weight (we’ve all been there, right?). Just remember what really went into that brownie and why you’ll wait it out for the dairy and egg free one next time. Oh, and If you’re reading this as a non-vegan, please don’t think that following a plant based diet is impossible. This is one of those rare situations where we were stuck for choices, it’s not the norm!
Have your travel plans ever gone really wrong? Did you board the wrong train? Let me know where you ended up or any tips on how to handle stressful travel!