There is no better feeling in the world than getting off your long flight feeling disheveled, exhausted, out of it, jet lagged, and seeing a little (it is usually a man) standing outside the departure gate with a little sign and a misspelled version of your name on it. There is no haggling over expensive cab fares in a language you don’t understand with a currency you don’t even have in your hands yet. There is no one to tell you that “your hotel has burned down, just yesterday, but not to worry as they know a very good one just down the street.” Yes…you’ll probably pay a little more, but you won’t be chased out of the airport by 300 cab drivers just itching to rip off the foreigner with a backpack. You’ll know that the driver is taking you where you requested, and if the pick-up is arranged from your hotel, you don’t even have to worry about exchanging cash at the over-priced airport currency convertors.
I know, I know this is a ridiculous luxury for someone traveling on a budget, but, if you are arriving at a difficult time, its your first time in a country, you’ve arranged your hotel, you don’t know the city, and public transportation is not an option, it is so worth the ridiculous price. I have been incredibly lucky on a few occasions and have had fellow travellers pitying the dumb girl with the backpack and offering to drop me off wherever it was I was going (I still remember and am amazed at the ridiculous kindness of one of the owners of a Montreal-based company, Family Games who had his driver drive me across Delhi to my hostel, which of course had no record of me booking when I arrived….check them out as they have some really really neat stuff: http://www.familygamesamerica.com/mainsite/consumers/index_xmas.php ) But as kind as strangers often are, you can never count on someone just offering to drive you where you want to go.
Case in point: Corsica, Christmas 2008 aka the trip that made me realize that traveling on my own was no longer cracked up to what it used to be (or at least not in Napoleon’s “Paradise”). After a few transfers and a long flight, I arrived at the Corsica International airport. Thinking I was on the ball for actually reserving a hotel room, something I never used to do, I exited the airport waiting for the throngs of cab drivers to fight for my business. I stepped out into the surprisingly cool night . A few Corsicans were being picked up by family. I saw a business man hop into a cab…the one and only cab….and then I waited for the next one…and I waited….I sat on my bike box and I waited….I dragged my bike box to the other end of the airport thinking I was in the wrong place for cabs…nothing…I started taking my bike box apart thinking surely I could put my bike together in the dark, and I could just ride the 30 km at night, uphill, to the hotel….Finally, after having a good laugh at me, someone took pity on me, and told me there would be no cabs, and if I wanted to have any hope of leaving the airport that night, or even that week, I should just hop in the truck with them….This was only a sign of things to come…..snow storms, entire villages shut down with not a restaurant or overpriced hotel in sight. New Years Eve spent eating lindt Chocolate, and gummies, perched in an abandoned treehouse over the Mediterranean as gun shots rang out and I imagined being mistaken for some perpetrator of a long committed but never forgotten vendetta (In Corsica some people still believe that if someone wrongs your family you have the right to kill them).