My trip in 2007 to Venice, Italy, was the first time I’d traveled overseas alone, and it was one of my worst travel experiences.
The nightmare began with a downpour at Kennedy Airport that delayed the flight’s departure for three hours during which I gloomily watched thunder, lightning, and other menacing weather conditions. My anxiety was heightened by the knowledge that I had to change planes in Madrid. Originally, I’d worried about the four-hour layover. Now I wondered if I’d make the connecting flight.
The Barajas Airport in Madrid is one of those gigantic places with several buildings and trains between them. Under good conditions, it would be difficult to even find your connecting flight. When you are jetlagged, anxious, and unfamiliar with the Spanish language, it’s one of the worst airports for trying to make your connection. I still have vivid memories of the man at the information desk who sneered when I didn’t understand his directions.
I made the plane with a few minutes to spare, even though I had to take my shoes off and get my luggage checked. Little did anyone know the most dangerous thing about me at that point was my attitude.
I arrived at the Marco Polo Airport, 4 miles from Venice, but my luggage didn’t. I remember filling out the necessary forms while quietly weeping. My first hint that things could be worse came when the very nice clerk told me my luggage would be arriving on the next plane from Madrid.
Now I only had to get to Venice. The bus trip was uneventful, and my spirits brightened when I saw the incomparable Venice skyline. It may have been my worst travel experience, but that was my best view ever.
Only one more nightmarish experience remained: the vaporetto trip on the Grand Canal. Vaporettos are technically water buses, but I soon learned that they were really water-borne bowling alleys where the passengers were the pins. I can’t swear that the pilots got points for how many passengers tumbled in the course of a trip, but I’m very suspicious. It was one of the worst parts of the trip, especially since I’d by now been up for about 36 hours, and a mild breeze could have knocked me over.
Once I reached my destination and met my friends, all of whom had had equally awful travel experiences, I began to forget my suffering. My memories of my week in Venice are the best, even if the trip was the worst.