You never stop learning when travelling — Part 1

Diana Gutierrez
EQUILIBRIUM BMS
Published in
8 min readMay 30, 2023

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Blog by Diana Gutiérrez, Co-Founder & CEO, EQUILIBRIUM BMS

Photo: Diana Gutiérrez, Atlanta Intl Airport.

I just left two amazing weeks behind me after a marvelous US trip. Unexpected gifts for the heart and the mind, lots of surprises, got the opportunity to meet in-person, people I’ve been working with for the past three years via Zoom, and this cool “Sex & the City” vibe that New York always offers.

I just learned that literally you never stop learning when it comes to travelling abroad. And just from the beginning of the trip, to be honest, I started living this “typical Diana’s moments” that sometimes I hate, sometimes make me laugh and sometimes make me cry.

I was supposed to arrive in DC on May 17th to this amazing in-person gathering with 2X Global — a platform that mobilizes money for gender investments, what is called now gender lens investing. So, I had this fixed date on my mind. Well, to be there by 4 pm on Wednesday I was supposed to travel on Tuesday the 16th. Well, I thought that I had bought the ticket just like that.

But no my friends, when I got to the airport the 16th I tried to check in with Delta Air Lines, and they kept asking me: ‘Are you sure that you got a reservation? What was the last name you used?’ and I just replied ‘of course’. I took my mobile phone out of my pocket and showed to this Delta’s check-in counter woman the screenshot. And she just said, ‘look you’re supposed to travel tomorrow — the 17th’ — and I said, ‘noooooo…OMG, this can’t be happening I have to be there by 4 pm tomorrow. So if I catch tomorrow’s flight, I’ll never make it’.

This guy that was trying to see if we could change my flight found that the change for the ticket, just because there were no seats available in economy class, was more than $1,000 bucks, not even considering the penalty. So he said ‘I think it’s better if you book another flight today with another airline if you want to make it to DC today’.

So, I had to run. Took my mobile, opened a bunch of apps — Skyscanner, Kiwi.com, Hopper, KAYAK and then I directly looked into the airline apps including Copa Airlines and American Airlines. Finally, I got a $800 dollars ticket with American Airlines with a stopover in Miami.

Then I was making my check-in and something rang in my head and my belly. Like this feeling that something was off. And I just looked into my carry-on and oh oh…the laptop charger wasn’t there. I quickly called my husband, and he started looking all over the apartment. Finally, he didn’t find the charger — you will know later why — but he quickly came to the Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen Panamá all the way from Panama Pacifico — crossing the Bridge of the Americas. The ride took him about 35 minutes. Fortunately, I had enough time to spare, since my flight was about to departure in a couple of hours.

I met my hubby and quickly, gave him a kiss and then run to the security checkpoint.

So far so good, I took the flight on time on my way to Miami.

The airplane had free wi-fi, so I could even make a call with my boss and her senior adviser for the design of a proposal for an upcoming programme.

I arrived safely in Miami at 6 pm, my next flight was departing at 9 pm so I was fine. Enough time for customs, enough time even to chill a bit in the Priority Pass lounge.

Fun fact, this cute customs agent started flirting with me and it was hilarious.

I handed over my passport to him, and he noticed I was Colombian right away. And the first thing he said to me was ‘Hola, buenas noches…cómo estás?’. And I was like ‘fine, thanks’. Then he asked me What the purpose of my visit was?, What my final destination was?, Where was I staying?, the typical questions. Then he asked me ‘How tall are you?’, and I thought “mmm…weird question” and I said ‘5.2 feet’ tall and he said ‘maybe even 5 feet tall?’ and I replied ‘most likely’.

We both laugh and then he just stood up from his seat and it was super obvious that he was this super tall guy most likely 6 feet tall. And he told me ‘I’m a big guy compared to you’ and I said ‘I can tell’. We both laugh, he handed over my passport and said ‘Bienvenida a los Estados Unidos’. And then I was free to go.

I had to pick up my bags and re-check them and crossed the next security check-point. After that, I went straight to the Priority Pass Turkish Airlines Lounge. Had a wonderful dinner — tabouleh, tahini, pita bread, kalamata olives, glass of white wine and, I just sat called my hubby and my parents.

Photo: Diana Gutiérrez, Turkih Airlines Lounge, Miami Intl Airport.

At 8:30 pm I went to the gate to take my connecting flight. I asked the check-in counter guy to put me in the last row and in the aisle — if you have a tiny bladder like mine probably in a 3-hour flight you will have to go once, twice or even three times to the restroom right?

I was putting on my Apple Max Airbuds, taking out my Ipad, laptop, books, etc…I mean all the paraphernalia that you need to get distracted when travelling. When the flight attendant nudges me and says ‘you have to come down the plane, the pilot couldn’t make it so we’ll try to find another one’.

There was a bit of confusion, people kept looking at each other.

Time started to pass by and it was 10:30 pm — remember the flight was supposed to leave at 9 pm, when the check-in counter guy said ‘please go to gate No 25 to book a new flight, the plane will stay here because we don’t have a pilot’.

Photo: Diana Gutiérrez, Miami Intl Airport.

People started to run, a bit angry, a bit confused. And I was like well, if I’m supposed to stay here tonight there must be a good reason why.

And I got my answer just a few minutes later.

I was walking slowly with my music on, when this blond skinny lady, with long hair and big glasses approached me and asked to me ‘Where are we supposed to go?’, I just gave her the directions and I said ‘I’m also coming…so you can walk with me’.

She was traveling tp DC after spending two weeks in Miami, to stay in this little flat she has there. She told me that she was a retired psychologist that used to work for the American government and that only 5 years had passed after she got retired. She also told me that she was feeling super lonely and that she was only accompanied by six cats, that she wanted to do more because she felt useless.

And I told her, ‘Haven’t you tried consulting? After 30 years of working experience you must have something to say right?’.

She told me that she was looking for some part-time job, but that the government had this restrictive rules for official retirees and that she wasn’t allowed to work on her field.

I said ‘kind of stupid don’t you think?’.

She said ‘I think so too…but it is what it is’.

Then she told me once again that she felt useless and that even she was 65 years old, she didn’t know what her purpose in this life was.

I told her then to try to rediscover her passion, experiment with more creative things -painting, dancing, etc.- trying to learn new things, perhaps do some volunteer work. Things that could help her to fill in her days with renovated energies, people and experiences.

We lined-up together, kept talking up until was our turn and our flight changed and then told to go to Gate 4 to catch the hotel shuttle. When we were walking once again together, I realized she was staying at a Sonesta Hotels and I was supposed to stay at the Quality Inn Miami Airport. We got there and there was a small group of people waiting to be shuttled in to their hotels, and once again we all realized that some were staying at the Marriott Hotels, some at the Sonesta Hotels, some at the Hilton Hotels & Resorts and I was the only one staying in the Quality Inn Miami Airport.

After close to 30 minutes waiting, shuttle come and shuttle go, I started scrolling and decided to check my email. Well, there was an American Airlines email confirming the flight change and the hotel voucher. Then I clicked on the shuttle info and by surprise the shuttle hours were 6 am through to 10 pm and it was 11:30 pm.

So, I took a deep breath, booked and Uber and headed to the hotel.

For now I’ll stop here but let me recap the 6 key learnings that I got from this trip:

  1. Double check date and time of your departing flight and try to check in in advance — all airlines open their check-in services about 24 hours in advance. That will help you to know whether your flight was properly booked or not.
  2. Keep enough credit in your cards so you can book, manage your trip, pay penalties, upgrade, etc.
  3. In case you have a tiny bladder ask the check-in counter people to seat you in the back of the plane very close to the restrooms.
  4. Buy a Priority Pass or get a credit card with premium access to lounges in a whole bunch of airports. For sure it will make your life easier, since you usually have wi-fi access, free food, spirits, TV, comfy chairs and more.
  5. Bring your ‘Zeniest’ attitude with you. Most likely you will not get what you want if you start fighting with the airline staff. Remember “they have the power…you don’t”.
  6. Keep your ears and heart open. You never know when you’ll meet someone exciting or when you’ll be the gamechanger for a person in need.

Don’t miss the second part of this blog, coming next week.

More exciting adventures to come!

With love,

Diana

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Diana Gutierrez
EQUILIBRIUM BMS

Passionate about finding innovative ways to tackle poverty and inequality, traveler, animal lover and a very spiritual person