I Guess I am Just Not Cut Out to be an International Traveler

When I was a kid, one of my goals in life was to travel. As I got older, life got in the way of that goal and I really didn’t go anywhere except around the States. Hell, I didn’t even ride in an airplane until I was 24. Along with being a writer, I let my dreams fall by the wayside.

It wasn’t until my 40s that I actually got to use a passport, when I came here to the Philippines, and I realized that traveling is really a pain in the ass. Security checkpoints, Customs, immigration, ticket counters: traveling around the world really is a chore and I can’t say I enjoy it.

For my first trip to the Philippines, I had everything planned out, but it still turned into a huge clusterfuck. I had my trip all planned out on Orbitz.com, but they failed to give me enough time to get to my plane bound for Beiling. They were actually closing the doors of the plane when I arrived. You see, my plane from Tucson to Los Angeles was delayed and somewhere in my planning I failed to find out I had to change terminals at LAX and my bus driver (who spoke very little English) dropped me off at the wrong terminal. When I finally found the international terminal, I had to wait in a huge line to get through the security checkpoint. Plus, I didn’t know you had to take off your belt and shoes before going through the metal detector, and my pants almost fell down. I still set off the detector so they had to use that damn wand on me, and the security person was laughing because I couldn’t raise my arms without losing my pants.

It was all very embarrassing.

I ran the last mile or so to my gate, knowing I was going to miss my plane, because I could hear them calling my name over the intercom the whole way. I was still very fat back then, so I was sweating like a pig by the time I got there and the agitated employees of ChinaAir thought I was going to have a heart attack. As I got on the plane, everyone stopped and looked at me because I had held up the plane from taking off on time. As I went to sit down, I realized I was in a middle seat between two other fat guys, who tried their best not to touch my sweat-soaked body. I spent the next 14 hours wedged between my seatmates, trying my best to get comfortable.

It really was horrible.

The worst part was trying to calm myself from the edge of a panic attack the whole way. I must have looked terrible because the flight attendants kept bringing me cold water. I wished I could have just poured it over my head.

The stop in Beijing was uneventful, except for this guy in the bathroom who was trying everything he could to get a tip from me. He even put one of those paper butt protectors on the toilet seat for me. Then he waited right outside the stall door for me to finish. As bad as I had to poop, it took me a long time because he was standing right there by the door and kept looking through the crack to see if I was done. When I finally went, after much pushing, grunting and a double-flush I left the stall and the guy tried to wash my hands for me. He didn’t understand any English, so my complaints fell on deaf ears. I left the poor guy with a horrible smell coming from the bathroom stall and one US dollar for his troubles. He didn’t seem very happy.

The flight from Beijing to Manila was fairly uneventful so I fell asleep, only to be awakened by a flight attendant because I was snoring very loud and disturbing the other passengers.

Once in Manila, I had to stand in no less than 4 different lines to pay fees and pass through customs. Most of the time, I didn’t even know what I was paying for. I didn’t complain, I just tried to get through the lines as fast as possible because it was 2am and I knew F was outside the airport waiting for me.

I have flown that route several times now, so I think I am pretty good at it, but I don’t think I will ever forget that first trip. I am not looking forward to the first time when I have to go with the whole family to visit the States. Traveling the route by yourself is bad enough.

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This post was in response to the Daily Posts’ Prompt: The Happy Wanderer, were we were to write about:

What’s your travel style? Are you itinerary and schedule driven, needing to have every step mapped out in advance or are you content to arrive without a plan and let happenstance be your guide?

 

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6 thoughts on “I Guess I am Just Not Cut Out to be an International Traveler

  1. Too bad you couldn’t have traveled before 9/11, it was much more fun, or at least laid back. Have you ever seen Airplane? I watched it a few months ago and was really blown away by how much things changed.

    • Yes, I traveled in the US before 9/11 and it was so much easier. Remember when people use to be able to go right up to the gate and greet you?

      It’s so much harder now, but I guess I don’t have much choice.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Once flew from Egypt to Finland via Israel, travelling alone, with a stopover in Tel Aviv. Despite arriving at the airport 4 hours before departure, I was singled out for a thorough screening, because I was travelling from Egypt alone, which apparently spiked me as a terrorism risk (my frustrated statement that “I’m an Australian, I don’t give a fuck about your politics!” didn’t help my cause). Was particularly frustrated when I was told “you have missed your flight”. “I didn’t miss my flight, you made me miss it!” Finally got to Finland. Thankfully had been able to visit Jerusalem and walk around during the stopover, so don’t need to subject myself to Israel’s tender ministrations again. Final irony? There was a bomb threat which cleared the airport while I was waiting for my eventual flight to Finland …

      • It’s a great story to tell years later … not so much to live through 🙂 This was in the days before mobile phones and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to connect with the people I was meeting in Finland. Still, all’s well that ends well.

  3. W0w dude………tough times !
    I always and I mean always book my own plane on line and always get a window seat and no one hears me snore. Plane is so LOUD anyway you must be a loud one if they can hear you.
    My favorite thing is to bring a wind up alarm clock and when it goes through security in Manila it always brings the militia and the NCP running to the xray machine. Of course I always act the innocent and get a big chuckle from these locals.

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