Finally, I was taking my boyfriend to India, after many months of planning and waiting and visa applications and passport renewals. Finally, he would experience and understand the chaos, and food, that I knew and loved so much.
Because we were wrapping up a Workaway gig in Spain right before the India trip, we had tickets for a 6pm train from Alicante to Barcelona on the night before our early morning flights to India from the Barcelona airport.
However, when we get to the train station in Alicante around 4pm the day of our train journey, we discover that the train company RENFE has decided to go on strike for that entire week all over Spain. In big red letters, I read that our train to Barcelona, which was to take us to our India flight, was CANCELLED.
The sign actually reads as CANCELADO, in Spanish, so I see it and run, freaking out and ask my boyfriend E hopefully, “Heyyy, soooooo, can the word ‘cancelado’ mean something else in English?”
E moves to the ticket counter where there are a few guys lazing around, and he asks them about any other options for getting to BCN (Barcelona) by train, maybe by combining a couple trains?
At least the guy tells us we can get our money back, so he refunds the money for the tickets and even checks out the bus website, but the only bus going leaves too late and gets to BCN at 5am, when our flight is at 6am, so that wouldn’t work. Plus the bus would take a ridiculous TEN hours, when the train only takes (or was supposed to take!) FIVE hours to BCN.
In any case, it’s only 5pm at this point, so we walk as fast as we can with our big backpacks down to the Alicante bus station to double check that there is no other bus or combo of buses we can take.
We find an internet cafe downstairs in the bus station and stare at the computer, willing it to give us a solution. If we cannot get to BCN, we won’t get to INDIA. And that is something that just can’t happen.
We even check the rideshare site Bla Bla Car (we had used it several times in Spain already) for a last minute ride, but there is only one. We call him and ask if there are any seats left in his car.
I usually am good at this stuff, but this time, I really truly have no idea what to do. I can’t believe it. All I really want to do at this point is get the hell out of Spain and dive straight into India. When I think that BCN isn’t even that far away, and we have over 10 hours till we have to be at the airport, it seems like such a simple problem to solve–but there is simply no transport to get us there.
Then, out from the misty haze of my memories, I am struck by pop culture inspiration—we had recently watched an episode of the TV show How I Met Your Mother, where one guy has to get to a wedding in NYC from Minnesota, but a snowstorm cancels all flights from the Minnesota airport where he is, so he and another passenger rent a car to drive to NYC.
TADA! I found our solution!
(Yes, digital nomads, just like anyone else, are also capable of wasting hours of their life watching TV shows and movies online.)
I tell E, “WE HAVE TO RENT A CAR!!” And even though the idea freaks me out because we haven’t driven a car in ages, I am actually pretty excited for a road trip.
E asks the guy at the Tourist Info desk at the bus station for a nearby car rental agency, and they look at us as if we are aliens. And then, they start to laugh.
Apparently, we have to go to the Alicante airport to find any rental car agencies. Great.
But lucky for us, there is an airport bus stop right next to the bus station, so we wait about 15 minutes and catch the bus, which takes about 30 minutes to the Alicante airport. Sure enough, inside there are about 10 rental agencies, but some have long lines of passengers who have reservations already and are waiting to get their cars. We finally find one without any line so we go and ask, and for the first time, we hear YES! Yes, there is a car, of course. However, she tells us that the highway tolls are frequent enroute to BCN, on this newly redone coastal road called A7, the Mediterranean highway. But it doesnt matter, because this is basically our only chance, and if we don’t get there on time, we don’t make it to our flight for INDIA!
After finalizing the rental of a one-way car with insurance, we try not to freak out about the cost we just had to put on the one emergency credit card we have with us. We are given a new car, a black Ford Fiesta, really nice, it even has that new car smell. Since it’s about 8pm by the time we leave the airport in our car (E had to drive, it was a stick shift, since I’m from the US, land of automatic cars), it is already totally dark, and we have been given a few different options for directions. We keep taking the wrong exits, and it is about 9pm before we finally get on the right road, after asking at about three different gas stations.
We make just one more stop at a rest stop, and after me babbling nonstop to keep E awake and focused on the pitch black, completely empty, expensive highway (I even described the entire story from several episodes of Modern Family I had watched recently–good thing I watch too much TV right?), we reach the Barcelona airport at about 2am. Pretty good timing, faster than the train even. Stupid train.
We park the car in the rental agency’s parking lot, drop the keys in the drop box inside the airport and make our way slowly to the check in area where many Indian people are waiting already with about 8 gigantic, plastic wrapped suitcases per person. I eat an apple and try to sleep on the stiff plastic chairs and hope the endless line of suitcase people goes away. It doesn’t.
I had just been on a European road trip which I’d always dreamt of.. But what’s the point of a road trip when it’s completely dark and you can’t see anything? Oh right, India. I guess India was the point.