After reading story after story about travel rage (anger vs. trend) and how airlines and airports are completely unprepared to deal with severe weather conditions, Mate Tokić's travel saga was a refreshing reprieve. It even left me feeling a little, what's that word ... hopeful?
Imagine if you will the perfect setting for a travel saga: Handsome history professor is flying from Egypt to Washington, DC, the week before Christmas through a harrowing snowstorm and connecting through a crippled London Heathrow. He gets stranded on the runway for hours, the flight is eventually canceled, his luggage is MIA, and there are no agents behind the counter to help him schedule another flight or arrange for a hotel.
"For thousands of people stuck at the airport, the conditions were unacceptable. The offers of crackers, bottled water and aluminum blankets made by airport staff scarcely addressed the frustrations, distress and even rage of many passengers forced to spend days at the airport with no real sense of when travel would resume."
Mate needs to rebook his flight and find a place to stay, but he doesn't have a phone (more on that later) or a Facebook account (yes, hard to believe), so he finds an internet café and uses Skype on his computer to book another flight for the following week and hook up with friends of friends in London.
"A friend from my days in Berlin, and who now lives in Croatia, set up a Skype conference call with an ex-boyfriend to see if I could sleep on his couch. A close friend in Budapest, who relayed my Skype SOS to her Facebook page, asked if anyone could provide a real bed and some shelter for a stranded soul."
Mate survived the great Heathrow Crisis of 2011 by relying on the kindness of others and eventually made it home for Christmas.
"I found a comfortable, quiet place to sleep in the cozy homes of strangers. I even made time to visit the Tate Modern and enjoy a nice pint of my favorite bitter on the Southbank in London, which is a pleasure in any season."
Oddly enough, Mate was scheduled to fly back to Egypt out of Washington Dulles Airport through Heathrow just last night (Jan. 26) but his flight was canceled due to yet another snowstorm. May the power of the social network be with him.
So take a moment to hug your mobile phone and read Mate's entire Saga of a Stranded Traveler at TravelChannel.com. I predict it will leave you with 2 very haunting questions: How would I have handled the situation, and why would anyone throw their phone into the Nile River just days before an international trip?