“Um. Yes. Where?”
Twenty-somethings with travel points is a dangerous thing.
Unaffected by the movie Taken, Candice and I were willing to trek to the ends of the earth in an attempt to find ourselves, and to define our lives as explorers. We were going to stand on the sands of all oceans and seas, summit the greatest mountains, eat foreign and weird food, make lasting friendships, fall in love with complex and interesting men – all before thirty. When we were juniors in college, we almost bought round trip tickets to Iceland for Spring Break, thwarted by both of our families, but ambitious nonetheless. But now, we were adults! We were out of college, young yet mature, wielding passports and a basic knowledge of geography, yearning to see the world and get the hell out of the north east.
“How does seven days in Portugal sound for $1050 each?”
And just like that, we were going to Portugal. The trip was $1050 each if three people went, so my closest friend from high school, Vicky, agreed to come with us on a relaxing off-season getaway to the Algarve. We had over a year to plan, pack, and anticipate a legitimate escape to a foreign land. I was so excited I couldn’t contain myself. All I could think about was the freedom, and the stress-free expectations that come with being at a destination, knowing I had no commitments, no plans, no obligations, and no work.
We left on a warm day in mid-November of 2012, when an embarrassingly gaudy stretch limousine picked up three girls with three pieces of luggage and three backpacks to ship us forty minutes to JFK. “Free upgrade,” said our driver. Wow! We thought to ourselves, if this is how it’s going to be for the rest of the trip, then let’s get this party rolling.
The first leg of the trip was relatively seamless. JFK, although quite the expansive airport, was marked up well enough, and easy to navigate. We got there early, checked our bags, got our tickets, grabbed a bite to eat, and eagerly awaited our flight to Dublin where we would change flights and connect to Faro Airport. Smooth like butter. We were all seated together, giddy and unable to sleep, watching movies, taking pictures, chatting up our row, and, for once, relaxed. No significant turbulence, no delays, and before we knew it there was Dublin, waiting to greet us in all of its Cadbury glory.
The way through customs was as painless as JFK; we got our passports stamped, grabbed a snack, and hopped on a much smaller plane for the next hour and a half leg of the trip. Eighteen or so hours of standing and sitting, three time zones, checkpoints, and baggage claims made us all exhausted, and we realized that when we landed in Faro, we still had an almost three hour car ride to our hotel in Portimao.
“Our hotel arranged for a car to pick us up.”
Oh my God this is like Taken except there’s an extra person. I kept my fear silently tucked away as a middle-aged man led us to a suspiciously clean mini van and instructed us to put all of our bags in the trunk and get int he back seat.
Everything in the trunk so we have nothing to fight him with, I thought to myself. This son of a bitch is clever.
Candice and Vicky seemed overly calm and sleepy during the trip, so I took it upon myself to strain my eyes and make sure that fucker knew I was conscious and alert and not let on that I was a rugby player and once also got into the Junior Olympics when I was nine for kickboxing and kicking a fourth grader in the chest.
We arrived to our hotel safely and made great time.
Lost your chance to dance with danger, you bastard.
Off to a shaky start, I was now awake for about thirty hours, Candice and Vicky looking surprisingly refreshed from their car ride baby naps, and we checked into our hotel. November in Portugal is a ghost town, which baffled me for the soul purpose that, except for the outdoor pool being closed, the Algarve in the fall was gorgeous. No beach chairs, a comfortable high seventies, no humidity, and no tourists. No tourists is important. I didn’t like the idea of drawing attention to myself, lest I be picked out of a crowd by a predator and sold into the human slave trade.
We got our keys, and along with maybe four other couples in the entire resort, made our hotel room home for the next week. Candice and Vicky wanted to explore as I slowly died from the lack of rest, and I obliged by throwing my bags down and accompanied them to the beach, which was a convenient and beautiful two minute walk from our room. The water was chilly, but the air was warm. We traversed barefoot in and out of the sea caves that the Atlantic methodically carved out of the cliff-side over god knows how many years. A strange woman approached us, with a smile on her face, and waved. Wow, we thought, the people here are so damn friendly. As a gesture and welcome to Portugal, she opened her hand and placed a dead sea horse on a rock that sat in front of the three of us.
What the –
This was either a weird offering of peace, or we just got cursed by a gypsy. I didn’t know. I didn’t care to know.
It started to downpour.
The sea cave we were in started filling with water as the tide rushed in. I swore it was just low tide. This woman cursed us, dammit.
We ran along the beach in the least convincing Baywatch impression and back to our hotel room, where upon entering, all of our faces read the same message: If this was going to be the rest of the trip I’m not leaving this damn room.
We noticed that a hoard of ants took up refuge in our suite, so Candice made the call to the front desk and invited Vicky to explore the town once the rain let up. I opted for a nap, because I fell asleep into my pizza about twenty minutes earlier and decided that would be the best course of action if I were to survive and be on the alert for danger for the next seven days. Stowed away in a side room with the door shut and in the dark, I heard the door and Vicky and Candice come back in, but neither came in my room. How thoughtful of them, as I slumped back into a deep sleep. Someone must have taken a huge shit at some point during the second leg of my nap, because the overload of floral spray seeped into my room and I woke up dazed and confused. Shakily crawling out of bed, I stumbled, almost drunk, into the main part of the suite, and noticed something…amiss. Candice and Vicky were gone, I felt high, and there were dead ants everywhere. All at once it clicked. I wasn’t tired, I was poisoned. They’re trying to kill me.
Calm, relaxing, start to my vacation.