The perfect opportunity for an extended trip came about with a free weekend at the end of March that would lead into the start of Semana Santa (Holy Week), during which there’s no school. I saw my friend Lis had posted that she was flying to Mallorca round-trip for 33 Euro, and she had asked if anyone would like to come with her. Never having heard of Mallorca before, I Googled it, realized it was an island in the Mediterranean, saw some pictures, and was sold on the idea within five seconds.
Mediterranean beach weekend getaway and the round-trip flight’s only 33 pavos? ¡Apúntame! I bought my ticket right away, and told Lis I’d join her. It ended up just being the two of us who went, but that’s no problem, man! The less people, the less time gets wasted. Or so I thought. (Blatant foreshadowing)
We wanted this trip to be as cheap as possible (HA!), so we decided that we were going to try CouchSurfing (our first time!). I looked at a few profiles of people who lived on the island, but I was nervous and a bit overwhelmed by the idea of just contacting someone to ask if we could stay at their house for a few days. I ended up sending out a general post, letting local hosts know that two nice American girls were going to be there from March 28th until April 2nd (I really didn’t want to miss Semana Santa in Sevilla), and I was hoping that someone decent would contact me.
And by “decent,” I mean, “not a rapist or psycho killer.”
Brownie points if you suddenly got the Talking Heads song stuck in your head. (Fa fa fa faa fa fa fa fa faa…)
I was contacted by a potential host shortly afterward, named Dante. I checked out his profile and references, and he seemed nice enough. I accepted Dante’s invitation and just hoped that everything would go well. And that, you know, I’d return to Sevilla alive. That would be preferable.
The plan was that I would fly out on Wednesday evening and spend the first night in a hostel in Palma so that I could take advantage of having an entire beach day on Thursday, and Lis would join me Thursday night. We would then pick up our rented car and drive to Dante’s place that night, and spend the rest of the days beach hopping and exploring the island. Since I didn’t know how to drive stick-shift, Lis would be the one driving. It sounded simple enough, right? So we didn’t really plan ahead all that much. IDIOT MISTAKE NUMBER 1.
As it turned out, it was for the best that I flew out on Wednesday, because that Thursday, March 29, was a national strike day in Spain (“29M – Huelga General” was pasted and spray-painted EVERYWHERE), and a lot of people were legitimately concerned about not being able to fly that day with so many workers on strike. But since I left on Wednesday, everything was normal for me. This was probably the one positive thing with regards to transportation I had that whole week.
After an uneventful Ryanair flight to the island, I navigated the surprisingly large Palma airport and found my way to the bus stop. I needed to get on the bus that would take me to S’Arenal. I saw my bus chilling at the stop and was about to get on, but I saw it was almost empty and there was a big group of people waiting outside of it. I figured there was a reason why they were waiting, so I decided to wait as well. It was only when the bus doors closed and it drove off that I realized that this big group of people was waiting for a completely different bus and I had missed getting on the bus I needed. I had literally sat there for 10 minutes staring at the bus I needed and I didn’t get on. Now I would have to wait 30 more minutes until it came around again. IDIOT MISTAKE NUMBER 2.
This started a sad trend of transportation errors that would haunt the rest of my trip and end up costing us a lot of $$$.
I finally got on the bus I should’ve been on in the first place and sat in front of these two girls. From their accents I knew they were American. I turned around and struck up a conversation with Jillian and Jessie, and I found out they were also studying abroad in Sevilla and we were getting off at the same stop! We exchanged phone numbers and planned to hang out that night after we had checked into our respective hostels. I invited Jillian and Jessie to come stay at my hostel, but they had already paid in advance for their own. So I got to enjoy an entire 3-bed room and bathroom to myself!
After checking in, I met up with Jillian and Jessie at the beach. We explored for a bit and came across a playground, then spent the next hour or so fooling around on the equipment. Tired, I bid them adieu and headed back to my hostel, but not before making plans to meet up at the beach the next day.
Thursday was Strike Day, but it didn’t affect my plans in the slightest. I checked out of my room, left my bag with the staff, and walked the two blocks down to the beach for what was supposed to have been a lovely, relaxed day enjoying the sun, sand and surf. I called Jillian to ask when they’d get down to the beach, and they said that first they were going to explore Palma and then come hang out. Then I called the rental car company, Hiper Rent-a-Car, to double-check that everything was in order. And that was when I was joined by a guy named Murphy who had brought his infamous Law with him. To tell the rest of the story, I’ll provide a list of facts:
1. 19-year-olds can’t rent cars. You would’ve known this if you had done your research. IDIOT MISTAKE NUMBER 3.
2. 21-year-olds can rent cars. For an extra fee. Of course.
3. 21-year-olds who can rent cars but don’t know how to drive stick-shift will freak out and spend the next couple of hours looking up driving instructions, utilizing the free wi-fi in a McDonalds instead of relaxing on the beach. At least the Mickey Ds provides you with a nice view.
4. Regardless of age, you can only rent a car if you have your driver’s license with you, and didn’t forget it back at your apartment in Sevilla. IDIOT MISTAKE NUMBER 4.
5. Your travel companion who hasn’t left Sevilla yet has the ability to go pick up your driver’s license and bring it with her, as long as your host-mom or host-sister or either one of your roommates are there and able to let her in.
6. Believing that the issue has been solved, you will happily listen to British music as you enjoy an Italian pizza at a Greek restaurant owned by German immigrants on a Spanish island.
7. You find out that your travel companion cannot retrieve your driver’s license, because none of the other 4 inhabitants of your apartment were home. Damn you, Murphy.
8. Rental car companies might accept you if your local government authority will fax them a letter on official letterhead saying that you are legally allowed to drive along with a photocopy of your driver’s license.
9. You local government authority will not do this, despite your mother’s best efforts to convince them to do so.
10. Jillian and Jessie are both 21. Jessie did not bring her driver’s license. Jillian did. You make an illegal plan to meet with them and rent the car with Jillian’s driver’s license.
11. They cannot get to you because a massive crowd gathered for the general strike in Palma has stopped the buses from leaving Palma.
12. All of the phone calls that needed to be made in order for all of this exchange of information between the rental car company, your travel companion, Dante, your mother, and Jillian/Jessie have taken their toll on your pre-paid phone, and you are forced to add more money to it, even though the amount that you had placed in it the day before would have normally lasted you until the end of the following month. At least you got to see the sunset and some hot half-naked guys emerge from the water.
13. Night falls, and you are all FINALLY able to meet right before the car rental company closes. By this point, your travel companion has arrived and meets you at the car rental place.
14. You have planned on paying for the rental car with your debit card. The rental car company only accepts credit cards. IDIOT MISTAKE NUMBER 5.
15. Your travel companion has a credit card. You breathe a sigh of relief.
16. You find out that Jillian’s driver’s license is only a temporary paper one issued to her by the state of Wyoming while she waits for her new driver’s license to arrive in the mail. The rental car company does not accept paper licenses. Only plastic.
17. Despite your begging, you are unable to rent a car. The four of you dejectedly return to S’Arenal and get a hostel room together.
18. The hostel room is cold, and there are not enough blankets. The two blankets that they have provided look like they haven’t been washed since the 1960’s. Given the foul odor, you suspect that is the case.
19. Upon waking, you find that Jessie and Jillian have already left and you didn’t get to say good-bye. After your breakfast, you walk to the bus stop and pay for the bus to take you to Dante’s town on the other side of the island.
20. You get off on the wrong stop (IDIOT MISTAKE NUMBER 6) and end up walking the rest of the way from one end of the town to the other.
21. You finally arrive at Dante’s place.
So, that’s how I spent my Thursday. What would have been a fun and relaxing beach day turned into a Hiper-headache due to our ignorance, the mistakes we made with regards to that blasted rental car, and also some forces that were not within our control (Murphy! You’re on my Sh*t List!). However, as I Whatsapped with my mother that night, she reminded me that I was on a gorgeous island in the Mediterranean. That really put it into perspective. Her words lifted my spirits and reminded me that I was incredibly lucky to even be there in the first place!
The next few days were spent with our CouchSurfing host, Dante! As you can tell, I wasn’t murdered. Huzzah! In your face, Murphy! The CouchSurfing experience is what made my vacation in Mallorca one of the best I have ever been on. Details about that will come in the next post! Until then, I hope you enjoyed my misery in this anecdote! I know I can look back on it now and have a great laugh about it. 🙂