I think the last time I ever remember being stuck in an airport was last time I went to Europe – when I was 7. And then, I was asleep and I was with my parents, so everything would magically work out because it always does when you’re with your parents, right?
This time, I was 20 (an “adult”), and stuck overnight in the Tim Hortons in the Montreal airport overnight, then stuck again overnight in London. At the very least, it made me realize that I was traveling alone and the next four months could be a lot like the first few days. Maybe not the best start.
We boarded and everything seemed fine, then they let us know there would probably be a 20 minute or so delay for some maintenance. A half hour later, they told us that they needed a little more time, and almost two hours later, they made a final announcement apologizing and saying that they would run one last test but we might need to resort to ‘plan B’. Not long after, they said that the test wasn’t successful and that the flight was canceled. We all left the plane and waited around until they told us that it was rescheduled for 8 am the next morning.
It was currently 10:30 pm, and they said they would only provide hotels for those that weren’t from Montreal. I wasn’t about to go home, only to catch the bus to the airport again at 4 in the morning. I’m not even sure if they run that early! By the time I got my bag and got through customs, it was close to midnight.
Being lazy and cheap, I decided to stick it out and stay at the airport overnight. I bought myself an (overpriced) glass of wine and unashamedly knit at the bar until it closed, then went to Tim’s for a snack and some tea, and waited for news.
After keeping myself awake until 4 am, I decided that I should probably check in so that I could get rid of my big suitcase and maybe sleep somewhere once I was past security. I still hadn’t heard anything about rescheduling my connection but I figured they would sort it out when I checked in, since they specifically said NOT to contact them about connections because they would sort everything out. I’m glad I went so early because the line was the longest I’ve ever seen! It took me over an hour and a half to get through, and then they told me that I couldn’t check in because my connection from London to Berlin hadn’t been rescheduled yet, and to go to ticketing instead…
Turns out I would miss the evening flight to Berlin by about 20 minutes. So, I ended up spending an unexpected night in London (Heathrow) at a hotel and arriving in Berlin a day later than planned. At least I had somewhere I could sleep, and a couple free meals! I can’t manage to sleep much on planes no matter how tired I am, so I only slept about an hour on the plane after being up all night. I had to be back at the airport pretty early for my flight so I still didn’t sleep a ton at the hotel in Heathrow, but it definitely beat staying at the airport!
When I went to catch the bus to the airport the next day, I didn’t know which terminal I needed to go to – I thought I’d just sort it out when I got there. See, in Montreal, there are two terminals: domestic and international. And if you end up at the wrong one, you walk to the other one. But the Heathrow airport is massive! There are five terminals, all international, that you need a half hour on a bus to get between!!
The people at the front desk at the hotel looked at me like I was an idiot when I said I didn’t know which terminal I needed to go to – turns out there are different shuttles for different terminals because they’re so far apart. These are the kinds of things it would be really helpful if someone told you when you’re traveling on your own for the first time and you’ve never been to an airport before.
Thankfully from then on, everything went pretty smoothly. The flight was fine and even arrived a little early, and I was surprised how little they checked at customs once I arrived. They didn’t ask me why I was there or how long I was staying, just scanned and stamped my passport. I was expecting a lot more, because when I checked in for my flight in Montreal they wanted to make sure I had all the documentation for my internship ready, since I don’t yet have a visa.
I found a (vegan!) sandwich for lunch, which was pretty welcome after eating not much besides nuts, fruit and dried cereal for the past couple days.
It was a pretty short taxi ride to my host family’s house in suburban Berlin. It looks like a very cute neighborhood! I met my hosts, an adorable old retired couple named Uta and Udo, and they both speak English reasonably well. I’m not sure if they just don’t understand how little German I speak, or if they think that if they keep throwing it at me I’ll eventually pick it up, but they prefer to speak to me first in German then only switch to English when I give them a blank and apologetic look. I’ll probably appreciate the immersion once I have some basics down, but right now I’m pretty useless! I’ve had to mime a few things with varying degrees of success. Should be an interesting first few days.