A Monkey Wrench in the Plans

Our trip around the world has thrown all sorts of surprises at us: elephants storming through our campsite, going to countries we didn’t plan on visiting, having complete strangers offer us shots of moonshine before noon… the list goes on and on. But our biggest one came just a week after we wrapped up our three months visiting Asia.

Due to our usage of standby tickets from a popular U.S. airline, if we need to travel to a different continent, most of the time we would have to do it by going through North America. For example, our plans were to go to Australia after Asia, and that meant we would have to fly to Los Angeles first. Strange, yes, but that’s how these tickets worked.

Well Dana found out in late December that her brother Matt would be heading to Afghanistan in 2011 as he is enlisted in the U.S. Navy. She really wanted to see him once more before he left, so we switched our tickets to come home for Christmas/New Year’s and then head to Los Angeles and ultimately, Australia right after the new year.

We felt really lucky to be spending the holidays with our family and friends (Dana: and our Dogs!) between Milwaukee and Chicago, and spent hours recounting all the stories from the trip, with lots of people making weird faces as we told them about staying in hotels for $8 and riding on all sorts of weird transportation for ridiculous amounts of time. For us, it was like a mini-preview of what it will be like when our trip concludes this Summer.

We were happy to celebrate Christmas with Dana's nephew, Evan!

Hanging out with some of our best friends for New Year's Eve in Chicago!

The iconic Sears Tower, worthy of mention in a trip around the world...

After all the good times we had, it was time to get back on the road, and that meant flights from Milwaukee to Minneapolis, Minneapolis to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia. Unfortunately, Mother Nature thought she would make things interesting and throw a gigantic blizzard at the Northeastern United States. Now you say, “But Minneapolis is in the Midwest!” Yep, and that means that all sorts of flights are getting cancelled, rerouted, and overbooked as people are scrambling to get reassigned. That is usually the kiss of death for travelling standby. But somehow, we had four chances to make it onto the Minneapolis-Los Angeles flight, and we succeeded on plane number two.

After seeing the view from this window, we'd probably be happy going anywhere other than the Midwest of the USA.

Upon arriving at LAX, we rushed over to the connecting gate to Sydney, read the standby list… and realized there was a 0.001% chance we were headed to Sydney that night. Dana and I were 35th on a standby list of 60, and the number of empty seats available were 12. No Australia for us, at least not this night. The silver lining to this was a good friend from college named Sage lived in Huntington Beach, which wasn’t too far away from Los Angeles. She picked us up, let us stay with her, and since the next flight wasn’t until 10:30 pm, that meant we had a whole day to visit the California coast.

Surfing in January? Living in California must be nice!

We met up with a friend of Dana’s who moved out to Los Angeles last year for lunch, tried to research more of our plans once we got to Australia, and enjoy the nice weather. Then we headed out to LAX again that evening in hopes of a better chance at getting on our flight. Those hopes were dashed within minutes of getting to the gate. 25th in line, only 5 seats available. Guhhhhhhhhhhh. It looks like it would be another night in Huntington Beach.

We realize being stuck in Los Angeles won't garner much sympathy with views like this....

.... or this.

We used the second day of our California “detour” to come up with a plan B, and it was a pretty drastic one. If we got denied on our third attempt to Sydney, we would change our flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina and start our South American part of the trip two months early. We just hoped that it wouldn’t have to come to that, and the third time would be the charm to get to Australia. It felt like Groundhog’s Day checking in, going through security, and heading to the gate.  My eyes starting to scroll down the names on the standby list. 28th in line, 12 free seats. Shut out for the third straight attempt.

The next morning we made the biggest decision of the trip, eliminating an entire continent to spend extra time in another. But with last-minute, one-way tickets costing over $900 each, there was no way we could make it happen. Honestly, the hardest part of this decision was the sad realization that we wouldn’t get the opportunity to see our Aussie friends we met while travelling through Africa. Even if we decided to switch things around and go to Australia near the end of the trip, we would be arriving in the middle of the Winter. So, for now, Down Under will have to wait awhile for us to visit.

For better or worse, we went ahead and hopped on a plane headed for Buenos Aires, Argentina (via Atlanta). Plenty of seats were available, and we got to fly first class just like on the first flight of the trip to Amsterdam! A freak snowstorm tried to thwart us from leaving Atlanta, but we got out of town with literally only minutes to spare. With only two de-icers at one of the world’s largest airports, we thought there was no chance we would be getting out of town before our flight was cancelled, but after a two-hour delay we were off again on the next leg of our big adventure. Next time your hear from us, get ready for 5 months of posts from South America!


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