And Awayyyy We Go......But Not Yet

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 Road Junkies 0 Comments


Day 1:  Atlanta to Washington, DC

So what motivates us to embark on this trip around the world?  Adventure.  Curiosity.  Challenge.  Perspective.  And that darn song!  What really makes us crave travel is its ability to jolt us out of our complacency and shove us out of our comfort zone.  Especially when we explore other countries and cultures.

In the next 80 days, we expect to encounter 16 different currencies, whose basic units have values ranging from 0.4 cents US (Hungarian forint) to $1.68 (British pound).  ("You're going to have to do a lot of math on this trip," our 11-year-old nephew and travel buddy Steven pointed out yesterday.)  Our adapters will enable us to plug our North American electronic devices into five different types of outlets.  We will cross over each of the world's 24 time zones, magically adding a full day to our otherwise humdrum lives in the process. 

As we travel, we will overhear conversations and announcements in 20-plus languages.  Even more, if you consider British, Australian, and New Zealander English to be foreign tongues.  In each new country, we must try to learn to say and recognize the critical local words to help us survive there—hello... please... thank you... toilet... vegetarian.  This challenge will escalate when we reach countries like Morocco, Bulgaria, Greece, and Israel, where even the alphabet will lose its familiarity.  We will struggle as we try to decipher signage, ticket machines, menus, traffic rules and shopping in each new country. 

Though the U.S. boasts a multicultural culinary diversity, we will no doubt run into food traditions that appear exotic or even bizarre to our Western palate.  Vegetarianism often gives us a great excuse to avoid some of the more unpalatable "meat" choices in other cultures.

We will teeter on the edge of civility as we attempt to understand and respect local customs.  What about tipping?  In some cultures, failure to tip a server at a restaurant may be interpreted as a condemnation of the service, whereas other cultures see tipping as an affront to the business owner for neglecting to compensate employees adequately. 

And then there are gestures.  Even nonverbal communication can be a minefield if you are not in tune with local convention and nuance.  Americans don't hesitate to flash a V-sign, or peace sign ✌, to a stranger.  "Hey, there, friend!  Peace!" we think we're communicating.  Do that in Australia or New Zealand, however, especially with your palm facing you, and you've just proffered the equivalent of what is known in the U.S. as "the finger."  To a perfect stranger, the opposite intent of your message is received.

These are the elements of travel that we relish.  Those that snap us out of our American insularity and remind us that there's a whole big world out there just waiting to be explored.  And that the United States is just one country out of the 200+ that occupy this globe.

And so begins Day 1.
With no direct flights from Atlanta to Reykjavik, we left Atlanta at noon, flying into Dulles International in Washington, facing a 6-hour layover before our 8:35 p.m. Icelandair flight.  It was not until our arrival at Dulles that we learned the Icelandair flight was delayed by three hours due to the second of four labor strikes by airport employees in Reykjavik.  Apparently the workforce is very disciplined and precise in their protests.  The strike is set for five hours only, 4 to 9 a.m., the airport's peak period for arriving flights from North America and departing flights to Europe.

Merci, AirFrance, via IcelandAir
What to do when a six-hour layover stretches into nine hours?  Taking a page from Uncle Joe, our family's most seasoned traveler, we tracked down the Icelandair lounge at Dulles, operated by AirFrance.  There we found a most hospitable place to while away the extra hours, with a bountiful buffet of free food and beverages.  As we munched and sipped, we thanked the travel gods for inspiring us to book business-class fares to Reykjavik, our golden ticket to enter this cornucopia.
So, what of our goal to engage a variety of conveyances on this journey?  Here are the results for Day 1:  limo, foot power, airport train, MD-88, escalator.
Day 1 conveyances
As we publish this post, we have just passed our originally scheduled departure time.  We're optimistic that we'll leave "on time" as re-scheduled at 11:30, a bit past our bed time, but, what the heck, we'll have almost six hours and 2,800 miles for a bit of shut-eye as we cross the ocean.  Tomorrow we'll be in Iceland, four time zones away, where it's actually already tomorrow tonight.  But here in Washington, tomorrow is another day.  When it arrives, we hope to be there and not here.