Tag Archives: air travel

Flying home.

Tomorrow is our last day in the UK, and also our last real day of travel outside the US. I’m trying to take a moment from our hectic schedule and clamorous inboxes to think about what’s going on. We’ve been traveling nonstop, barely sleeping in the same place for more than two nights, since we left Normandy, and I have several entries half-written in a Word document just waiting to be posted about our time so far in Stoke-On-Trent, Cambridge, and of course London. (Oh, and Paris too, can’t forget about that.)

Time however waits for no one to digest, contemplate, reflect, and move on from these experiences! As we reach the end of this trip, each day has become more filled and hectic than the last, right up until Tuesday, July 22, when we will board a plane to Barcelona, and then Charlotte, North Carolina. I must be grateful that the flight will not take us over any war zones, civil or international, to my knowledge.

What will it feel like to be back in the US again? I don’t know. I have been excited to return for weeks and months, thinking about our dog, our friends and family, and everything familiar we are aching and yearning to see. I have been excited about moving to a new place, a new community, starting my graduate degree and learning things again. But at the same time, I think things that Steve and I have come to love about living abroad and dislike about living in the US will come into sharper relief, illuminated by our experiences of different ways of life. I’ve been very impressed with how many people around the world have been easy to talk to, kind and generous of spirit. I have enjoyed the benefits of different systems of taxation, healthcare, social welfare, service and hospitality, transportation, immigration, and the list goes on! Some of those things the US do very well; some of those things I wish they would really change. On a more mundane level, I’m going to be stunned again at how much things cost (cheap compared to Europe, expensive compared to Asia!), how many people drive, how much food I’m getting in a serving, how far away things are, and how incredibly easy it will be to do or buy anything I want. Steve meanwhile has made ominous predictions about how long we may be detained at immigration. Though neither of us have ever been seriously interrogated about our journeys outside the US, the longest conversations we have with immigration officials is undoubtedly with US customs when we come back into the country. Nobody anywhere else (with one or two exceptions) cares; at most, we get asked two questions about how long we are visiting, and less than a minute later, are stamped and sent on our merry way.

Truth be told, I am a little scared about going back home. During the past eleven months, we have traveled to broaden our horizons and become acquainted with more worlds besides ours, and we don’t want to return to find ourselves constrained and caged. For me at least, I’ve traveled to gain a deeper appreciation for everything we have, and I don’t want to go back to using resources and spending money the way we did before. We’ve traveled to get away from the same old same old grind of jobs and weekends, but what does that mean if we’re heading back? Essentially, I am unsure how exactly we’ll be synthesizing the elements of our travel life, which we mostly loved, with our life back in the States.

I won’t stop writing for the moment, however, as we have a bit of travel left to do back in the US. After we arrive back in the States, we will stay with Steve’s parents in South Carolina, then visit my parents in Boston, before going to Chicago and reuniting with our friends there. Finally, we’ll drive to Durham through Cincinnati with all our worldly belongings and settle somewhere before I start school in mid-August. There’s still some travel left for our circumnavacators! And of course, one more day in London. I’ll write again soon.


Enfin, la France!

Written on the road
Terminal 2, Charles-de-Gaulle Airport
Paris, France

Thursday, May 1, 2014

We have hours and hours to kill on our first day in France. We left Croatia before the dawn had roused anyone into the streets, but still there was an incredibly taxing line at the airport. However, a mere hour and a half later, we landed in Paris at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Terminal 1. Though old, it is very picturesque, a circular concrete structure four stories tall, hollow in its very center and transfixed through by two or three elevators which are encased in large plastic tubes.

CDG TGV station, Terminal 2.

Our train on the TGV to Lyon is at the deplorably late hour of 5:58 pm or 17h58, as I may well get into the habit of thinking. We arrived in Paris at 10:30 am. Even after going through immigration (which took a blessedly brief 15 seconds) and getting our luggage, it was barely 11 am, and we lounged around in comfortable white armchairs for an hour or so before exiting to take a shuttle to Terminal 2, where the TGV station is also located. We also paused to exchange the bulk of the rest of our kuna. The currency exchange was buying our kuna at the soul-crushing price of 8.68 kuna to the euro, which meant that our formidable looking 880 kuna came back to us just short of 100 euro, given the 6.5% commission rate they charged. Rats. Looking at the change in our hand and well aware of how much things were going to start costing us in France, we trudged onward. Continue reading Enfin, la France!

Night and Day: a two-part travel post.

Night is the Twilight Zone

When you are on a plane, in transit between cities or between countries, a funny thing happens. You also find your mind between places. It is not exactly occupied with the regular things you think about while heading to work, nor busy in contemplation of where you are going and the days or weeks to come. For me, the strangest thoughts drift through my mind – conversations from years ago, childhood memories almost forgotten… just as I am in-between places, so are my thoughts.

Flights, especially ones during the middle of the night, lend themselves to different experiences. You have never truly appreciated solitude until a stewardess has hawked luxury perfume to you at 2 am when all you want to do is close your eyes to oblivion, but sleep will not come. The alertness reminds you of other late nights, where there is no noble objective to be achieved, like a paper to be finished or someone to be taken care of, but simply to plod on and on until daylight. To simply endure.

Flights are boring. You are strapped to a snug seat, and asked to revert to your best behavior as a ten year-old (smile, follow directions, and do not ask questions). We are cattle, we are burden simply to be transported. The babies and small children have not yet learned that it does no good to cry about it, and if it did offer some small comfort from the cold and the boredom of this horrible stupor, we adults, too, would be howling.

Continue reading Night and Day: a two-part travel post.

Coming home to Beijing.

If you’re reading this post, congratulations, because you went here to look for an update on our situation rather than Facebook or Twitter. At approximately 4:30 pm this afternoon, we touched down in Beijing, China, and virtually disappeared behind the Great Firewall of China. Goodbye, social media, for at least a few weeks, or until Steve figures out his VPN. I for one will not miss it that much; a forced exile from whatever new list of 26 GIFs of Ryan Gosling’s face or ’90s pop culture that BuzzFeed has to offer would be welcome. What I really mean is that If you’re trying to get in touch with us via Facebook or Twitter, just email or comment on this post instead!

My aunt made dinner for us on our first night back. In the lower right hand corner, you can spot some homemade fries she made for Steve.

Steve is already fast asleep, after an epic bout of traveling that began nearly 24 hours ago. Last night, we boarded an overnight bus from Kyoto to Tokyo (7 hours square), took an airport express train (a little over an hour), and at Tokyo Narita, boarded two planes to Shanghai and then Beijing (three and two hour flights, respectively). In retrospect, not our finest decision making process, to squeeze all this travel together, but I cheered Steve up by telling him that train travel in India was almost certain to be worse. Right?

Continue reading Coming home to Beijing.