different people come into your life at special times – for special reasons.
sometimes for love.
sometimes for support.
sometimes for inspiration.
and sometimes to keep you from being stranded at the airport en route to Rio.
the two girls and I laughed at the fact that – despite us not really doing the touristy stuff here in Buenos Aires – we kept running into each other. and you need to know that this is a big ole place. but 3 times in 4 days was enough and we finally all decided to sit down for a beer and get to know one another.
where ya from. where ya been. what’d ya like. where’s next?
isn’t Buenos Aires nice?
my god, it’s gorgeous. I don’t even want to go to Rio now. I just want to stay here until I fly back to the States.
yeah, we know. we were just in Rio, though, and it’s gorgeous there. so you’ll love it. and after everything they make you go through to get the visa, you’d better!
ugh. another long line at the border? do they charge us as much as they did in Bolivia?
you don’t have your’s yet?
nah. will just get it at the airport.
[they both looked at each other with a worried look, and then to me with a worried look. I always get nervous when people who know nothing about my well being worry about my well being.]
you’re not going to Rio.
why not? I laughed. thinking this might be Americans being Americans and making everything extreme.
because it takes weeks to get a visa. you have to get a certain type of photo, print out your bank statements, show a scan or copy of your last check from your employer, have a hotel booked and then pay $160.
I had none of those things.
and this is when my well being began to worry about my own well being. ’cause, see – my flight back to the States. the big ole expensive one that set me back I-don’t-even-want-to-tell-you-how-much… was from Rio.
but I remained calm. mostly because they were both good-looking and I wanted to appear tough.
guess I’ll just have to buy another cheap flight from here to Rio the same day and just get on my flight then.
the good-looking girls went back to being the worried girls.
they won’t let you on the plane here without a visa for there.
I suddenly stopped caring about being tough.
there isn’t money in my account for another I-don’t-want-to-tell-you-how-much flight. I spent that already on the first one.
I had a flight booked from here to Rio on Saturday.
and then from Rio to LAX a few days later.
there wasn’t going to be a visa.
and there wasn’t going to be a flight.
now, thank the man upstairs it was Sunday and nothing could be done. this gave me a chance to very calmly, very strategically and very methodically, get very, very drunk.
I seriously had nowhere to go. and no means to do it with. the last time I was this worried about actually making it out was Ethiopia a few years back.
do I go the Brazilian Embassy and wax [ahem] poetic about my own stupidity and see if they could expedite one?
could I beg them to let me on the flight and just live in the airport for 4 days?
do I go to the airlines and see how much it would be to change my Rio-Panama-LAX flight to Buenos Aires-Panama-LAX?
I chose the latter. because I love it here, it would be less hassle and fuck Brazil. they should post stuff like this all over travel websites. [note: they post this stuff all over travel websites].
so, to the airline office I went.
‘how much to change the flight?’ I asked in the nicest voice my hangover would allow.
‘we don’t fly from Buenos Aires to LAX.’
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. this is Buenos Aires! everything is perfect and beautiful and delicious! nothing ever goes wrong!
‘how much for a flight to Panama? and then I can just get my connecting flight there?’
‘you won’t be allowed on the plane if you miss your first flight.’
had I eaten any snacks the night before amidst my wine bender, this is where I would have pooped myself a little.
‘then what do I do?’
‘well, to fly from here to LAX will be $950′.
I was about $500 short of that.
a grey beard. broke. I stunk. toothpaste stains on my shorts. alone. homeless. 35…
and I’m about to have to call Mom and Dad for a flight home.
and just a week or so before, I was talking someone through his transitioning phase, telling him that ‘when it gets rough, that’s when you really have the adventure! that’s when you really get to know yourself!’
I had no interest in an adventure, nor in getting to know myself.
‘is there anything you would suggest?’- pleading.
‘well… there is one thing you can do. take a boat to Uruguay, then you could fly from there to Panama, Panama to Los Angeles. it would cost you $240.’
I handed her my card, praying there was enough. last time I checked, it was around $250.
turns out I had $224. but that’s why we have overdraft protection.
so there you go. I have to find a boat to a new country, pray they don’t have the same tastes in visa requirements as their neighbor to the north… and make my $262 in cash last for 9 more days.
and $10 of that goes to buying each of the girls a bottle of wine.
’cause lemme tell ya… finding this all out at the airport the day of would have been a kick in the pants.
p.s. both the timing and irony of my 2nd article for National Geographic making their home page being all about me – the seasoned traveler – sharing some tips from my wise learned mind is amazing.
p.p.s. sadly, having ended up in this situation many a time, I know a select few of you will do what you always do and ask if I need money. I do not. there are some cheques on the way to my account from a few clients – a few clients who ironically chose this month to be the time when they were late with their payments. and, well, tomorrow or the next day, the new travel project launches, which you can help support. so send nothing, except potty-mouth letters to Rio… stupid Rio.