The craziest part of the whole adventure thus far, is how much the reality of it all has not sunk in. I spent all of Tuesday traveling, but it wasn’t until I boarded the titanic of planes that I really understood I was on a one way flight to a far away land. But let’s not start there. I’ll start at the beginning.
The first leg of my journey was a simple but stress inducing one. Over the past few months I have had countless conversations with Qantas (the Australian airline) about all the rules regarding luggage. For instance, your bags should all be under 50lbs, if it was over, there was a fee but still no single bag could be over 75lbs. Your two free checked bags could not have perimeters exceeding 104 inches, but you also could not have a single bag over 64 inches. After spending hours packing and repacking and weighing and reweighing (thanks Dad!), I came to the conclusion that weight-wise I should be fine, but width/height/length wise I was screwed. So when I showed up at the airport Tuesday morning I was just waiting for the airline attendant to whip out her measuring tape and give me one last roadblock prior to departure. By some miracle, she overlooked measurements on my stuffed to the gills bags and confirmed all three were under the weight limit. To most this may seem a small victory, but for me it was the best news I’d had in weeks.
After a tearful goodbye with my Mom I meandered around the airport for a while and had an uneventful first leg of my journey over to LAX. Don’t get me wrong, the flight was long, the seats were small, and I was tired(didn’t sleep well the night before), but when you know a 15 hour MONSTER of a flight is coming up, 4 hours really just doesn’t phase you.
I arrived in LAX around 2:30 local time, leaving me with just over 8 long hours before my nighttime departure to Melbourne. I took the advice of my future roommate and Nana and purchased a day pass to the Admirals club. For anyone with a long layover, I HIGHLY recommend this. It was $50 and worth every penny. I spent my afternoon lounging in big comfy chairs streaming Netflix (for one last time) and sipping on free wine (yes friends, free wine). I had dinner there around 6pm local, and by that point my day clock was already all screwed up. For me, 6pm local was already 8pm in my last timezone, but I was hungry so I went with it. I got a shower (yes, they offer showers) there before deciding around 9pm it was time to find my next flight.
The signs were all a bit confusing and it took me about 10 minutes to realize that the terminal I had claimed as my nesting grounds was only for domestic flights and I needed to get over to the international terminal. I located the corresponding shuttle and hopped aboard. Can I just say, oh dear sweet heavenly accents, you overwhelm me in the best way possible. All around me, “mate,” “lad,” and “chap” were being tossed about and I just soaked it all in. A nice fellow from Sydney struck up a conversation with me and upon hearing this was my first flight down under confirmed (as everyone else has consistently) that I will love it. “But wait til you see this plane,” he finished. Smiling, I gave a small uneasy laugh and said “oh you mean the thing called the Airbus.” Just then we turned a corner and a HUGE plane appeared. I gawked, pointed, and mumbled something about “that’s outrageous” before he quickly corrected me explaining that those were the smaller vessels. Sure enough, one more turn down a more secluded terminal and planes that can only be described as titanics of the air appeared before me. I tried to get a picture of these Airbus machines, but the pictures truly don’t do them justice. They were double-decker planes that sat 10 people across and somewhere between 3-500 people total.
Side note here, when I first landed at LAX, I must admit I was underwhelmed by the terminal. I was expecting tons of restaurants, boutiques, salons, etc, and what I saw was a couple hundred yards of gates, fast food, a few bars and the admirals club. When I popped off the shuttle at the international terminal, however, I got my awestruck moment. This terminal was HUGE (well, how could it not be when it has 3 titanics parked there). I don’t regret spending my time at the admirals club, but if I have a shorter layover next time, I will definitely spend my time at the international airport.
As I waited for the massive boarding process to reach my row, I began to feel the weight of this adventure. I felt so small. Up until now I had felt invincible, independent and self-assured, but suddenly I had this overwhelming sense of smallness. I don’t know how better to describe it than that. My world felt so small.
I think my jaw was slowing me down as I boarded– it was permanently stuck to the floor as I walked through Titanic. I found my seat (I preselected an aisle seat so I’d have control of my ups and downs throughout the flight, and I’m very thankful I did), and settled in. It was now 11pm local time (feeling like 1am to my sleepy self). I had been pre-warned that dinner would be served a couple hours in (on aussie time to help with the adjustment), so I forced myself to watch a movie until mealtime. Needless to say, nothing sounded too good at (what felt like) 3 in the morning, but I choked some food down after the cheery attendants noted that breakfast was a good 10 hours away. I glanced at my wrist-watch (still set to LA time) and realized that the small hand would have to go all the way around PLUS a little before I reached my final destination. I don’t know why, but that visual struck me most when thinking about just how long this flight was.
The flight wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t fantastic either. The seats are just big enough that you don’t feel on top of you seat buddy, but just small enough that they are most definitely in your space bubble. Luckily the titanic was a very smooth cloud cruiser. In fact, if it weren’t for a little turbulence and the fact that there were 400 people around you in tiny chairs, you could almost forget you were on a plane. I stood up and moved around a few times during the flight, but there’s only so much you can move in the tiny aisles and by the end of the flight I noticed my ankles had entirely disappeared (I will be investing in compression stockings for my next go at this forever flight).
Qantas served a yummy hot breakfast with about an hour to go in the flight and you could feel the buzz in Titanic as we neared our final port. I was not near a window, so I couldn’t get a feel for the landscape as we came down, but when we stepped off the plane, the warm air was a welcome greeting. There’s something very eerie about stepping off a plane and NOT being able to “turn your phone off airplane mode.” I had no means of communication and didn’t know a single soul around me. I stumbled around the airport a bit before falling into a line that felt a bit like how I would imagine cattle feel whilst being herded to slaughter. In this case slaughter was customs. It took about as long as you’d imagine it would take to herd 500people through 6 lines of inquiries. All my worries were for naught as they didn’t check my medications, my doctors’ notes nor my prescriptions. All that energy wasted! Oh well, I wasn’t going to insist on further inspection so I located my suitcases (all 147 pounds of them) and went in search of my former boss turned advisor.
We found each other and he thankfully took control of my plethora of baggage. We reached the car and I had my first “I’m in Australia” moment when I waited by the passenger side of the car and he asked if I was planning on driving. Oh right. I was standing by the steering wheel.
The rest of the day was good but exhausting. I saw some shops and what malls here look like. I was also able to get a new aussie number so my phone can be used again outside of only on wifi. I had a glass of wine post-dinner and enjoyed a beautiful aussie sunset. The only downside was that I am not on a coastline and thus don’t have a completely unobstructed sunset view (nitpick here…). It still felt like I was in some summertime snow globe. I could do a 360 and see clear beautiful skies all around me.
I am in Australia. Wow. I am here and this is real. I have to keep repeating it or I won’t believe it. Maybe it’s because it really doesn’t LOOK like “the outback,” or maybe it’s because I haven’t seen all the “things that can kill you,” but for some reason it doesn’t feel real. I know I’m not in the USA anymore, but it’s almost like I can’t process where I actually am. I can’t process that where I am now is 10000 miles away from “home.” Either way, here I am….in the land of Oz. Maybe someday soon I’ll believe it.