The Unforgettable Taxi Ride

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Last October, I attended the TBEX conference for international travel bloggers. One of the breakout sessions offered was a two day travel writing seminar taught by David Farley, a well-respected travel writer. Taking this class was a challenging but invaluable experience.

Besides the wealth of information we received explaining the "dos and don'ts" of crafting memorable travel exposes, we were required to write several of our own travel pieces. Our assignments were read in class and critiqued by our teacher and fellow classmates. All the attendees were seasoned travel bloggers except me. "Cranking up"  my courage, I gave it my best.

The following is my first travel essay/memoir. Both the class and Farley, the way he wanted to be addressed, were complimentary with few suggestions. Let me know what you think; all comments and criticisms are valued!!

Dead tired and craving sleep, I arrived on a red-eye flight from St. Petersburg, Russia to Athens, Greece at 2:30am. I thanked God for a smooth flight and asked Him to be with me during my hotel transport into this unfamiliar European city.

Being a solo female traveler, I rarely take flights that get me to my destination after dark. When I do, I always make a reservation through my hotel for a driver to pick me up at the airport. Carelessly, I let this logistical detail slide and began questioning this planning oversight once the reality of getting to the hotel safely began to sink in. I know when I’m tired I make mistakes and I can be vulnerable.

Take the bus or take a cab were my two choices. With three heavy suitcases, I decided the bus was out. My pre-trip research warned “avoid” taking Athens’ taxis but I knew I had no other option at this hour of the night. Reluctantly, I got into the taxi line and discovered they didn’t take credit cards. Trying to keep my energy level up and remain calm, I returned to the terminal. Finding the ATM machine, I withdrew the needed cash and rolled the three overpacked suitcases back out to the taxi line.

Suspiciously looking the cabbies over, I chose the second vehicle because the driver appeared to be a “nice old man.” I showed him my hotel’s address and he couldn’t read English. Thankfully, one of his fellow cab drivers came to my rescue and explained in Greek where I needed to go.

We left the airport slowly and I began to relax. I thought to myself, “Maybe I’ll doze a little during the ride to the hotel.” Once we left the area surrounding the airport the “little old cabbie” morphed into a maniac speedster. I wondered “ What is possessing him to drive so fast? The streets are deserted.” Next, he turned the radio on and began blaring ethnic Greek music. Subsequently, he started shifting gears to the music’s rhythm, running yellow caution lights and screeching to a halt at the few red lights we encountered. His questionable route into central Athens was through desolate winding backroads, the city’s industrial warehouse zone and many marginal neighborhoods. I thought,” Why aren’t we taking a major  freeway into the city?”

 After ten minutes in “Mr. Toad’s” wild cab ride, I began to worry whether he was “all together?” Struggling to stay awake, he reached for his cup of coffee and wiped his face every time we stopped. I wondered, “Did he really understand where he was suppose to take me? What if he “lost it” and told me to get out of his car? What if he leaves me in the middle of nowhere?.” My imagination was running wild with a multitude of “bad things” that  could happen to me.

Proactively, I turned on my Iphone and tried to engage a Wifi signal. I thought if I became stranded at least my phone would record my whereabouts or, maybe, if I could gather my thoughts enough to Skype my husband, I could alert him to what was transpiring. Trying to relax, I said another prayer and attempted to make a plan if my worst fears materialized.

 Realizing I had no options, I totally surrendered this situation to the “good Lord” and mustered up the belief that I would make it to my hotel. Now feeling completely wired, I tried to remain lucid. At this exact moment, something unexplainable happened; accordingly, my entire “spirit” changed. I found myself having compassion for this bizarre cab driver thinking, “ He’s just trying to make it; he’s pushing himself in the middle of the night struggling to earn a honest living.” I wondered, “Had this man suffered some emotional breakdown in the past?” Miraculously, within moments, we began to reach civilization and the city proper. Car dealerships, grocery stores, nice neighborhoods materialized. Hesitantly, I began believing I would make it to my hotel and I would be in bed soon.

The sight of the NJV Hotel’s doorman was heavenly. Gingerly, he welcomed me to the hotel and retrieved my back-breaking luggage. Exhausted and somewhat traumatized, I peeled myself out of the cab. Finally, I thanked Athens’ “Mr. Toad,” wished him well and for good fortune gave him a sizable tip.

Finding God’s presence and testing one’s faith in the backseat of a cab made “unforgettable memories” for this solo woman traveler.

I will NEVER let this logistical detail slide again!!