First Stop: England, next stop TBD...
Despite a bizarrely difficult online check-in process and the inability to pay for my luggage or an extra seat, I felt only excitement and restlessness as I sat on the AB bus line on route to DIA. At the check-in counter I asked about purchasing a window seat for my 8.5 hour flight to London, aware of the high cost. The desk operator smiled at me and said, "there are so many seats left, don’t buy a window, just take one!" I smiled back, surprised at her kindness, but grateful for the financial savings. Once again the restlessness returned as I waited to board the plane, wondering if I would find an open window seat or if everyone would have the same plan.
They called my boarding section and I proceeded onto the plane. I passed my assigned seat and headed to the back. Locating a window seat and free aisle I put down my things. Shortly after, a woman arrived- it was her seat and she wondered if there had been a mistake. I explained the situation. A man a little older than me sat across the aisle in the middle and listened on. “The entire row behind me is open if you want to lie down? I already asked about it!” “perfect!” I exclaimed, and claimed my row. I had dodged the window fine and secured an entire row. Who needs to lean against a window when you can stretch out along 4 seats!
After watching a movie and eating the Indian meal I had brought from my favorite restaurant back home, I put on my mouth and nose mask for germ protection, put my ear plugs in, and slipped in my eye mask. Puffing up my pillow and neck pillow and covering myself with the fleece blanket I had brought and my down coat, I quickly fell asleep. Hours into my sleep I was awakened by the worst turbulence I had ever felt. It came and went for what felt like way too long to be safe. I found myself in a form of prayer, repeating the mantra “please be ok” as I kept my eyes shut. We bounced up and down and back and forth. The entire plane shook as if in a movie. I kept waiting for the captains voice to come on and assure us things were ok, that we were in some sort of storm, but there was nothing but silence. After a least 45 minutes of ferocious shaking, it stopped as if nothing had happened and I sunk back into my slumber.
Waking up an hour before arrival, I watched a show about food traditions in Turkey and tried to adjust to being awake. I had slept for roughly 6 hours and woken up at 1am my time, but didn’t feel that horrible given the time difference. It helped knowing that I was going to a lovely hotel with a great looking bed and could go to sleep as early as I wanted- just as I had planned.
Traveling for so many years, I have become accustomed to what my body needs. Given the time, I love the idea of having a transition day in a place of comfort where there is no need to explore, but simply a desire to rest and adjust to the time change, before embarking on the adventure. I had even been lucky enough to provide myself with a similar transition period at the end of my trip so that I could decompress after so much traveling and rest up before the journey home that would bring work, Christmas, packing, and moving.
Walking through the airport, I was accompanied by the kind man from the row ahead of me on the plane. He had moved from the states and was now a teacher at Oxford and we made tentative plans to meet at the end of my trip when I would pass back through. I gave him my business card.
I struggled to find the Central Bus Station and narrowly missed my bus, but it actually let me to walk around for an hour before sitting down and allowed the time needed for my room to be ready upon arrival. Once I was aboard the bus, I quickly passed out sitting up. Man was a tired.
Arriving at Standstead I located the taxi desk and prepaid for my ride to Down Hall Hotel.
My cab driver was phenomenal and loved photography. We chatted about my job and he showed me his instagram account. Passing beautiful homes and lush, green fields, I was so happy to be in England.
The remainder of my day was lovely. I walked the grounds taking photos of the grounds, exercising, and sitting in the steam room. I ate salad and drank tea by the fire in the grand foyer. It was the perfect first day of my solo trip.
The next day, however, did not go as planned. Leaving in the morning, a beautiful eerie mist had rolled in and I felt like magical creatures would pop out at me. I made my way to the airport and located my gate. A flight was still boarding and I knew my flight would be late. I was grateful for the two hours in between but worried that it wouldn't be enough time. I was right.
Arriving at last in Milan, I rushed as fast as I could to the check in counter after collecting my luggage. I was dripping sweat and they informed me that I had missed it by 5 minutes. 5 minutes. and it wasn't even my fault. There was nothing that could be done they said. Unfortunately for me, I had arrived on RyanAir but was leaving on Air Italy, neither party was responsible, nor cared, and I was forced to fork over another 250 euro for a ticket to Cairo. FML.
I guess this is why I worked like a dog the past 6 months- you never know when things like this will happen and from my international travel over the years I have learned that its possible to spend a few extra thousand dollars than expected, depending on where you are going, and no one accepts responsibility and there is no way around it. I had previously bought tickets to Egypt in 2010 and prepaid for everything only for the revolution to break out- I lost $1400 that day. When a blizzard came in during a trip to eastern Russia and my boyfriend at the time and I were stranded, we each forked over nearly $1000 to get out of there as quickly as possible. I was grateful to have saved so much and prioritized travel as my only unnecessary expense in life. The years of eating only veggies and beans, for the most part abstaining from alcohol, drugs, and shopping, living with my mom for 5 months, and trading work in exchange for many food and clothing options had paid off. Although I did not want to pay this cost, I knew it was the only way to get to Giza and god damn I would see those pyramids if it was the last thing I did!
I was grateful to feel no stress, only annoyance and desperation to see the pyramids. My kind hotel manager rearranged a pick up for me at the new ungodly hour of 1:50 am. My flight would leave 4 hours later than it should have and take me to Athens before Cairo- sweet!
It was at this moment that I just wished for a travel companion. Purely because I was frustrated and bored. I thought about my last international trips to Japan, Spain, and Scandinavia. All had been shared with companions and when things had gone wrong or were not as expected (which seems to happen quite often with international travel on a budget) I had someone to commiserate with. Now, I had my books and my blog, and it would have to do. This is what solo travel is all about and I had turned down offers of companions with the desire to try a solo trip.
At the end of the day, a changed schedule is only that. At least I had a schedule. At least I had this opportunity to see these places at all. I was lucky that I could afford a new ticket. I was lucky that I could afford my original ticket.
That's all for now. My next post will be after I see these dang pyramids!
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