Traveling isn’t always rainbows and butterflies

Traveling isn't always rainbows and butterflies

Traveling isn’t always easy. Sometimes you have to deal with transportation pains, booking issues or language barriers. Or like on my last trip, your rental car breaks down in a country you struggle to speak the language. Now, that’s a fun one.

We woke up way earlier than I care to. But the cheapest flights always seem to make you wake up at the crack of dawn, and we had 40 miles to drive to the nearest airport in Calama, Chile. We left our homey hotel room and walked the dirt road to the truck we had rented for our five days in San Pedro.

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile


Quickly, we realized the truck wouldn’t start. The engine wouldn’t even crank. We searched for jumper cables and had no luck, so we began trying to push start the car. Naturally, we weren’t parked on a downward slope. Once the truck would start moving slowly, it’d screech to a stop. Without saying anything, people walking by stopped and helped us push, but the truck still wouldn’t start.

San Pedro is the kind of town that has one gas station, with the next closest being 40 miles away. Nothing was opened yet, and the streets seemed deserted. We camped out at the stop sign down the road in hopes to find someone with jumper cables willing to help us jump the truck. Before this trip, I never thought to figure out how to ask that in Spanish, which ended up being our downfall.

We went back to the hotel we had checked out of to see if the manager could help us. It turns out she spoke very little English, and we didn’t speak good enough Spanish to describe our situation. Luckily, a guest came by that spoke English and Spanish and translated for us. Turns out, the manager knew a mechanic that could come by but not until after 9 a.m.

Thankfully, the mechanic ended up arriving earlier than that, however, he brought no car to be able to jump ours with. But at least he had one of the missing puzzle pieces, jumper cables. We had to try stopping cars again to ask if they’d be willing to help. We didn’t have any luck until the mechanic did all the talking and an older man agreed to help. It took a couple tries but the roar of the truck’s engine was music to my ears. We repeated “muchos gracias” over and over and hurriedly took off to the airport, 40 miles away.

I began to lose confidence we would catch our flight, but it was worth a try. Once we whipped into the airport lot, we dropped the car keys off and ran to the check-in desk. As expected, they informed us we couldn’t make it on the plane but that we could fly stand-by for one of the later flights.

So we waited and kept checking back, but the next few flights ended up being packed full. After spending the day watching movies on the floor of the airport, we were beginning to think we’d have to spend the night in the airport. But then we were finally given tickets to one of the last flights out of Santiago, proof we could get on the plane.

Although it was not a typical day you plan for on vacation, it’s one I’ll remember for a long time. Don’t let the bumps you encounter on trips stress you out because sometimes there’s nothing you can do. Take a deep breath and relax, there’s way worse things than being stranded in a small Chilean town.

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

14 thoughts on “Traveling isn’t always rainbows and butterflies

  1. Love this post! I agree that when there are bumps in the road, it is important not to stress out (though I would have completely freaked if that happened to me 🙂 )

  2. I’m learning to take lots of deep breaths and go with the flow. Love your post and how friendly and helpful people were even with the language barriers!

  3. I really appreciate this post 🙂 A lot of people thinks that travelling is like a page from a fairytale for children. And even though we wouldn’t stop, we know that it’s not as easy

  4. Glad to read there was a happy ending. I also had a car issue when we were traveling to San Pedro from Calama. Being stuck on the side of the road while 6 months pregnant is no fun at all. But just like you, everything worked out in the end.

  5. Very true! Not everything can go right 100% of the time. I think that’s just how like (and travel!) works. For most of the time, it can be really amazing but some of the time – it is can be downright crappy :).

  6. Oh girl! what a headache. Thank goodness the airline worked with you to get you on another flight. Learning to ask for jumper cables is not something you’d think to learn in a foreign language. lol

  7. This is a really good thing to keep in mind. During a major snow storm 2 years ago, I was actually delayed for 3 days and I kept being diverted to different airports but had a lot of good memories from the experience 🙂

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