Saturday, April 24, 2010

Volcano Refugees Road Trip: From Istanbul to Stockholm

Last week, the eruption of Volcano Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland left hundreds of thousands of people stranded all around Europe. I was one of them.

I was in Istanbul for the ELIA Conference, which was very good -- as usual -- when the news about the closing of the European airspace started to spread. In between sessions, everybody was checking their iPhones and laptops to find out what were the latest news about airport closings. By Friday, everybody was trying to find alternative ways to get back home.

As I had a Board meeting on Sunday, my flight wasn't scheduled to leave until Monday afternoon to Copenhagen, near where I had a business meeting, and then on the United States on Tuesday. So I felt pretty safe that I was going to make it out of there as some countries were starting to open their airspace. The rumor mill was spinning very high: There were news of additional eruptions, test flights by the Germans and the Dutch, people sleeping in airports with no more money... Definitely a dire situation. As I said, I felt safe until my flights for Monday were canceled. 

On Saturday night, I started trying to look for alternatives to get out of Istanbul. There were no rental cars, so I called bus companies in Turkey, who wanted €14,000.00 to take up to 46 people to Munich (I could have made a profit, but I didn't want to go to Munich... I needed to be in Sweden!) I also looked at changing my plans and going to visit Milengo Taiwan and from there flying to Boston, which would have amounted to a round the world trip. But the connections were bad and they only had middle seats on the plane. With the support from friends in Sweden, the United States, and Bulgaria, I found out that there were rental cars still available in Sofia. But how would I get to Sofia?

Luckily, ELIA fellow board member Marianna Hill from Interpretorium had come by car with her colleague Inna and offered me a ride to Sofia. Now I needed someone to share the driving and the expense. Luckily, my friend Johan Laestadius and Mats Knapp from Kommunicera also wanted to go back home to Gothemburg and agreed to jump on this adventure.


The map below shows our adventure, which was twittered all along with pictures and commentary. We drove in turns for 2,700km (1,678mi), 35 hours, 2 ferries across 9 countries. 

View Volcano Refugees Road Trip in a larger map

Johan and Mats dropped me in Helsingborg and continued to drive another two hours to their destination. I had my meeting the next day, and took a train to Stockholm, from where I was able to get a flight for Sunday, April 25.  

In Stockholm, I rented an apartment from, which cost me SEK 5,300 for 4 days, close to what I spent for one night at a regular hotel when I first arrived.

All in all, a good adventure and a good story to tell!


  1. Now we now that a cloud invisible to the naked eye has the power to forces us back to our earthly roots :-)

    Congratulations on your successfull trip!

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