The Last Time I Will Travel Last Minute
Sophia Gore-Browne



I have heard plenty of last minute travel tales and always wanted to try the last ploy — book your flights the night before take off and figure out the rest when you get there. So that was our plan this summer, to make no plans. To me it was the epitome of spontaneity, which is one of the main causes, I believe, of that thing we call the travel bug — the thrill of the unknown, escape from routine, routine, routine. 

My best mate and I had three weeks to play with, left open intentionally for some adventure to appear before us. After a weekend of wreaking havoc on the streets of San Francisco and in our bank accounts, we realized we had to get out of America or at least the city. We had our hearts set on escaping the western world somehow, yearning for a culture shock of some kind. The most obvious place was to ride share down to Mexico’s border but earlier on in the summer I’d heard about cheap return flights to Guatemala. They were about half the price than the ones I’d looked at to Mexico City, which didn’t make sense seeing as its further away, but relating best to the nonsensical circumstances of this world we checked it out. Even better, if there was no demand to travel there it implied drama of some sort, therefore we wanted to go. 

But I’m not going to lie, this time spon-travel-aiety definitely had its costs. 

Number one rule, the idea that cheap deals exist the night before is a myth, which I naively still dreamed of being possible. 

Number two, in my experience, does not have any good last minute deals, which I thought was the whole point. 

Number three, the cheapest ticket out of all considered options is always the cheapest for a good reason; it is very indirect, which infers it is going to take at least double the amount of time because half the time you are going in the wrong direction. (A good example of the messed up priorities we all have: where the planet’s limited resources are more disposable than people’s time. I mean here I am moaning about having to go out of my way even though it was cheaper!) 

Our flight was still not cheap but the cheapest by a speck because we soon realized, just after the no going back ‘BOOK’ button had finally been pressed, that Hurricane Edouard was right in our path of flight! 

“Its all your fault,” I blamed my friend. “Just because you wanted to fly over hill billy country and see if you could spy on cowboys making out.” 

We had chosen to fly via Bush Inter-continental Airport, Houston since the other alternative was via North Carolina, which was north as well as east when all we wanted to do was go south. We were basically traveling two sides of a triangle instead of one, which inevitably involves a stop over somewhere no one would ever travel otherwise. 

After spending hours sifting our way through the unfathomable depths of the internet, the dream of just booking a flight and instantly setting off, gradually became a nightmare. The typical hassles of traveling abroad began to reveal themselves with questions that were essential to be answered before we left. Did we have travel health insurance? What were the visa requirements? Did we need malaria pills or vaccinations? What were the flight details and luggage weight limits? What was the weather report? It was monsoon season. 

By dawn the following day, the prospect of lugging our bags across San Fran on the BART to the airport certainly deflated any remaining thrill in the wild spontaneity of it all. There was none of the usual nervous giddiness when you wake up in the dark hours of the morning and sneak off before the day begins, as we didn’t even get a chance to sleep.  

Once we made it safely through passport control, changed our money into Quetzal, bought a Spanish phrase book, and grabbed more coffee (it was pushing it to justify getting a beer at 9:00 a.m.) there was a little catch up time, but it was more like disbelief and shock at just having been “randomly searched”  if you can call it that, as they did it to us again on the next flight. Being criminally shoved in an air jet stream where they suddenly shoot air at you in all directions, sounding like its letting off some deadly gas, definitely helped to wake me up to the situation we had gotten ourselves in to. 

But my first real trepidation about our choice of destination was not so much the fact my friend and I had no knowledge of the Spanish language between us, or that I realized I’d lost my departure form somewhere in between check in and the gate (the authorities had no problem letting me board anyway, but kindly warned me they might not feel the same on the other end) but the sudden realization we were on a flight with not just one, but at least two different New Age, born-again Christian, “Jesus Kicks Ass” missionary groups. (One way to get some insight to the place you are traveling to is to pay attention to the kind of people going there.) 

“At least we will have a safe flight,” I encouraged my friend who, besides the fact we were headed straight towards a Hurricane, is petrified of flying. Whilst she prayed we weren’t going to plummet to earth, I prayed they wouldn’t start singing. 

Looking back, it was quite befitting of the slightly kookie, but also wondrous spiritual journey we weren’t aware we were about to embark on, and 24 hours later when we landed in Guatemala City, we definitely received the full blown culture shock we had hoped for. 

(to be continued…)