Fizzle, Sizzle, Bust: A lackluster welcome back from our RTW trip

Fizzle, Sizzle, Bust: A lackluster welcome back from our RTW trip

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Instead of the momentous celebration we had anticipated when we got back to the United States, it was more like fizzle, sizzle, bust. After journeying around the world for 386 days, we got a lackluster welcome back from our RTW trip.

It started out great. The flight from London to Philadelphia was smooth. We had a row of four seats to ourselves and a choice of about 250 movies to watch on the in-flight entertainment. Once in Philly, our plan was to only be on the ground for two short hours before hopping the next flight to Columbus, Ohio where my mom and nephews would greet us.

As the plane was descending after the eight hour flight from Heathrow, the excitement of actually coming full circle was bubbling up. The wheels were down, but moments before landing, the plane ascended for a go-around. Perhaps a sign. {fizzle}

Once on the ground, we made our way to customs. The new, fancy system threw us off. Rather than standing in line for an agent, we had to self-scan our passports, answer questions on the touch screen, have our photo taken (exactly what you want after a trans-Atlantic flight!) and then, with a printed receipt, proceed to an agent. We were slightly flustered, but still enthusiastic about our accomplishment when we handed over our passports.

We fielded the routine questions from the customs agent, but when asked if our trip was for business or pleasure, we told her we had just completed circumnavigating the earth. Her response: Why would anyone want to do that? Needless to say, she didn’t give us high fives and there was certainly no confetti falling from the ceiling. {sizzle}

Regaining our composure from the awkward conversation, we headed to the gate for the Columbus flight. In the time between leaving London and arriving in Philadelphia, our desired flight to Columbus had completely filled up, which left no seats for standby travelers like us. {bust}

The next flight out was in two hours and located in the far-away F Terminal. We boarded the shuttle bus with low expectations and, when they completed the boarding process and we still didn’t have seats, we got back on the shuttle to the main terminals to wait for the last Columbus flight of the night. {bust}

The flight was full, so we would need a miracle. But, miracles often happen when flying stand-by; we just needed one misconnect or a couple losing track of time in an airport bar. We weren’t the only ones hoping for a seat, but we were first on the list. Once the ticketed passengers were boarded, the gate agent called my name. Elated, I rushed to the podium, only to learn that a single seat remained. Splitting up wasn’t an option for us at this point, so the seat went to the next person in line. {bust}

Amazingly, in our 13 months of travel (which included 38 flights), we had insanely good luck as stand-by passengers and only once didn’t get seats on our intended flight. And, even then, we scored seats on the next flight 45 minutes later. This time – in our own country, on our own airline – we were bumped on three consecutive flights and would have to wait until the morning to try again. We felt completely defeated.

With the lackluster welcome back from our RTW trip, we researched hotels in Philadelphia. Anything under $100 had horrendous reviews – and spending more than a hundred bucks for a few hours in a hotel seemed ridiculous. The morning flight to Columbus left at 7:30 from the F Terminal, so – on our first night back in America – the F Terminal is where we would be sleeping.

We set up camp in a corner that had benches without armrests. Shops were already closing and the cleaning crew was coming through, confirming that this was probably the quietest terminal at the airport. Kris used scarves and jackets for blankets, I made use of the sleep sack I’d been carrying in my pack and we both used packing cubes as pillows. We brushed our teeth in the bathroom and got free water cups from Chipotle. Earplugs weren’t enough to drown out the blaring television, but at least they helped.

We surprisingly nodded off – only to be woken at 1:00am to the announcements of a departure at the gate next to where we were sleeping. In the vast, empty terminal, the one flight delayed into the middle of the night was in the place we decided to camp out. Go figure. The next four hours, we dozed on and off until the benches simply became too uncomfortable. We had been in airports and on airplanes for more than 24 hours. Like zombies, we waited at the gate for the flight. We were still first on the list and this time, we got seats. {Hooray for seats!}

Sleeping in the Philadelphia Airport after a lackluster welcome back from our RTW trip

Our welcome back to the US of A may have been anticlimactic and required us shifting gears, but, hey, that’s why we’re called JetSetting Fools!

We want to know: How were you welcomed to your home country after your RTW trip – or any long journey? Have a story? Share it in the comments!

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Lackluster welcome back from our RTW trip Jetsetting Fools

8 thoughts on “Fizzle, Sizzle, Bust: A lackluster welcome back from our RTW trip

  1. That sounds like a really shitty day all around. We’re due back in Canada in 2 weeks and really not looking forward to it..
    Oh, why do they have idiots working in customs? Happened to me coming back from Colombia where I had to transit through the US. The guy asked me why I had gone to Colombia. Vacation, I told him. ‘Why would anyone want to go there?” he asked. If Americans don’t want to be perceived as hicks they should better screen the kind of people asking the questions.
    Hope the rest of your stay is better and that you guys are back travelling soon 🙂
    Frank (bbqboy)

    • So true! Things have gotten MUCH better since our initial arrival! We’ll be traveling throughout the States, seeing family and friends and then off again in about 6 weeks! Hope your re-entry is more pleasant than ours 😉

      • Ah, glad to hear you will both be travelling again! Any idea where? We have things hanging over our heads so we haven’t thought of that next step…but we’ll have to start thinking of it because we’ll be off somewhere again over the next 6 weeks as well..

  2. Cathy Thomas

    This is Cathy from Coldwell Banker. I have followed your trip from beginning to end and looked forward with great anticipation each day for your stories and pictures. I am happy you are home safe, but, I must say- with sadness- I will miss my travels through your eyes and feet!
    Thank you for a wonderful adventure!
    Cathy Thomas

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