Bracelet Man

Milan

We arrived in Milan at 8AM. Despite our grogginess, I was intent on making every single minute of our vacation count. And so after leaving our luggage at the front desk of Hotel Berna, my sleepy boyfriend and I found ourselves in the open square in front of Milan’s famous Duomo on a sunny spring morning. Surrounded by pigeons and tourists, we stood looking at the cathedral in our tired state of awe. As I looked around for the best photo spot, two men walked up to us.

“Welcome to Milan,” they said, “where are you visiting from?” As we spoke, I heard a familiarity in their accents. “Are you from Senegal?” I asked. One of the men nodded in surprise: “How did you know?” I excitedly told him about how his accent reminded me of a close friend back in New York, who was also from Senegal. “Do you also speak Wolof and French?” I continued the conversation, happy to show off my limited knowledge of Senegal.

The conversations quickly took a turn as the friendly men tied string bracelets on our wrists. “Is this free?” I asked cautiously, my wary tourist alarms finally going off in my head. “Yes, it’s free, it’s just a friendship bracelet, a welcome to our city,” the men smiled. “This is free, nothing attached, right?” I overheard my boyfriend asking. Before I knew it, the knot on my wrist was tightened – and the man from Senegal smiled, “A few coins, now, just a few coins, for the bracelet.”

The knot in my heart tightened. “You said it was free,” I accused, “I asked you and you said we didn’t have to pay.”

“Oh, but just a few coins,” the man continued to smile, coaxing me to pay for the strings around my wrist that no longer looked so colorful. Betrayed by my new “friend,” I was contemplating how to respond as my boyfriend suddenly appeared and took my wrist. “We’re leaving,” he said firmly, dragging me away with determination I didn’t have the heart to muster myself. I never looked back.

When we talked about it later, my boyfriend told me that he had reluctantly given the other man some coins – before feeling angry about being duped and deciding to save me from the same fate. As for me, I was sad that the brief connection I thought I’d made with the man was marred by his ulterior motive. My eyes were opened to the fragility of the human connection: how easy it was to share conversation, and how easy it was to scar it.

Website: The Flight Deal

airfare

Sometimes on days when I feel whimsical and spontaneous (and, let’s be honest, also on days when I’m just bored), I head over to check out The Flight Deal. Honestly, I only use one part of the website: the first tab, “Flight Deals.” But that’s really all I need for this to be one of my favorite airfare-finding websites!

To me, there are three advantages of The Flight Deal:

  1. You can filter by the city you’re based in (or looking to fly out of);
  2. You might consider cities you hadn’t necessarily thought of going to;
  3. You will find awesome deals on flights (obviously).

Now, this website is clearly different from your typical flight-searching websites: you don’t search by the date and place you want to go – so if you’re looking to book flights for specific events or holidays, this probably isn’t the site you want to use.

If, however, you’re thinking about where to vacation next year and don’t really have anywhere specific in mind, The Flight Deal is a perfect website to give you some ideas. To start all you do is select the city you’ll be flying out of:

airfare_theflightdeal

I’m based in Chicago, so I usually click “Chicago” to check out all the airfare deals that leave out of Chicago.

Once you’ve selected the page for your city, you’ll see a list of flights and prices, as well as the dates they were posted. Be warned that most of these deals are pretty fleeting – they’ll usually last maybe a couple of days. Clicking into the specific flight will give you details on how to book: more often than not, you have to go to the airline’s website or search on ITA Matrix (more on that later) to get the flight you want.

Summary: If you have flexible dates and flexible location, The Flight Deal is an awesome way to find great savings on airfare, both domestic and international!