Another in my series on horrible travel experiences, which I am calling Travel Trocities. This one comes from my good friend Rick Smith of Farmington.

I, and about a dozen friends, signed up to participate in a mission trip to Zambia, Africa, in 2010. A number of us had done this before and thought we had the routine down. For any large group, getting the airline reservations booked as early as possible is a must. Since we had done this before, we felt relieved to be sitting at our kitchen tables looking out at the February snow knowing that the flight reservations for our June trip were etched in stone.

Or so we thought.

Then came April and the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland (we conjured up several other names for this in the coming months) that canceled and disrupted thousands of flights all summer and covered Northern Europe in ash. Since our itinerary had us flying through London, as our departure date neared, checking ash conditions and flight cancellations became a daily task.

In May, the volcano seemed to be calming down, flights were starting to return to normal and we thought the worst was over.

Then came the announcement of the British Airways strike. Again, flights were getting canceled, routes were getting rearranged and general chaos ensued. Daily calls to our travel agent now became the norm. Were we ever going to get to Africa?

Miraculously, just before our departure date, a tentative settlement of the strike was reached. Yay! Our trip was a go! With everyone’s spirits buoyed, we made it to Zambia without a hitch and had a wonderful experience — until the phone call from our travel agent. It seems the tentative strike agreement had fallen through and British Airways was on strike again, stranding us in Africa.

Personally, I was starting to think that wasn’t such a bad thing. However, others had a world to get back to, so our travel agent went into overtime mode trying to get us aboard anything flying anywhere. The problem was that this was 2010 and half of the world was gathering in Johannesburg, South Africa, at that moment for the Work Cup. Not a plane was to be had.

Everyone eventually made it home safely, and with memories to last a lifetime. One of mine is sitting in the lounge at the Johannesburg airport watching South Africa play Mexico in the World Cup while waiting for my flight. When South Africa won that game the entire airport (including me) erupted into a cheer that shook the entire building.

Sometimes you just have to go with the flow!

If you have had a bad travel experience, I would love to hear about it. You can email your story to me at [email protected]


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