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Winners of the Women Inspire Women Travel Writing Contest

 

We asked for your most inspiring mini travel stories (under 500 words) and we were flooded with fabulous tales of courage and determination from all over the world. Our job was to read and then reread in order to choose the Number One submission and the Four Runners-up. It wasn't easy. Some tales made us cry, others made us laugh out loud. Each story was unique; each submission illustrated some form of determination and courage that we JourneyWomen possess. We learned that for some people courage means taking their first journey alone, for others it means thinking on their feet when things get rough, and for still others it means stepping into another culture and trying to live up to that culture's expectations. Enjoy, everybody!

 

FABULOUS FIRST PLACE! -- Winner of $100.00

Written by: Amanda Fernández
City: Buenos Aires, Argentina

The Fourth Rule

“There’s no flight?”

“It’s Christmas Eve”, the Croatian Airlines representative replied in way of an explanation, as if anyone in Bosnia needed reminding that most Croatians were Catholics.

“Something you might have mentioned when we bought our tickets MONTHS ago!” I yelled in exasperation.

There was no way I was spending Christmas in Sarajevo. Not after three months of driving the country in crappy weather past destroyed houses and towns, not speaking the language, and trying to convince traumatized people to forget the past and start over. I called my boss. “Can I take a car for a few days?”

An hour later, still seething, I took a right and quickly spotted an anomaly for Sarajevo -- a brand new police car with its lights rolling directly behind me. “Sh-t!” I pulled over. The car stopped, and the Robo-cop sized, newly NATO-trained officer got out.

“Ne govorim Bozanski” (I don’t speak Bosnian) was my go-to expression to weasel out of all sorts of uncomfortable experiences, from turning away beggars at my door, to ignoring questions while I jogged, to haggling in the market. No doubt it would serve me well now.

I rolled down my window and blurted before he could say a word, “Ne govorim Bozanski!” a bit too enthusiastically. “That’s ok” the cop replied. “I speak English.” Busted.

“You went through a red light.”

“What? No I didn’t.”

“Yes, you did. That light”, he said, pointing to it. “You went through it red.”

“Impossible!”, I exclaimed. But was it? I was in fury-induced autopilot, engrossed with my morning’s misfortune, canceling the trip to Prague, creating a new plan for Budapest. If I did, I wasn’t going to admit it now.

“You come to station.”

Three rules I always abide by overseas:

1. Never walk around alone at night;
2. Never look a man in the eyes walking down the street, and;
3. Never, EVER go “downtown” with a huge police officer in a former war zone.

“Can’t we resolve this right here?”, I lamely drop, wishing the newly-trained officers weren’t as honest as NATO hoped.

“No. We go to station.”

And then I felt them. The humiliating tears welling up in my eyes. I choked them back, swallowed and stammered, my voice reaching new heights; “No! You don’t understand. My flight was canceled. I have to go to Budapest now! Today is a special day for my people! And, and…”, and then, what if? Why keep it together? Losing it might not be such a bad thing…

I let go. Scrunching my lips, putting my hands to my face and sobbing in earnest. So much for the tough, war-zone babe. I cried about that day, about the shell-holes in the cement, about the ruined economy, about the concentration camps of the 1990s, about everything the country suffered.

“Aagh!”, he scoffed, rolling his eyes. “Just go.” He turned on his heel and walked back to his shiny, new police car. NATO hasn’t taught them that trick yet.

Budapest, here I come.

More winners 2/3

 

 

 

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