“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” ~Susan Heller
The wait was finally over. After six months of training and days of fretting, the day was finally here. I was heading to Amsterdam to compete in the European Championships for the Ireland Women’s team. Eight games in eight days. Over 2,000 players in attendance. Over 20 nationalities represented. One incredible experience.
I had my bags packed, my checklist crossed off, and I was ready to head to the airport to fly to Amsterdam. Or was I?
Packing for my trip was a struggle. There are four seasons in one day in Amsterdam, so I had to prepare for anything. Sweat pants? Check. Raincoat? Check. Sundress? Check. Quite the combination. Being an clotheshorse and over-packer by nature, luck was not on my side for shoving all my gear into one bag. I ordered a bag long enough to hold my sticks, turfs, and gear. Everything fit without any problem. What a relief!
Until I tried to pick it up.
I forgot one small detail. The size. It could easily double as a body bag. So while I was impressed with myself for fitting everything, I neglected to acknowledge that filling a four-foot long bag to the brim would weigh a ton. And it did. And the bag does not have rollers. No dice.
Judging it to weigh well over 50 lbs, I grabbed a smaller bag and began chucking clothes and gear between bags. Did I think to leave things at home? Nope. I just made more room to off-set the weight. I’m heading to Europe for three weeks, but packed for three months.
Everett, my amazing boyfriend, hauled my bags to the car and off we went to the airport with three hours to spare. I was flying out of Dulles International Airport, purgatory for all travelers. Having had a bad experience before at Dulles, I wanted to allow extra time before my 5:55 PM flight. As soon as we pulled up I knew that I was right. The line wrapped through the lanes and overflowed halfway down the terminal.
I was pulled from line by an attendant because she was worried about my bags being too heavy. My three-bag scheme fooled nobody. Rats. I wheeled myself to the scale, heaved my bags on to find that my body bag was exactly 50 lbs. But I wasn’t out of the clear just yet. My carry-on bags needed to weigh 25 lbs combined. The scale doesn’t lie. I was over by five pounds. Inwardly scolding myself for bringing 80 lbs of who-knows-what to Europe, I asked how much it would cost. $100 unless I took some articles out and wore them to the check-in counter. Well that was an easy answer.
While slowly weaving through a ridiculous line, I begin to look even more ridiculous with each turn. I pulled clothes from my bag and layered like a kid going sledding for the first time. My butt grew four sizes as I wrapped top after top around my waist. I waddled up to the counter hoping the attendant would not comment on the fact that I was clearly wearing a few pounds of extra clothes around my midsection. He didn’t seem to notice. Better yet, he didn’t weigh my carry-ons. All of that for nothing, except maybe the entertainment of my fellow passengers.
Now, for security. I held my breath as I prepared for what would await me at the bottom of the stairs. A massive blob on disgruntled travelers immediately came into view. Traveler’s dreams go to die at Dulles and this was just another day. Like cattle, I was herded with the rest from one end of the airport to the other. All the while I was stuck behind a man who smelled like onions. I’m sure he is a perfectly nice man, but come on. Mandatory deodorant application should be administered when they are checking your boarding pass to enter into security if you will be stuck there for over an hour.
The woman behind me missed her flight. The clock was ticking on making mine. Although I had allowed over 2.5 hours for this endeavor, I was still not on my way to my gate. I sent my bags through the scanners, anxiously eying the time. As I waited for my bag to be scanned, I heard the TSA agent say, “Um, I’m trying not to freak out, but do you see this?!?” Crap. I knew immediately what they were concerned about. In my bag swap, I put my stim machine in my carry-on. The stim machine is in a black case with lots of wires. Doesn’t take a genius to realize what they assume I’m carrying. The dreaded b-word.
Luckily, I was not seized on the spot. An explanation fell clumsily from my lips as the agent eyed me cautiously. Thankfully the case was deemed acceptable, but everything had to go through the scanner again. Tick, tock. Tick, tock.
I hurried to my terminal to grab some food to carry on the plane when I heard the final boarding call for my flight. Classic. A younger Sarah who always reached the gate in the nick of time would have still been waiting at the ticket counter covered in clothes. Instead, I heaved a sigh, grateful I have learned a few things over the years.
I boarded the flight only to find that I had a front row seat to the baby brigade. Directly diagonal to me were two infants, one toddler, and one 3-year-old all joining in a chorus of cries. Thank goodness for ear plugs. Ear plugs and complete exhaustion.
Seven hours later we touched down in a rainy and cold Amsterdam. 52 degrees and raining was not the welcome I had hoped for. I ran into some other lacrosse players in the terminal, which instantly warmed me up with the excitement for the days ahead.
I paid the extra 20 euros for early check-in, grabbed a big breakfast, and headed to bed. Devin, one of my teammates, was arriving many hours later, so I hunkered down to snooze for a bit. Devin’s knock on the door woke me up. Head pounding and completely disoriented, I stumbled to the door to let her in.
After lounging for a bit, Devin and I grabbed a burger for dinner. So American of us. Ironically, I hardly eat burgers at home. Go to Europe to eat like an American. Oh well. We wanted a safe and easy meal in the hotel, and we got it.
Now, I am off to bed. I barely know what time it is or what continent I’m on. It is 10:40 pm here and the sky is just beginning to go dark. Such a change from DC. Hoping to be fully rested and energized for our first day of practices tomorrow where the new players have to serenade the existing girls with Ireland’s National Anthem. In Gaelic. I don’t think mouthing “watermelon” will cut it. I will keep you posted.
Erin Go Bragh!