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“Sorry, your flight is canceled.” We were standing at the airline counter in Los Angeles. Exhausted from the time change and the five hour flight from Atlanta we had just stepped off of, “your flight is canceled” sounded like a different language. I was traveling with a few of my friends and we were about to embark on the most sacred of teacher holidays: spring break.

We hadn’t checked Las Vegas off our bucket lists yet, and we decided it was about time to fix that. Hotels, flights, and shows had been booked months in advance and we had spent our weekends sending each other pins of “what to wear in Las Vegas” on Pinterest.

Oh yes, we were ready for Vegas. But we weren’t ready for a flight cancelation that would leave us stranded in a sprawling metropolis far from our destination.

What exactly caused the airline to cancel half of our flight remains a mystery, but to my understanding, this is what happened. When we boarded the first leg of the flight in Atlanta, everything was fine. The plan was to fly to LA for a brief layover, then hop on a connecting flight to Las Vegas. Easy Peazy.

But sometime while in the air between Atlanta and LA, something went wrong with our connecting flight from LA to Vegas flight, and by the time we landed, it was completely canceled. It was Wednesday, and the next available flight with this airline wasn’t until Friday.

It was one of those moments where a traveler has three choices: consider it a bust, break the bank, or get creative.

One of my sweet-talking friends managed to convince the airline desk worker to refund us at least part of our trip cost (they had, after all, plopped us down in a strange city with no way to get home or to our final destination).  Then, we sat on a bench outside LAX to figure out what to do.

First, we called the hotel. We learned that we couldn’t get a refund so we had to make it to Vegas.

Next, we checked the Greyhound schedule. The Greyhound bus was cheap but it didn’t run very often and we wouldn’t arrive until the next day.

Then, we saw the bright happy lights of the rental car company across the street. A quick Google price search revealed that renting a car was definitely our best option, so we pooled our refund money and into the rental car line we went.

About an hour later, we spun out of the rental car lot in our flashy and aptly named Ford Fiesta with a new game plan and lot of car snacks. The drive to Vegas was only five hours, and the rental car guy told us some interesting places to see along the way, so we were pumped.

Two hours of stuffy LA traffic and some delicious Del Taco eventually gave way to beautiful expanses of desert.


We found a 90’s station and sang at the top of our lungs to the Spice Girls and Matchbox Twenty and yes, I’m pretty sure even the Cranberries. We rolled the windows down. We let our hair blow all over the place until it looked like a birds nest. We gossiped about boys and other important matters.

We did all the things you are supposed to do on a desert road trip with your girlfriends that we wouldn’t have been able to do in rows 23A, 18C, and 20F.

Best of all, we got to see the World’s Tallest Thermometer!

I know, I know, it is hard to believe that I did, in fact, lay eyes on this world-renowned landmark, but it’s true. Here is the beast in all its temperature-telling glory.

There it is! So majestic!

As we drove through the desert and the sun began to set, I felt thankful. Sure, the flight cancelation had been inconvenient, and even a little nerve-wracking before we knew renting a car was an option.

But if it had gone as scheduled I would probably never would have seen this little patch of the world. I definitely wouldn’t have seen the World’s Tallest Thermometer… and now that I have seen it I can’t imagine my life without it.

I never would have seen the loud, overly decked-out Greek restaurant in the actual middle of the desert, or the strange, run-down boarder town between California and Nevada that almost looks like Vegas except it is empty and tiny, or the miniscule yellow flowers decorating the desert sand along the highway that you just can’t seem capture in a picture, no matter how many times you try from the passenger side window.

I wouldn’t have gotten to experience the complete darkness of the desert or the bubbling anticipation that comes with the first glimpse of city lights far in the distance. I would have flown over all of it and waltzed out of the Vegas airport like everyone else coming in for a party, never knowing about any of the land and character surrounding it.

So when life gives you flight cancelations, take road trips.

If plans get derailed, make new plans.

When my friends and I look back on our Vegas trip, one of our favorite memories is the accidental road trip that got us there.

I am a “prepare everything well in advance” kind of person and it is hard for me to let go of my plans, but time and time again I am seeing that my best moments come when I allow myself to be a little less in control and a little more open to the unknown adventure and beauty that surrounds us.


About the Author

Hi! I'm Nic. Let's chat about remote work and ways to incorporate more travel into your life. Whether you're here to find an online job or need some tips for planning your next trip, I've got you covered! More about me

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