I have spoken a little about my trip to Costa Rica on a previous article here. What I failed to mention is that this particular trip almost never happened. Or at least, it almost did not happen the way it did.

To think that I almost missed out on seeing this beautiful view… / Et dire que j’ai failli rater cette superbe vue…

Ok, so file this under “rookie mistake”. I learned the hard way to always double-check your flight reservations, especially if you are in a city with multiple airports.

I used to live really close to JFK. By really close, I mean less than 8 minutes driving, 15 minutes on public transportation, and if there were sidewalks from my side of the airport I could have probably made it to one of the Airtrain stations in less than 20 minutes. Really close. The proximity to the airport was actually one of the main deciding factors when picking that specific apartment. While I do not exclusively fly from JFK, it has always been my main departure point when leaving New York for any amount of time.

So naturally, when booking flights, I tended to prefer flights departing from JFK. Originally the trip to Costa Rica was going to be with a friend in Canada. As we intended to meet up at the Fort Lauderdale airport to fly to San José, I did not book a direct flight from New York. She ended up canceling just a few months before the trip, but I still had a fun time with all the new people I met.

On the day I was to fly down to Costa Rica, I lounged around my apartment, taking my sweet time to pack. I believe I did a few loads of laundry, watched a couple of movies, and generally hung about. My flight to FLL was to leave around 6 p.m. and I was overconfident that I would make it to the airport in time. As I planned to only travel with a carry-on, I even planned to walk to the bus stop and take a bus to the airport, because spending money on a taxi would be pointless.

A cousin of mine arrived at my apartment around 2 p.m., and seeing me lounging on the couch in front of the TV, she wondered why I was not already ready for my flight. I remember laughing and reminding her that JFK was a few minutes away. My Caribbean family has always been very anxious about getting to the airport hours before our flight, so she could not understand my laissez-faire attitude. Living so close to the airport had truly changed that aspect of traveling for me.

I took my sweet time getting ready, and decided shortly after 3 that I would start gathering my things to head to the airport. I always like having a paper copy of everything related to my trip, so I sat down to print my flight itinerary. That is when I froze. Right there, on the itinerary, the three letter code for departure airport said LGA instead of JFK. A wave of panic hit me.

My cousin noticed that my entire attitude changed and she came to read over my shoulder what I was looking at on the laptop screen. I remember her exclaiming loudly what I was thinking inside. I was screwed.

Now I cannot imagine missing all of this / Maintenant c’est difficile d’imaginer que j’aurais raté tout ça

Somehow, I managed to get everything printed, zipped up my carry-on and called a taxi. He only took about five minutes to get to me, but it felt excruciating. Seeing my carry-on, he smiled and asked which airport I was going to.

“LaGuardia” I said, “And I need to be there in 20 minutes.” He looked at me to make sure he had heard me well. Then he pointed out that it was a weekday and that we would surely hit rush hour traffic. And he was right. As soon as we exited my neighborhood and got on the Van Wyck Expressway, I knew there was no way I would make that flight. And he really did his best to get me to the terminal fast. Sitting in the car, I prayed and I cried, and all I could think was that I would miss my Costa Rica tour. I had been looking forward to it for so long, it felt unfair that I would not get to enjoy it.

When I got out of the car, I rushed to the airline’s counter. When I asked if there was any chance I could get on my flight, the rep informed me that they had just closed the aircraft’s door. I was devastated. I started thinking about ways I could still save this experience. That’s when I looked over to another airline’s counter. They were still checking people in on a Fort Lauderdale flight. I dashed across and asked them if their flight would be on time. I asked what terminal they would be landing at, and if they still had seats. I got a brilliant idea. I rushed back to the first airline’s counter and asked them not to cancel my entire trip. I explained that I had found a way to make it to FLL for my second flight. My goal was to simply convince them that I would make my connection. Even as I talked, the prospect of actually making it seemed incredulous to me. The flight I should have been on was already in the air and any number of things could happen. Nonetheless, I was fully prepared to get stuck in Fort Lauderdale.

Now for my plan to work, everything had to run smoothly. I bought a business class ticket at an obvious last-minute premium so I could be sitting towards the front of the plane. I also slept during the entire first flight so I would be refreshed and ready to run upon touching down. The airlines were located in two separate terminals at FLL and that meant there would be quite a distance between the two gates. Shortly before landing I informed a flight attendant of my predicament. She was gracious enough to ensure I was the first person off the plane.

From that point on, I just remember running. I ran from the door of the airplane, through the terminal, got outside on the curb, and made it inside the next terminal over. I am pretty sure I looked like a mad woman sprinting with my carry-on and backpack, but if you have been to an airport, chances are you have seen people running to catch a flight. Somehow, because of the late evening hours perhaps, there was no line at the TSA checkpoint. I got through super quick and kept running, I heard them calling my name on the airport speakers. They were ready to close the door of the aircraft. I arrived at the gate, panting and disheveled… and I made it on the plane.

I am still amazed that I made it on that flight. My trip to Costa Rica was everything and more. I had such a fantastic time with the people on my tour. I shudder to think I could have missed it entirely. That experience taught me a few things though. I learned to always triple-check my flight itinerary, to stop mocking people like my family members who show up extra early for flights, to always have extra emergency funds for a trip, but most importantly, I learned to learn to be flexible as plans change. When traveling now, I always prepare for the unexpected, even if the unexpected happens because of me.

I would not have seen coatis in the wild / Je n’aurais pas vu de coatis sauvages

***

J’ai parlé un peu de mon voyage au Costa Rica dans un article précédent ici. Ce que je n’ai pas mentionné, c’est que ce voyage en particulier n’a presque pas eu lieu. Ou du moins, cela ne s’est presque pas passé comme ça.

D’accord, alors enregistrez ceci sous “erreur de débutante”. J’ai appris d’une manière difficile de toujours vérifier mes réservations de vol, surtout dans une ville avec plusieurs aéroports.

If I had not made the second flight, I probably would not have crossed Lake Arenal / Si javais raté le dexième vol, je n’aurais pas traversé le Lac Arenal

J’habitais très près de JFK à l’époque. Par vraiment proche, je veux dire moins de 8 minutes en voiture, 15 minutes en transports publics, et s’il y avait des trottoirs de mon côté de l’aéroport, j’aurais probablement pu me rendre à l’une des stations Airtrain en moins de 20 minutes. Vraiment proche. La proximité de l’aéroport était en fait l’un des principaux facteurs décisifs lors du choix de cet appartement spécifique. Bien que je ne vole pas exclusivement à partir de JFK, cela a toujours été mon principal point de départ lorsque je quitte New York pour une durée quelconque.

Alors naturellement, lors de la réservation de vols, j’ai tendance à préférer les vols au départ de JFK. À l’origine, le voyage au Costa Rica devait se faire avec une amie du Canada. Comme nous avions l’intention de nous retrouver à l’aéroport de Fort Lauderdale pour voler vers San José, je n’ai pas réservé de vol direct depuis New York. Elle a fini par annuler quelques mois avant le voyage, mais je me suis quand même amusée avec toutes les nouvelles personnes que j’ai rencontrées là-bas.

Le jour où je devais m’envoler pour le Costa Rica, je me suis prélassée dans mon appartement, prenant mon temps pour faire mes valises. Je crois que j’ai fait de la lessive, regardé quelques films et généralement traîné. Mon vol pour FLL devait partir vers 18 heures, et j’étais trop sûre de pouvoir arriver à l’aéroport à temps. Comme je prévoyais de voyager uniquement avec un bagage à main, j’ai même prévu de marcher jusqu’à l’arrêt de bus et de prendre un bus pour l’aéroport, car dépenser de l’argent en taxi serait inutile.

Une de mes cousines est arrivée à mon appartement vers 14 heures, et en me voyant allongée sur le canapé devant la télé, elle s’est demandé pourquoi je n’étais pas déjà prête pour mon vol. Je me souviens avoir ri et lui avoir rappelé que JFK était à quelques minutes. Ma famille caribéenne a toujours été très impatiente d’arriver à l’aéroport quelques heures avant notre vol, elle ne pouvait donc pas comprendre mon attitude de laisser-faire. Vivre si près de l’aéroport avait vraiment changé cet aspect pour moi en ce qui concerne les voyages en avion.

J’ai pris mon temps pour me préparer et j’ai décidé peu après 15 heures que je commencerais à rassembler mes affaires pour me rendre à l’aéroport. J’aime toujours avoir une copie papier de tout ce qui concerne mes voyages, alors je me suis assise pour imprimer mon itinéraire de vol. C’est là que je suis restée figée. Juste là, sur l’itinéraire, le code à trois lettres de l’aéroport de départ indiquait LGA au lieu de JFK. Une vague de panique m’a frappée.

Ma cousine a remarqué que toute mon attitude avait changé et elle est venue lire par-dessus mon épaule ce que je regardais sur l’écran. Je me souviens qu’elle a crié fort ce que je pensais à l’intérieur. J’étais foutue.

D’une manière ou d’une autre, j’ai réussi à tout imprimer, j’ai fermé la fermeture éclair de mon bagage à main et j’ai appelé un taxi. Il n’a mis qu’environ cinq minutes pour m’atteindre, mais c’était atroce. Voyant mon bagage à main, il a souri et m’a demandé à quel aéroport j’allais.

“LaGuardia” j’ai dit: “Et je dois y être dans 20 minutes.” Il m’a regardé pour s’assurer qu’il m’avait bien entendu. Ensuite, il a souligné que c’était un jour de semaine et que nous allions sûrement être pris dans les embouteillages car c’était aux heures de pointe. Et il avait raison. Dès que nous sommes sortis de mon quartier et que nous sommes montés sur l’autoroute Van Wyck, je savais qu’il n’y avait aucun moyen d’être sur ce vol. Et il a vraiment fait de son mieux pour me conduire rapidement au terminal. Assise dans la voiture, j’ai prié et j’ai pleuré, et tout ce que je pouvais penser c’était que je manquerais ma tournée au Costa Rica. J’avais hâte d’y être depuis si longtemps, il me semblait injuste de ne pas pouvoir en profiter.

The landscape when driving away from San José / En laissant San José le paysage est superbe

En sortant de la voiture, je me suis précipitée au comptoir de la compagnie aérienne. Quand j’ai demandé s’il y avait une chance que je puisse prendre mon vol, le représentant m’a informé qu’ils venaient de fermer la porte de l’avion. J’étais dévastée. J’ai commencé à réfléchir aux moyens de sauver cette expérience. C’est alors que j’ai regardé vers le comptoir d’une autre compagnie aérienne. Ils étaient toujours en train d’enregistrer des passagers sur un vol qui devait se rendre à Fort Lauderdale. Je me suis précipitée et leur ai demandé si leur vol serait à l’heure. J’ai demandé à quel terminal ils atterriraient et s’ils avaient encore des places. J’ai eu une idée géniale à ce moment là. Je suis retournée au comptoir de la première compagnie aérienne et leur ai demandé de ne pas annuler tout mon itinéraire. J’ai expliqué que j’avais trouvé un moyen de me rendre à FLL pour mon deuxième vol. Mon objectif était simplement de les convaincre que je ne raterais pas ma connexion. Alors même que je parlais, ça m’a paru incrédule. Le vol que j’aurais dû prendre était déjà dans les airs et un certain nombre de choses pouvaient arriver. Néanmoins, j’étais tout à fait prête à rester coincée à Fort Lauderdale.

Maintenant, pour que mon plan fonctionne, tout devait se dérouler correctement. J’ai acheté un billet en classe affaires de dernière minute pour pouvoir être assise à l’avant de l’avion. J’ai également dormi pendant tout le premier vol pour être reposée et prête à courir à l’atterrissage. Les compagnies aériennes étaient situées dans deux terminaux séparés à FLL et cela signifiait qu’il y aurait une assez grande distance entre les deux portes d’avion. Peu de temps avant l’atterrissage, j’ai informé une hôtesse de l’air de ma situation difficile. Elle a eu la gentillesse de s’assurer que je sois la première personne à descendre de l’avion.

À partir de là, je me souviens juste d’avoir couru. J’ai couru de la porte de l’avion, à travers le terminal, je suis sortie sur le trottoir dehors et je suis entrée dans le terminal suivant. Je suis sûre que je ressemblais à une femme folle sprintant avec mon bagage à main et mon sac à dos, mais si vous avez été dans un aéroport, il y a de fortes chances que vous ayez vu des gens courir pour prendre un vol. D’une manière ou d’une autre, peut-être parce qu’il était plutôt tard, il n’y avait pas de file d’attente au point de contrôle de la TSA. J’ai traversé très vite et j’ai continué à courir, j’ai entendu mon nom sur les haut-parleurs de l’aéroport. Ils étaient prêts à fermer la porte de l’avion. Je suis arrivé à la porte, haletante et échevelée … et je suis montée dans l’avion.

Je suis toujours étonnée d’avoir réussi à prendre ce vol. Mon voyage au Costa Rica était entièrement satisfaisant, plus que je ne l ‘espérais. J’ai passé un moment fantastique avec les gens de mon groupe. Je frémis en pensant que j’aurais pu le rater complètement. Cette expérience m’a cependant appris plusieurs choses. J’ai appris à toujours vérifier trois fois mon itinéraire de vol, à cesser de me moquer des gens comme les membres de ma famille qui se présentent très tôt pour les vols, à toujours avoir des fonds d’urgence supplémentaires pour un voyage, mais surtout, j’ai appris à être flexible avec mes plans. Lorsque je voyage maintenant, je me prépare toujours à l’inattendu, même si l’inattendu se produit parfois à cause de moi.

I would not have been all smiles in Manuel Antonio / Je n’aurais pas été à Manuel Antonio toute souriante

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