I honestly am not a fan of traveling. Crazy, right, since I live on the other side of the world? I get motion sick on basically every mode of transportation (I will spare you the gruesome details but thankfully there are not barf bags involved generally), and although I am pretty fantastic at packing, living out of a suitcase is not my favorite. I am much more comfortable navigating my familiar streets and going to the same coffee shop every week, rather than trying to figure out a new system of bus routes and how to take a train and what restaurants to eat at in a new place, especially if I can’t read the menu.
My adventurous side is buried pretty deep down. I do love learning, finding out about other places in the world and experiencing the every day, ordinary parts of a new culture. There are many redeeming things about visiting a new place, especially if I can hang my clothes up in a wardrobe and come home to the same guesthouse or friend’s home every night. Travel pushes us, in many good ways, out of our comfort zone and forces us to look at our own space with a fresh perspective.
I have not had too many mishaps or crazy adventures while traveling, but here are a few anecdotes from my world wanderings.
We all dread them right? Taking off our shoes, pulling out our liquids and laptops, new-fangled scanners. I didn’t travel anywhere that exciting until the summer after my sophomore year of college. Not only was this my first time outside of the US, it was also my very first time to fly! Needless to say, I was SOOO nervous. The study abroad group I was with arrived at the airport early for our 6:00 am flight. It takes awhile if you want to fly from Nebraska to anywhere, and to get from Omaha to Quito, Ecuador we were getting ready for Flight #1 of 3. I had tried to be prepared, looked up what to do when going through a security line since that was my first hurdle, that first new thing. Everyone around me looked like a pro, and I tried to copy them as they put the right things in bins and pushed them toward the scanner. As I stepped up for my turn to go through the metal dectector (this was pre-full body scanners), the TSA officer grinned widely and said, “There’s no need to be afraid”. I have no idea, but I must have looked absolutely terrified! Thankfully I can laugh about it now, and feel much more confident after 10 years of making my way through those security lines in numerous states and countries. I have even been asked after finishing the process if I work for the airport because I looked so professional. 🙂
What language should I speak?
After spending a month in Ecaudor studying and exploring this beautiful country, Spanish was pretty much on my mind. I had now gotten about 8 flights under my belt (see the previous story for the beginning of this trip), but one new experience was going through customs to enter the United States. The professor leading our study abroad group had given us lots of tips, and I was fairly prepared for a rather unhappy customs officer who might ask questions about where I had been and what I did there. Somehow I was the first person in line (not my favorite when I like to observe people who actually know what they are doing), and was greeted by a straight-faced gentleman who took my passport without a greeting. After glancing at my name, he looked up and started speaking. My muddled brain could tell it wasn’t English and it wasn’t Spanish. Where was I and what was he doing? I realized it was German, but replied to him in Spanish to tell him I had no idea what he was saying to me. This brought out a smile. “With such a German last name you don’t speak the language?” I smiled in return and noticed his name tag, which also bore a very German last name. Filled with relief that I wasn’t in trouble for something, we had a great little chat about where our ancestors came from and he let me go without worrying that I had snuck a packet of Ecuadorian Oreos into my bag and then was so nervous that I declared them on the little piece of paper.
My now-teammate Kristin and I were seated next to each other on the 13-hour flight home after our short-term trip to Cambodia. We hadn’t slept much, and after a couple of weeks living the village life we probably didn’t look our best. When the lights in the cabin turned back on and the flight attendants made their way through with breakfast, we were gratefully accepting hot cups of coffee when one of teammates cheerfully peered over the seat in front of us and called, “Good morning, princesses!” We grinned back at her and tossed back greetings and inside jokes that come from 2 weeks of intense life together. The flight attendant smiled too and moved on. Later when she came to collect our trays she asked, “Are you two really princesses?” Kristin and I looked at each other, thinking “Do we really LOOK like we could be princesses at this exact moment?” The flight attendant went on, “Sometimes we get pageant queens on our flights and I thought maybe that’s what you were!” It was probably the nicest compliment we could have gotten if she thought that was possible after exhausting flights and a week of bucket showers.
Most of my travel adventures come from outside of the US, but I have also logged thousands of miles flying back and forth between my home state of Nebraska and my 5-year home in Dallas, Texas. For a girl who didn’t fly until she was 20, achieving Gold Status on American Airlines felt like a significant achievement. There are not many perks with this entry-level frequent-flyer status, but I was pretty elated to get free checked bags with my missionary budget and getting on first with priority boarding wasn’t bad either.
My last Christmas in the States had been simply wonderful, and it was one of the hardest goodbyes at the airport I had experienced (although I had no idea what “I’m leaving for years to live on the other side of the country” goodbyes would be like). It was all I could do to stay in the airport terminal instead of chasing back after my family to let them take me back home. As we got ready to board, they warned us it was a pretty full flight, with all those holiday travelers making their way home. I waited through the boarding of those seasoned travelers who achieved crazy levels of miles, and then stood up when they called for Gold Status folks like myself. I noticed that I was the only one that stood up, and got situated in my roomy exit row seat while everyone else made their way on to the plane. Finally everyone was seated and their luggage stowed but there didn’t seem to be any hurry on the part of the flight attendants or pilot. Then a man came on board and started to make his way toward the back. Where is he headed, I wondered, since all the seats in the back were filled up. He stopped next to my row. “I’m in this seat”, he proclaimed. Of course you are not, I thought, trying to make sense of the situation. My poor broken heart can’t handle getting booted out of the small comfort of being able to stretch my legs a bit. Everyone was staring and wondering why this guy was kicking me out of my seat. Then he said, “You are the only one with Gold status on this flight so they are moving you up to first class”. Oh. Well then. I made my way back up to the front, with a zillion eyes on me (or so it felt), and the ticket lady met me there, and showed me to my seat…in first class. A roomy seat, attentive service, a quiet seatmate who also appreciated his first class treatment. In the midst of the tough goodbyes and knowing the transition I was soon facing, this was a gift straight from the Father. I savored every minute of the two hour flight back to Dallas, knowing such a gift probably wouldn’t happen again. For those of you who frequent the front of the plane on a regular basis, wow. I hope you are grateful. 🙂
What fun stories do you have from traveling?
Linking up with Velvet Ashes Travel stories