After 6 weeks visiting the Balkans, it was finally time to come home today.

It’s been an amazing trip but I’m also happy to get back to my “real” life.   Back to grocery shopping.   Back to driving my car.   Back to work.

So, my route home to Vancouver was a long one over 24 hours long through 3 cities on 3 different planes.

An early start

I started the day in Zurich and my first flight was a 90 minute flight to Paris at 7:45am.

That meant I had to be at the airport at 5:45 which meant I had to set my alarm this morning for 4am.

Considering I only went to bed at 11:00 last night, it was a short night’s sleep.

I was out the door of the hostel at 5am, on the metro to the main train station, and then on a train to the airport.

Everything went smooth and I arrived at the airport at 5:45am exactly as I had planned it out.

A full two hours before my flight left which turned out to be plenty of time as I was in and out of security in 15 minutes.

As for breakfast, I found myself again without a plan and I just aimlessly walked around the airport looking at things I couldn’t have because of my gluten allergy.

I guess I’d just have to wait to eat til I got to Paris.

Flight 1: Zurich to Paris

The first flight on Air France to Paris was a short one at only 90 minutes.

Obviously no meal service on the flight but it was kind of cool that they handed out a little bottle of water and cookies.

Of course I couldn’t have the cookies but it made for a nice little souvenir.

Even though we left 20 minutes late, we actually arrived 10 minutes earlier than our scheduled arrival time.

My next flight didn’t leave for another 3 hours so it was time for some lunch.

McDonalds with no bun please.

So, I guess my official last meal in Europe was McDonalds.

Screw it.   I was hungry and I needed something easy to eat.

Flight 2: Paris to Washington

My second flight was United Airlines to Washington and was the longest of the three flights today at over 8 hours long.

I went through the normal security and got to the boarding gates.

Something that’s never happened to me before was someone pulling me to the side in the boarding line.

I think it was just a random security check but I just wasn’t expecting it.

He asked me questions like where I was coming from and how did I get to Paris.

Easy questions to answer, right?

Not for me apparently.

I was in so many cities and flights the last couple days that I stumbled with my answer.

I literally couldn’t remember that I had just landed a few hours ago on an Air France flight from Zurich.

Thankfully, it all worked out and he let me through but at the time I was thinking “man, this looks pretty suspect that I can’t just rattle off the answers to his questions”.

The flight had two meals and, as usual, I had pre-ordered gluten free options so I was served my meal ahead of everyone else.

It’s always weird sitting there eating my meal 10-20 minutes ahead of my seatmates.   I’m usually done my meal before they even receive theirs.

It was especially funny today as the guy next to me was sleeping and he awoke thinking he got skipped.

I didn’t mind having him being a little tortured though because I was fighting for part of the armrest the entire flight.

Anyway, I haven’t had that much success with my gluten free airline options but I actually found the two meals I got today pretty good and, for once, the gluten free buns weren’t dry and inedible.

Even though the flight was over 8 hours long, the time went by quickly as I binge watched all 10 episodes of the 2nd season of Umbrella Academy.

We landed 40 minutes ahead of time in Washington at 2:15 local time which was 8:15pm in the time zone I woke up in.

I had now been up for 17 hours with a 2 1/2 hour layover and 6 hour flight to go.


Oof, remind me never to fly through the United States again.

It’s a good thing we arrived 40 minutes early because I needed it to get through the craziness that would ensue at Dulles Airport in Washington.

Even though I was only transiting directly through, I still had to go through customs and then be screened by TSA to go back to the gates.

I’ve heard stories about how rude the TSA is, but man, when you actually see it, you just can’t believe it.

They just grunt their instructions to you as you’re waiting in line and then get mad at you if you do anything wrong.

No friendliness to be found anywhere.

I know they have a job to do maintaining the security of the airport and the flights going through it, but so do all the other security and screening people in every other country I’ve visited and I’ve never seen such miserable people on power trips.

Yeah, those TSA stories are true.   Sad, sad little people.

Where the f#@k is gate Z?

Anyway, even though the lines were so long going through customs and rescreening, the lines actually moved fairly quickly and I was through it all in 45 minutes.

I just didn’t expect it to take another 45 minutes to finally get to my next departure gate.

My next flight was on Air Canada which fly out of the Z gates which you actually have to take a little train to get to.

There’s not really alot of instructions on where to get off on said train and I ended up riding it back and forth 3 times until I realized it didn’t actually go to the Z gate area.

It only went between the A, B, and C gates and you were just supposed to know you got off at the A gate area and from there you walked over to the Z gates.

Or did I get off at the B gate area?

I can’t even remember what gate area I finally got off at but I did eventually, after 45 minutes, find my way to the Z gate area.

Honestly, if I was in a time crunch I’d have been stressed beyond belief.   Instead, I just laughed at the ridiculousness of the whole situation.

In total, it took me 90 minutes to get to my new gate after I stepped off my last one.

That is insane!

Again, I was lucky I had a 2 1/2 hour layover here.

By the time I found my gate, I had an hour before my last flight left.

Time for lunch, or is it dinner?

I didn’t know at this point.

I was hungry and Subway was literally right next to my gate so I popped in there and grabbed a sub done in a bowl instead of on bread.

Gotta love the debit machine prompting me for a 15, 18, or 20% tip on payment.

As a server, obviously I’m a big proponent on tipping.   However, having fast food places or liquor stores asking for them as well is just making the general public grow to despise tipping and that’s never a good thing.

Stay in your lane.   Tipping at fast food counters shouldn’t be a thing.

And, again, that’s coming from someone who lives off of tips.

Rant over.

Flight 3: Washington to Vancouver

My last flight was a 6 hour Air Canada flight to my final destination of Vancouver.

It boarded at 5:30pm local time meaning I had now been up for 20 hours.

6 hours to go…

I picked a seat in the second last row and, wouldn’t you know, the flight wasn’t full and I had the whole damn row to myself.

For the first hour and a half I kind of half slept meaning you’re lying down with your eyes closed but never actually going into any kind of deep sleep.

At least I rested for a bit and would be able to make it through the final push before I got home.

No meal included on this leg of my journey which was a tad bit disappointing considering it was a 6 hour flight.

They did have an a la carte menu and I did end up getting a gluten free blondie bar to nibble on halfway through the flight.

The rest of the flight I spent typing up this blog and watching some videos.

And then, after 26 hours, I was finally home.

Back in Vancouver!

And with that, Balkan Trip 2023 has officially ended.

But stay tuned…

Cuba Trip 2024 is just 3 short months away…

Balkan Trip 2023, Trip Journal
Balkans 2023
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1 Comment

  • Jeff says:

    Hi Todd,
    Just came across your Instagram and blogs. Very interesting and informative and very well done. Just wondering if you have any future plans for visiting Israel? Look forward to hearing from you.

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