Winning the backpackers lottery


They say a watched pot never boils so I suppose a watched clock never moves. It was 1:30 in the morning, I had already traveled by boat and bus for 3 hours, waited for my first flight for 9 hours and completed my first 2 hour flight. I was ready for flight number 2 out of 4 but the plane was nowhere in sight. All I could do was stare at the hands on the wall that never seemed to change. The wait from 1am to 4am when the plane finally took off felt like an eternity. Little did I know these few hours of delay would be my blessing in disguise.

The flight from Jakarta to Abu Dhabi takes 8 hours. I can’t sleep on flights so I passed the time with a couple of movies, writing, reading and at least one combined hour of staring enviously at those that slept and snored and somehow slept through their snoring. Half delirious I kept busy and the time passed. At this point my worry was not in the lack of sleep I’d had but what the next several hours would bring. The delay from Jakarta ensured missing my connecting flight to Athens. This is normally a bad thing.

Most of the people transferring to Europe missed connecting flights. Once off the plane we were met by a representative from the airline readied with alternate itineraries and hotel accommodation. Trying to help, this young man found himself confronted with competing voices and accents shouting over each other in anger. His offers were almost entirely met with rejection. Not me.

I slinked through the mob of stressed, upset travelers and made my way to the center of the semi-circle. I smiled, held my hand out and gratefully, happily, excitedly accepted my free hotel, free food and free ride. Unlike the other passengers pressed for time, I have no office to be at, no person expecting me, no life to get back to. I just get to take advantage of a free night in a nice hotel and a good nights sleep.

As a backpacker, I have low expectation for things like accommodation. Peoples couches or floors and bunk beds in dorm rooms are my norm and it works just fine. This hotel cost more for one night than I typically spend in one week and a nice plush bed and my very own room are very, very, very welcome. Living out of a backpack with 4 to 10 new roommates every night will make you really appreciate a space all to yourself. Walking around naked is a freedom you don’t realize can be terribly missed.

To my delight the hotel was conveniently situated in the middle of the city. An unexpected day of sight-seeing Abu Dhabi, shopping and eating an entire hotels buffet (cause it’s free and I’m a shameless backpacker) were met with open arms. My room had two TV’s! Who needs that? One for the living room and one for the bedroom. I had a living room! I slept in an X across the bed, used every toiletry provided, took advantage of the gym and made sure to call reception to make requests and ask questions just because I could.


So while angry, tired travelers just wanting to get home ate their cheese plates and 14 different types of croissants in haste, I showed up early to the buffet and stayed eating late. Their worst nightmare was my dream come true. I had won the lottery in the world of backpacking.

When people say to me, I wish I could do what you do, I think, no you don’t…you wish you could do what I did for one night for an entire month…me too. Maybe one day.

That was fun. Now back to reality.