Book Jeff

Blaine, Trains & Automobiles

Years ago, a friend of mine boarded a plane in San Francisco flying east to Fayetteville, North Carolina. Her son was a chaplain in the Army, and she was excited to spend Christmas with him and his family. She was especially excited to be spending the holidays with her grandkids. Imagine her shock when she deplaned and realized she was in Fayetteville.

Fayetteville, Arkansas.

I’ve always wondered how such a thing can happen. Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Fayetteville, North Carolina, aren’t even in the same state. How hard can it be?

Last week, I got my answer. Lyndsey and I took a one-way repositioning cruise on the Disney Wonder sailing from San Diego, California, to Vancouver, British Columbia. When we planned our journey home, we decided to stop in Seattle and spend three nights with family. We chose to book an Amtrak train, our first, from Vancouver to Seattle. After four days at sea, a three-hour train trip through the Pacific Northwest seemed like the perfect segue from ship and sea to land and reality.

Despite Vancouver’s port being bigger than either of us anticipated, getting from there to Vancouver’s downtown train station was super-easy. We stepped off the ship, caught an Uber, and a short six miles later were dropped off an hour ahead of our train’s scheduled departure.

But no one had a clue about where we needed to go to catch our train. The only anything leaving from the station for Seattle was an Amtrak bus at 11:30 a.m. And it was already sold out.

Nothing made sense. We had Amtrak tickets. Amtrak tickets for a train, not a bus. Tickets for a train scheduled to leave Vancouver at 10:58 a.m. and arrive in Seattle shortly after 2 p.m. But no trains were scheduled to leave for Seattle that day.

Finally, an employee with VIA Rail Canada took a closer look at our tickets and discovered the problem. Yes, I had booked an Amtrak ticket for a train out of Vancouver.

Vancouver, Washington.

After a quick geography lesson, we realized we were three hundred miles from the Vancouver where I booked our ticket and still one hundred and sixty-five miles from Seattle. The bus was sold out. Airlines were astronomical. Our only viable option was to take an Uber to the border, clear customs, walk across, and catch a second Uber in the border town of Blaine, Washington.

And yes, it was uber-expensive.

Between Blaine and Seattle, I remembered a popular social media post shared by many, “If you’re having a bad day, just remember that the airport in Salzburg, Austria, has a counter for people who flew to Austria instead of Australia.”

Except Lyndsey and I weren’t having a bad day. Walking across an international border, while not planned, was fun! We love misadventure along with the stories and life lessons that follow.

And the airport in Salzburg doesn’t have a counter to redirect misguided tourists to Sydney and the correct continent. The misconception stems from an advertisement for a technology company that ran on a baggage carousel at the airport, which joked about offering such a service.

But we’ve all been there, right? Maybe not to Fayetteville, Vancouver, Austria, or even Australia. But we’ve all set out in one direction only to realize we ended up somewhere completely different. And that’s okay.

Meticulous planning has its place. It’s okay to double-check your destination. But when it comes to careers, goals, dreams, and vacations, there’s something magical about leaving room for the unknown. Life has a way of throwing us curveballs, leading you to unexpected places and delivering unexpected experiences. Your ability to embrace what comes is all about your state of mind.

And like Canada, that’s a whole other country.

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