I used to love October and November, except for the last three years, because when you’re in University, like I am, these two months become some of the most stressful of the year. Major projects, lots of deadlines. I’ve literally had to tell my friends, “see you in December”, and completely mean it. I just haven’t had time for a social life, let alone to blog, or travel, or do anything but massive amounts of schoolwork and writing.
This year though October was met with a small weekend break to New Orleans, right before Halloween, something that would normally be out of the realm of my possibility due to my busy schedule and my lack of money during this time of year. I barely had the money to get me to New Orleans in June, and I used frequent flier miles for that trip. So how did I pay for a full-price, last minute, airline ticket from Edmonton to New Orleans (a route that doesn’t get seat sales)?
I didn’t pay for a thing. In a strange and wonderful turn of events I won another contest. A weekend trip to New Orleans through Southern Comfort. Flights, hotel, airport transfers, and even a couple meals were all covered expenses. To say I was excited would be to put it mildly. Reading the email that said I won the contest was, at first, met with scepticism. Was it spam? Was it real? After a minute I realized the email and the contest was legit. I then phoned a friend (because we were allowed to bring a guest) and casually asked what she was doing for Halloween weekend. When she said she didn’t really have anything planned I got to tell her that she was coming to New Orleans.
That was fun. Honestly I was probably more excited to invite my friend along than anything else, because I knew she hadn’t traveled anywhere outside Canada in several years. We were all on a pre-trip high (the non-substance kind), until we realized my friend’s passport had expired, and she’d need to get a new one a.s.a.p in order to come on the trip. It was nerve racking, and at one point I honestly thought she wouldn’t get her rush passport in time, but somehow it arrived, down to the wire. Important lesson for everyone, always have a passport and make sure it’s up to date. You never know, one day you might get invited on a free trip.
Traveling on a contest win was a fun experience, but different from what I expected. While I loved going back to New Orleans the one downside was the trip was it was very short. We got in Friday afternoon and on Sunday afternoon we were on a flight back to Edmonton. Another girl who was on the trip with us said something about only having 46 hours. I was glad I had gotten a chance to go to New Orleans in June for a few days. If this had been my first time I probably would have had more of a “I have to see everything this weekend” mentality. Even with this most recent trip to New Orleans I can say I’ll be back for a third visit, maybe more.
The trip itself was very much like a group tour, with group dinners and activities, which I also didn’t expect. I’m used to traveling alone, to planning everything and figuring things out on my own. It was nice to have some of the details for this trip already taken care of. The other bad thing that happened, which was just dumb luck, was that both my friend and I got sick on Saturday, and we had to forego the awesome sounding swamp and plantation tour. We stayed in for a bit to feel better, and eventually got out, and explored some of the French Quart and St. Charle’s Street. There was no way I was willing to resign my only full day in New Orleans.
It’s funny. Last year at this time I wasn’t sure I’d get to go to New Orleans at all. It seemed pretty impossible, and I can say that if I didn’t have the frequent flier miles to get down to Houston (cutting my flight cost to New Orleans greatly) I would have never gone on that trip. Yet I did get to go to New Orleans, and then I was fortunate enough to get to go back for a second visit. The other day I received an email from a contest I entered with The Planet D, that I won a free stay at a Radisson hotel. Lucky? Maybe. Grateful. Yes. Gratitude can’t begin to describe how I feel about this, and about the contests I’ve been fortunate to win.
In a strange way I almost feel like the universe keeps giving me these incentives to keep traveling. Of course I don’t believe in relying on contest wins to travel, but every little bit seems to help. If anything it made me appreciate my life and what I had, despite the stress of school and my limited travel funds. Any travel is good. There’s always something to learn when you travel, about yourself, about other people, about the world. I’m grateful for it all.