16 September, 2015

Back in Germany! Here's Why It Took Me Three Days

After traveling for the better part of three days, I'm finally back in Germany!
Who knew that traveling 4700 miles (7550 km) would take so long?

In this day and age, when air travel has become increasingly accessible, traveling between the United States and Europe can seem almost mundane. My previous trips between the continents have involved about 10 hours of flight time, with the trip lasting up to 15 hours including travel time to and from the airports. This time, though, including spending a night in Boston, I was traveling for 49 hours!

My trip began on Saturday at noon in Orlando, Florida, and finally ended on Monday at 7pm in Hamburg, Germany. It consisted of four airplanes, six trains, six buses and two car rides. I didn't purposely plan it to be this complicated, but there are several factors that added up to make this particular trip the marathon that it was:

1. Money

The amount of money you are willing or able to spend on traveling can have a significant impact on travel time and comfort. This has never been more obvious to me than during the past few days. First of all, even though I knew that I was starting my time in the U.S. in Massachusetts and ending it in Florida, I booked my Europe-to-America airfare roundtrip from Frankfurt to Boston because that is always the cheapest. That meant I had to fly from Florida to Boston before my international travel even began. Also due to financial concerns, both the Orlando-Boston and the Boston-Frankfurt flight plans included layovers of several hours each (in Baltimore and Madrid, respectively). In general, trying to make my trip cheaper added considerable wait time at every stage, which by the end had me wondering why I valued my money so much more than my time when making these plans.

2. Locations

If you are traveling to and from popular hubs like Boston and Frankfurt, you are almost guaranteed to find frequent and affordable flights with little hassle and no layovers. Unfortunately, I wasn't already in Boston and Frankfurt wasn't my final destination. When making my initial travel plans, I didn't factor in how long it would take me to get to and from the major international airports and how much my total travel time would increase due to layovers between various types of transportation. Even though Hamburg, my actual final destination, is a major city of international significance, it doesn't have a major international airport. Add to that the fact that Frankfurt, which does have a major international airport, is at best a several hour train ride from Hamburg and you've added 4-5 hours of travel time right there.

Just out of curiosity, I looked up flights between Hamburg and Orlando and there are NO direct flights at all! There aren't even any direct flights between Frankfurt and Orlando. There are simply some places that can't be reached easily, and Orlando seems to be one of them. Every flight option from Germany involves at least one layover and 13-15 hours of travel time, not including travel to and from the airports.

3. Security

No, I don't mean the obnoxious checks you have to go through at the airport (those were the least of my travel worries). I mean that, in large part due to financial paranoia, I scheduled plenty of time between the different legs of my journey to ensure that delays wouldn't cause me to miss my next connection. The first of these security-based decisions was a bit excessive but also allowed me to hang out with a friend in Boston: I flew into Boston the day before my flight to Germany was scheduled to leave. I did this because I wanted to be absolutely sure that, even if my flight from Orlando to Boston was severely delayed or canceled, I would still make my flight to Germany on time. Rescheduling a missed international flight would be more than my shaky finances could comfortably handle, so I wanted to eliminate that possibility entirely.

I also went with a security buffer of several hours between my flight to Frankfurt and my train to Hamburg. That was perhaps the worst decision of my entire journey and was the lowest point of the trip for me. My final flight from Madrid to Frankfurt was of course frustratingly on time, so I got to the train station two and half hours before my train was scheduled to depart. I hadn't slept all night, and to my internal clock the noontime sun felt like 6am. Adding insult to injury, the first train that arrived and departed while I was sitting there waiting for my later, cheaper connection was a high-speed train going directly to Hamburg. I had to sit there and watch it pull away, knowing that if I had just paid more money and given up the two-hour security blanket I could have cut the remainder of my travel time in half and saved myself switching trains one more time.

I'm so happy to have finally arrived, and I've resolved that regardless of the factors discussed above, I'm NEVER making that 49-hour journey again (at least not willingly). But don't get too scared, that doesn't mean I'm never going back to the U.S., it just means that next time I'm definitely planning the trip better. And if that means spending a bit more money, then so be it.

On an unrelated note, I'm also never bringing this behemoth of a suitcase again:

Backpack for scale

And I'm certainly not packing it right up to the weight limit of 50 lbs (23 kg). Running down the stairs to catch my final train carrying that monster was not fun. Not at all.

This multi-day return trip took so much out of me. I wasn't even feeling very well for the week or so before I left the U.S., so I'm going to need more recovery time that usual after this trip. Since I got back two days ago I've basically been laying around Maxim's apartment while he's at work and sleeping. I figure I get one more day of recovery before it's time to get back to life again. Wish me luck!


  1. Welcome back to Germany! hope you are having an amazing time now that you are back. I am an ex-pat from the states that has been living in Berlin for the better half of my adult life so I can sympathise with the long journey to and from the US.

    Rae | Love from Berlin

    1. Thanks! I certainly hope the trip never takes me this long again.

  2. I had a 55 hour trip last year from India back to the US, multi-mode (car, bus, plane), with two behemoths packed all the way to 23 Kg, a carry on size suitcase and a backpack. I almost died (I certainly looked close to it haha). I can't imagine 3 days!! I had lots of help from passerby's who took pity on me though haha.

    1. Oh my god, that sounds even worse than my trip! And counting hours yours was even longer than mine! I'm glad you had help, that sounds like an impossible task by yourself.

  3. Oh my gosh what a crazy adventure you've had! Regardless welcome back home <3 <3 <3
    She Will Be

  4. That is quite the journey! But I have done this kind of journey as well, if it is cheaper it makes it worth it!

    1. I just can't wait until I don't have to obsess so much over the cost! Once I have a real job (which won't be for a few more years :/ ) I'm just booking direct even if it costs a bit more. I guess I should be grateful that flying is even possible and I don't have to sit on a boat for a few weeks, lol.