Two flights, 23 hours later, and I am finally here in Bangkok Thailand!
It is hard to believe that this is all happening, and if I’m being honest, I still haven’t fully processed it yet. I am starting to make some friends and do some exploring, but first I wanted to discuss my journey simply getting here, because there were a few unexpected adventures for certain…let’s start at the beginning.
Pretty much since I left my job on October 13th I have been frantically running around like a madwoman trying to think of everything I could possibly need to do before moving my entire life to another country for six months. I mean really,
How do you fit six months of your life into a suitcase and a backpack?
Preparing for the Journey
I was assembling documents, making phone calls, setting up bank accounts, and shopping for teaching clothes (thank to my mom for helping me on that one) and by the time the day had finally come, a part of me just wanted to run onto the plane and get it over with.
My dad made a good analogy, he said it was like preparing for a wedding, trying to make everything perfect down to the last detail until it drives you insane and when the wedding day comes you’re just relieved that you don’t have to plan anymore!
Of course I felt that way at the time, but as my countdown went from weeks, to days, to hours, the nerves started settling in. The night of my flight I remember sitting on the couch watching Big Bang Theory with Luna on my lap and my parents on the couch across from me, watching the clock tick down from 7pm to 8pm to 9pm…
I kept thinking I wish I had just one more episode, one more dinner, one more night in my bed, one more hug. But after what felt like both an eternity and an instant, it was time to get ready to leave for Newark airport.
With the bags loaded into the car there was no turning back now, and as I put Luna in her crate for a nap and kissed her one last time for a while, it was time to go.
On the ride to the airport we kept the conversation going, talking about just about anything, and I think we were all feeling the nerves and pressure of the moment. I was in the backseat texting Chris as well, as he was coming to meet us at the airport, and Alicia was helping me keep my sanity with jokes and promises to cuddle Luna while I was away. It was a lot to process all at once, watching the lights fly past my window and knowing that I was going further and further away from home, and, before long, I would be pretty much as far away from home as you can possibly be (8,614 miles to be exact).
But buried beneath the fear and anxiety and sadness, was also pure excitement.
The hour and a half drive to the airport seemed to last both an eternity and an instant all at once, and, taking my backpack and my suitcase in hand, we made our way into the airport.
Chris was already there and once we found each other I was so grateful to see him. It was a strange feeling, acknowledging that the moments I shared together in the airport with him and my parents would be the last we would have in nearly 5 months. At the moment, and while 5 months in retrospect isn’t all that long, at the time it definitely felt way more permanent.
Before long we were standing at the threshold of the security line, the two white signs boldly proclaimed “TICKET HOLDERS ONLY PAST THIS POINT”.
We all stood around for a moment, chatting, smiling, but the reality of the situation was now at the forefront of our minds, and the time to say goodbye for the next 5 months was rapidly approaching.
Slowly we began our hugs and farewells, and through smiles and tears and kisses I gathered up my luggage and smiled for a last photo before boarding the plane.
Boarding the Flight to Thailand
As I walked away from the comfort and love of my parents and Chris, I felt a wave of sadness and a surge of excitement rush over me. Through navigating security, and each step I took towards my gate, my confidence slowly grew.
I kept reminding myself that it wasn’t goodbye forever, it was simply, see you later.
Boarding the biggest plane I had ever seen in my life, my stomach dropped. I kept repeating the mantra in my head:
This was what I had been working for the past year, becoming TEFL certified, applying to the Greenheart program, it was all to bring me to this moment.
With Chris’s shirt around my shoulders and Bisket in my lap, the plane made it’s way to the runway and with the rev of its powerful engines we took to the sky.
There was no turning back now.
It was undoubtedly the longest flight of my life. First of all, as helpful as those neck pillows may be, they still aren’t the most comfortable things in the world. Gratefully, with a little help from my friends Benadryl and red wine I was able to snag a good amount of sleep for the first part of my journey.
Around midnight I awoke to the sound of flight attendants making their rounds and taking dinner orders. Between spaghetti and chicken, I went for the spaghetti thinking it would be the safer choice. It came drenched in some strange mushroom red sauce but it was edible for the most part so I ate my midnight-pasta and drank the little cup of water and attempted sleep round 2.
Things were going smoothly, I even got to watch The Big Sick and relax a bit, but…and of course there is a but…about 10 hours into my 15 hour flight my stomach started getting upset. The midnight spaghetti had well worn off and my body was NOT happy. But, by some stroke of fate, I soon heard the familiar pattering of heels on carpet as the attendants came around asking what we wanted for breakfast.
I had completely lost my sense of time by this point…was it actually breakfast time? Admittedly I couldn’t have cared less what time it was I just needed to EAT.
So when they came to me and asked if I wanted noodles (yes…noodles for breakfast) or eggs so I gleefully requested the eggs. When they came I ripped the little metal lid off the container only to reveal what looked to be little yellow islands of spongy goop surrounded by an unidentifiable clear liquid. The smell alone was enough for me to snap the lid back on as my stomach churned.
Suddenly I remembered that I still had a half a bag of pretzels stashed in my backpack from the Newark airport! So I sparingly rationed my pretzels as if they were my only salvation, and as the plane lurched through occasional turbulence, I prayed that my midnight-pasta stayed where it was.
Needless to say, the last few hours of the flight were not my finest, and with my headphones in and my eyes shut tight, I was beyond ready to be on solid land again
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity (but was actually about 4 hours) the captain’s voice crackled over the loudspeaker:
“We have arrived to Hong Kong airport ahead of schedule, prepare for landing”.
A big grin spread over my pale face, maybe my luck had finally changed after all!
But 10 minutes came to pass, then 15, then 20. I would feel the plane start to dip, hear the landing gears whirr and descend, and then after a few moments we would level out again and the landing gears click back into place.
This happened two or three times before another realization hit….
We were going in circles.
I suppose because we arrived early the captain had to wait for a space to free up, so now, instead of feeling sick with the plane moving in a straight line, now it was moving in a CIRCLE.
It got to the point where I wouldn’t even get excited when I heard the landing breaks descend. But finally, finally, I felt the gentle lurch of the wheels on solid ground.
Hong Kong Airport
I had about a 3 hour layover in Hong Kong before I had to board the second (and shorter) flight to Bangkok. Gratefully, I made it through security with relative ease and before long I made my way to the schedule board to check which gate my flight would be in.
My mouth literally dropped wide when I saw that there were over 500 gates in the airport. My gate number hadn’t been assigned yet so I waited for a moment, willing my stomach to stop rolling, and gratefully the gate number soon illuminated showing gate 40.
Scooping up my backpack, I began journeying down the endless row of moving sidewalks as I listened to the loudspeaker make announcements in Chinese.
As sleep deprived and nauseous as I was, it was still pretty cool.
Once I made it to my gate I messaged my parents and Chris that I made it there safely, and then embarked on the desperate journey to find food. It was around 4am when I arrived in Hong Kong, and much to my dismay everything was closed and wasn’t going to open until 7! I had already depleted my emergency pretzels long ago and my flight was boarding at 7:20am so even if I waited until something opened it would be a push making it back to my gate in time.
But there was little other choice, as the only shop that was currently open was Burger King and that was NOT happening.
So I waited for a half hour in order to ensure that I would be first in line at this one shop as it prepared to open. I was fully prepared to pay way entirely too much money for peanut butter on toast, I needed some kind of food desperately.
When the workers finally switched the sign to open I leapt forward to place my order and I can only imagine what I looked like. Moving to the side I began to fidget back and forth, there was a good couple of minutes when I began to scope for the nearest trashcan and ditch the entire thing for fear of missing my flight but finally they called my number so I snagged a paper bag from the adjacent stand and snatched the peanut butter toast from the plant and stuffed them inside. Nibbling my toast I bolted as fast as I could to the gate and made it on without a problem.
Onboard the plane, toast in hand, I immediately began to feel better. Only a couple hour flight stood between me and Thailand, and as I began feeling more like a human again, I began to become more and more excited.
After a much MUCH smoother flight (even though I still got offered an awkward breakfast of either noodles or eggs…I picked the noodles this time by the way) before long I once again heard the familiar sound of landing gears.
I had done it, I had mad it to
I wast to take this moment to thank everyone who helped and supported me throughout this whole journey, and despite the slightly rocky flight and nerves, you have no idea how much it means to me and I am so amazed and blessed to be here.
So, thank you.
Check back soon to learn more about my first day in Bangkok including how I got swindled by a cab driver who couldn’t find my hotel, my first exhaustion breakdown, and making my first friend.
Until then, stay well and I am sending all my love from Thailand.