Recently I had an experience that made me feel like a proper, real life backpacker, besides the obvious fact I’m traveling around Europe solo, with a pack on my back. I decided to forgo paying a night at a hostel and sleep at an airport instead. I’ll also say I felt completely comfortable and confident in my choice, as well as then having to figure out how to cope when things went wrong.
The only single problem with my idea, was that I chose to do this at a smaller airport in Rome in Ciampino (the flight was only £15, how could I not buy it?!), rather than the larger well know airport of Rome at Fiumicino and the thing is, as I later found out, they actually close up shop between the hours of 12am-4am. My amazing idea turned out not to be so bright and that’s how I ended up ‘sleeping’ on a cold cement floor with my pack for the night. Note to self: do some research and pick an airport that stays open, ALL NIGHT…
Now, I know after reading my most recent posts you might start to think that I’m crazy and seeking a trouble ridden journey, but honestly I thought I was so smart because I’d seen many people do it before and I’d be saving money on a wasted night at a hostel! Why spend money on a room in Rome when I only had 6hrs in the city and there is no way to reach the little airport for an early morning flight at 6am on a weekend, as all buses and trains don’t start running until 5am (I did my research on this, just not the airport itself). So off I merrily went on a Terravision bus at 9pm the night before my flight to check out my sleeping digs at the airport.
I also wasn’t the only one who thought this to be a grand plan. There were at least 30 other people, doing the exact same thing for their own 6am flights out of Rome CIA. See, I’m not the only crazy one! I ended up chatting to a nice young British couple whilst in the airport, who had just finished a 2 week long holiday. We became bag watchers for each other on potty breaks. Unfortunately, as you already know, the story isn’t so sweet. We all got kicked out of the airport at 12am and then it was every man and woman for themselves.
As I am clearly leaving a lucky trail throughout Europe, it of course ended up being a chilly night as it started raining as soon as we exited those shiny automatic sliding doors. I then discovered what it was like to feel homeless. I do already have such great respect for the homeless community and often give money or food to those on the streets of London, but this gave me a newfound understanding of how difficult a constant life like this could be.
One of the best thing I can take from this entire experience was using common knowledge to survive the elements. I was able to find some shelter on a wheelchair ramp that had a short wall, rather than a hand rail, to lay down and try to sleep. Small alcoves like this really help to keep the cold wind off of you. All I had was my pack to lay my head on and put the one towel I had on the floor to give some separation between myself and the cold cement. Only carrying a majority of summer clothing I was happy I tried to be somewhat prepared before setting off from London and had a thin cardigan and my leather jacket as ‘just in case’ travel items to throw on and warm me up a bit. I’m now on a mission to buy a hoodie cause this little adventure is likely to happen again!
I got very little sleep for fear someone could try to take my backpack right from under my head, but realised, I, like many others, were very much in the same boat and no one was going to even want to attempt to pick up my heavy pack unless it had 4 wheels for them to run away with. Come 4am we were able to re-enter the building and commence the oh, so pleasant, security procedures we all love about the airport. My flight from Rome CIA to Athens was successful, but it was later sitting on the train to the city center of Athens that had me really put my night into perspective.
The entire train journey, whilst I tried not to nod off and miss my stop, I had to listen to two American women moan about their recent hotel stay and how it “was, like the absolute worst!” What were their reasonings behind why they were so hysterically upset, you might ask? Well, these women had such a terrible stay because the hotel room had no TV and the pillows hurt their necks. Really?! I mean, REALLY?!
I now know how much more resilient I can be since my initial solo traveling journeys from 3 years ago. I never would have been completely ok with any of this if I was my young 21 year old self, fresh off a plane from Sydney and not 25 countries deep in experience. I was actually lucky to have lived and learned from all of the many mishaps I’ve recently had, rather than being spoilt by hotel privilege.
I know it sounds silly, but I would definitely chose to try and sleep at the airport again and not just to save money, but to share in this community of people in the same situation, just wanting to get to their next destination.
♥ Love from Leah