It was somewhere around 9.30 pm local time in Vancouver, and I was sitting in my first hotel on my first every overseas trip. Some thoughts were running through my head, but the main one, “What am I doing here?” I was almost 12,000 km from home, and if someone had offered for me to be back at home right then, I would have taken it. But I am getting ahead of myself, let me share the story with you.
A Long Day Travelling
The morning seemed rushed, being up early to meet the suggested arrival time at the airport. Passing through check-in and customs did not seem bad at all and then just the sitting and waiting to board the plane. There was a delay due to a technical fault, but soon we were under way for the 13-hour flight to Los Angeles.
With an uneventful flight arriving on time in Los Angeles and a relatively easy immigration process, I had some eight hours to spare. Having done some research, I planned to spend the majority of this in the airline lounge for my onboard flight.
Passport, Where Did I Put That
Finding the airport lounge turned out to be a little more difficult. It is never a good thing opening random doors in an airport, that is how alarms sound. Unlike some of the lounges in airports that are rather well signed, I could not spot any signs that stood out. It turned out this nondescript wooden door with a tiny plaque next to it was the door I wanted. Of course, it took asking for directions to come to this conclusion.
I thought nothing of what they may want to see when I entered the door; I just had my money ready. But the first question turned out to be unexpected and triggered a little panic. It went like this,
Clerk: “Do you have your boarding pass?”
Me: Why yes I only got that 30 minutes ago. But umm where did I put it?
Clerk: No problem I can reprint it what is your flight.
Me: No I need to find my copy because my passport is with it.
At this point, I was rifling through my passport wallet, backpack, carry-on bag, and jacket pockets. But no dice. I started running through my minute by minute moves over the past 30 minutes.
30 minutes ago: At the check-in counter with passport and boarding pass handed to me.
25 minutes ago: Passing through security with the passport for id and boarding pass to proof I was flying.
20 minutes ago: Went to the bathroom and placed passport and boarding pass on toilet roll holder….
…My heart skipped a beat and was racing a little at that thought. I had been on the ground in a foreign country for less than an hour and left my passport WHERE.
6 Hours In An Airport Lounge
A split second later my hand went to my waist and felt the newly familiar shape of the money belt there. Not jus the money belt but the familiar squarish shape of my passport. I am sure you can imagine the relief that washed over me at that moment. Of course, the boarding pass was right there with it, and soon I was able to relax just a little.
The next six hours passed I believe in much more comfort than if I had to spend it in the general lounge area. There was access to food and drink, plenty of seating, much fewer people and some freedom to move around. That is without a need to purchase supplies and camp out in one spot just to have a seat to sit on. Plus the added benefit that taking a nap was possible with a much-decreased risk of things going missing.
While the airport lounge was an excellent choice in this situation. The experience was far from perfect; the wifi did not work, the seating was just comfortable but not entirely practical. But I am still rather more happy with the experience over spending that much time in the general airport area.
Looking back now given the choice of a stop over like this or an overnight stay. I would and have chosen the overnight stay on multiple occasions. When you consider the difference in price between an airport lounge ($50) and a hotel ($100) to me the hotel is an easy choice. It is not about efficiency, but more about a comfortable experience and not wasting countless hours sitting around an airport.
Eventually, the time came to collect my things and head towards the boarding gate. Compared to the last flight this was a nice short 2-hour 30-minute flight. The departure was on time, it was a smooth flight, and soon enough we were arriving in Vancouver.
I had collected my bag and on the way to Immigration. Everything was looking good for me to make the hotel transfer bus. The last one would be leaving in 25 minutes. There seemed to be a few more questions than Immigration in The USA but no problem. He marked my card and sent me on through the gate.
But it seems that was not the end of the process for me on this evening. At the last check before entering Canada, I was directed to more detailed questioning and baggage inspection. As I was standing in the line, I checked my watch and realised I would not be making the hotel transfer bus.
After waiting for about 15 minutes, the search ends up not taking more than 20 minutes. The officer sped up the process as soon as she realised I was much more tourist than anything else. I had all the papers for hotels and onward flights. The only thing I can think that triggered the search is being a young male travelling alone and the first time I had used my passport.
Getting To The Hotel
Soon I confirmed I had missed the hotel transfer bus, so I had to look at the options. Which came down to Taxi or train. The taxi would be the most direct, but I suspected would be rather costly. The train would find me around 1.3 km from my hotel.
I chose the train, and even though I don’t mind walking and exploring a city, this is not how I like to do so. By the time I got into the city and stepped out of the station, it was a few minutes before 9 pm. It was dark, there were a lot of people around, and here I was dragging a suitcase with a big tourist look to me. I tried to make it look I knew where I was going and end up heading the wrong direction.
But soon enough I checked the map, realised my mistake and was onto the right direction. Once I arrived at the hotel some 20 minutes later the check in was thankfully quick and painless. Which of course leaves me sitting on the bed at 9.30 p.m., wondering what it is I am doing here.
27 Hours Travelling
I had been travelling for some 27 hours on planes, in airports, a train and walking. Now I am sitting here wondering why on Earth I put myself through this. Right at that moment given a choice, I would have chosen to head directly back home.
But of course, that is not a practical option when you have another 40+ days of travel booked and paid ahead of you. Especially when the only way to get back home is to put yourself through all of that again. Being on the other side of the world away from everything familiar is a confronting experience. Especially when it is the first time you have taken that step.
But life must go on; I could have sat there all night questioning what and why I am here. That honestly gets things nowhere. So I did the only thing I could do, I got up and walked myself out to find dinner. By this stage, I was rather hungry. On the way back from dinner I stopped at a Starbucks for a hot chocolate and a chance to connect to the internet and contact home. Before heading back to the hotel to get some much-needed sleep.
Waking Up To A Brand New Day
The next morning I woke up, got dressed, had breakfast and headed out to explore the city. It seems the sleep had helped to push away the feelings I had from sitting on the bed the evening before.
I figured I was here I might as well get used to it and make the most of the time I have in Vancouver. The more I explored, the more I found that my choice to travel was an excellent choice. It just comes down entirely to your perspective on individual situations at a given point in time.
The previous evening my feelings, point of view and perspective was very much guided by some factors. There was a lack of sleep, a change of plans, an unexpected situation and trying to recover the situation. But in the light of a new day, these are not problems, they can be overcome, and they do provide a valuable learning experience.
Situations May Be Bad, Travel Is Not
I am very glad that I gauge my experience by all the good things that have come from travel. Even more happy that there was not a choice or option to turn and run home on that first night. There are so many experiences that I would never have had the chance to experience. So many friends that I would never have met.
I would never have been able to visit some 35 countries. The vast range of experiences that come from visiting so many countries is invaluable. It very much leaves you a different person than before you left your home country.
I would never have been able to cross two of the world’s great oceans by cruise ship. First, it was the Pacific Ocean, visiting many little island nations. Followed closely by the Atlantic Ocean spending some eight days on the ocean without sight of land.
Everyday Is A First When Travel
Of course, these are the bigger achievements; there are small things every day that you travel. The first time that I purposefully visited a church to see the building for its beauty. That first time I walked on ground that is over 1900m above sea level. The first time I faced a language barrier.
There are just so many different things every day that you travel that you experience for the first time. You just do not even realise half of them when you are there doing it. But now trying to think back to share a list, they just do not even seem that important or significant.
Travel Is A Great Adventure
So I hope that while I might have given you something to be concerned about with travel. I very much hope that you can see the positive side of travel now, even though there can be a downside as well.
Of course, there might be situations that are bad or days that seem like the worst thing you have ever experienced. But at the same time, these are the times that build who you are as a person. They test you and try to break you, but when you come though to the other side. You realise that maybe it was not so bad after all.
Go out there and travel, dream of something different, explore the world and discover yourself for the firs time.