April 1989. I lived in a rental house with my boyfriend of 4 years. We had a very dysfunctional relationship. I worked in the Houston office of an oil exploration company. One of our boats had just completed a project and was on its way from West Africa to the North Sea. It was enroute to a small port in The Netherlands. On the way, it had stopped off in the Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa to refuel and drop off some boxes of seismic data. The data was why we were in business; it was worth millions of dollars and had to be shipped to the appropriate oil company.
Paul, another long-time employee, was baby-sitting the data, waiting for it to be shipped off. Unfortunately, the customs agents who had to approve the shipment were on strike. Welcome to Spain. Paul had been waiting a week to get the shipment off, to no avail. A lot of wasted time. And Paul need to be in Den Helder, the port in The Netherlands to meet the boat on its arrival.
Three days before the expected port call in Den Helder, my boss in Houston told me to pack a bag and get to Las Palmas, the city in the Canary Islands. He said Paul had to get out of there and head north to Den Helder. My job would be to wait out the customs strike and make sure the data was expedited and shipped off. I packed a small suitcase and was off to the airport. Houston to Paris (10 hours), Paris to Madrid (2 hours), Madrid to Las Palmas (1 1/2 hours). Add the waiting time in the airports and it took me about 17 hours to get to my destination. Paul met me at the airport on my arrival. While I had been in the air, the strike ended, the data was shipped off and he had me a ticket to fly with him to The Netherlands. An hour wait for the flight and we were off to Madrid. Spent the night there and then got to Den Helder the following morning. That had been a long day for me, actually spanning 2 days.
As things worked out, I ended up spending 5 years away from home on that trip. Things changed so quickly that the company decided I should just stay over there. My house and my boyfriend became history. There were a lot of phone calls those first couple of months, but it all worked out for the best. That began the greatest five years of my life.