Submitted by yoinkie on Wed, 04/03/2013 - 4:59pm
I hate packing. I am, you could say, the chronic over-packer. I never know what I should take and what I shouldn`t take, so I end up taking almost every piece of clothing I own. Almost every trip i`ve ever taken, I end up wearing only 60% of the clothes I bring with me. This wouldn`t really be a big problem(like they always say, its better to be over prepared then under), except a few simple rules I forgot about my trip. 1) If you are doing a Euro trip, and you arent really rich or have an exuberant amount of disposable income, you will be traveling by foot and via public transportation a lot. It`s not really all that easy to haul a 45 Pound suitcase and 20 pound duffel bag around Europe. 2) I forgot how many places I was going to. I forgot that every time I unpack my bags in a new city, I would have to spend the time to pack them again. Not cool, not fun.
And 3) If you have ever done a Euro Trip or are planning on doing one, the words `Ryan Air` should be quite familiar to you. A lot more on the whole Ryan Air Fiasco's later.
I love the pre travel excitement jitters. Your mind is enthralled of the new places it will go, new people it will meet, and the new things it will see. It is also excited to take time off from work. My dad always said to me, you are going to spend more then half your waking life working; why would you want to do a job you dont absolutely adore? Whats the point of wasting half your existence on something that brings you no joy? I love my job/jobs, I really do. But even someone who loves going to love can become broken. Life has a way of doing that to anyone, whenever it wants to. As an outsider looking in, one would probably think the universe has a sick sense of humor.
I left on a Thursday morning. After all the security nonsense(No point in talking about a brown man's struggles of getting through airport security. They are just doing there job, keeping everyone safe, I suppose), I was ready to board my first flight, a lay over in Minnesota on the way to London, UK. I brought one hardback book with me, and of course, my kindle; never leave home without it. I like to buy a new actual book before every trip, and read it periodically throughout a trip. The goal is to read the last page of the book on the last leg of the trip, back home. I'm not exactly sure how I came to start doing this, but it always brings me comfort. I hate ending books, man. It always make me sad, like losing a friend or saying goodbye to such a huge part of you. In essence, it is like taking a trip; There is a beginning, getting to know your surroundings(characters in the book). Then you get to know whats exactly going on and you're excited about the endless possibilities of the journey. Then there are some epic confrontations, conversations, plots, journeys, mistakes and confrontations. Reading a good book is much like taking a great vacation. And thats mainly why I like to read the last page of a book on the last part of a trip.
I choose "The Wild" by Cheryl Strayed for this journey. I never read it before, but it was on my radar for a while. The basic summary of the book is the journey of a young women who has hit the worst times in her life and is looking initially for an escape. She finds its in the form of a hike, a 500+ mile hike on the Pacific Coast Trail through Mountainous terrain and cold frosty mornings, and even a bear or two. At the beginning of the trip, she wants to do the journey for the sole purpose of forgetting everything and escaping from her reality. But as the journey progresses, and does her mind, she finds solace and comfort from within her self and the places she sees and the people she meets.
Needless to say, this book would do just fine for a journey like mine. Cheryl Strayed may have hit more of a brick wall in her life before taking her journey then I did in mine, but one must never compare their sorrows or joys to those of others; Life is not a contest or a race, we are all participants. There are no winners and their are no losers; just our perceptions of the events that unfold in front of us. It its the fear inside your mind that convinces you you have lost, and the ego inside of your heart that convinces you that you have won.
The plane ride from Seattle to Minnesota was quite uneventful. There was a nice old lady sitting next to me who was going to see her daughter after four years. Her daughter couldn't afford to take any time off to come see her, as she had three young kids and a new career to worry about. Still, the mother(Sue was her name) didn't mind, she was just excited to see her daughter, and two new grand daughters for the first time. Her enthusiasm and patience for life made my heart smile, and I told her so. One should always tell people the nice things they are thinking about them. Everyone deserves to hear nice things said about them. I spent most of the five hour plane ride reading my book, and occasionally conversing with Sue. It was a short but pleasant plane ride.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport terminal I landed at, for the lack of a better phrase, is fucking phenomenal. Not in the sense of beauty, or presentation, or even size, but purely because of the amenities provided. They have a large sitting/eating area provided, and on every table there is an Ipad, free of cost, available for use to anyone. There were over 150 tables by my estimations. Good for Minneapolis for providing weary and bored travelers something to do, and for free at that.
I caught up on my e-mails, messaged my sister and parents letting them know about my whereabouts and whatnot, then went back to reading my book. I was flying through "The Wild" far too quickly(the Cheryl Strayed's story was beyond fascinating), so I decided to switch it up and read my Kindle for a while. Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five" was up, and I had only read a little less then half of it. So it Goes.
I was lost in my book for maybe an hour before I finally decided to rest my eyes from reading and people watch for a while. The entire sitting area was almost full, as their were two-three flights scheduled to start boarding within the next 30 minutes. At first, I didnt think much of the scene in front of me, but then I started noticing little things. A mom trying to talk to her two five(or younger) year olds about packing up their things, but being ignored because both the kids were lost in the Ipads. A group of ten or so teenage girls sitting together; looked like they were on some sort of school trip as their was two adults with them as well. Every single one of these girls was in the deep abyss of their cellphones, and a couple were surfing on the Ipad's in front of them.
I then really started to look around, and everywhere I looked was the same story. A couple, sitting at a table with empty food trays in front of them, both surfing on their Phones. Single travelers, sitting by themselves but still connected to the world wide web. Everywhere I looked, almost everyone I saw was deeply emerged in their phones, their Ipad's or some other electronic devices which connected them to their group of friends and families, but alienated them from the world they are currently in.
Look, I'm probably being somewhat of a hypocrite here too, seeing that I started telling this story by telling you I walked into a wall because I was lost in my phone. I am guilty. But you dont really know how incredibly fucked our society is until you sit in a room with 200+ strangers, with barely anyone talking, laughing, or telling stories. The more technology we build to bring ourselves closer to each other, the farther we seem to get from exactly that.
I put my electronic Kindle down and started reading my paper book again. Here I was again, reading about a women walking through a bare and deserted hiking trail with the bare necessities of life, and finding herself. And there I was, in a room full of people probably a lot like me, feeling farther from society then ever before.
The flight from Minneapolis to London was nine hours long, or thereabouts. I already knew I wouldnt be able to sleep, Ive never been able to sleep on a plane. Too much of the head falling side to side, combined with my slight claustrophobia, equals a long and uncomfortable nine hours ahead. Luckily, I got an aisle seat. It helps ease the claustrophobia knowing you can get up at any time. Phew.
Delta Airlines, the airliner which was transporting me, is an awesome airlines. They provide decent food, all sorts of non-alcoholic beverages free at the push of a button, and a wide array of television programs and movies. I watched "Silver Linings Playbook", which is about two people suffering from tragic lives and bi-polar disease. It made me realize that I probably have Bi-polar as well, but I couldnt decide if I really did or if this was just one of those cases of where you hear about a disease and subconsciously match the symptoms to your own. You ever have a mild headache, go on WebMD to figure out why you have that headache, and leave the website convinced you have a brain Tumor?
I next decided to watch "Brave" by pixar to lighten my mood and my heart. Half way through the movie, I noticed the elderly man two rows in front of me noticeably getting anxious. He was looking below his seat, getting up looking at his seat, then getting on all fours and looking at the plane floor panicky. I also noticed that everyone around him also noticed these actions, but quickly diverted their attention back to whatever it was they were doing. I couldn't stand seeing the man crawling about the plane floor looking so distraught, so I decided to help. I turned on my phone, went up the the elderly gentleman that I had a flashlight on my phone. He said he dropped his small case of pills and couldnt find it anywhere, so together we started looking for it. It took less then 30 seconds to find it with my phone flashlight. The man thanked me from the bottom of his heart, then for a brief second looked around at the passengers sitting around him, who were trying their hardest to keep their eyes off the situation. No one asked the man what was wrong, and no one bothered to help the man. The people in the seats next to him didn't even bother to move a muscle, even though he was visibly looking at the floor beneath their feet.
I can't say that this is the way of the world these days, but it sure feels that way sometimes, doesnt it? I could spend a few chapters telling you why I think the world is this way, but in the words of Vonnegut, "So it goes."
I landed at London Heathrow Airport at 11am Friday, London time. Which is roughly 2am back home in Seattle. I had an unfair biased opinion of London and British people, and I can't even tell you why. I thought they were snobby and self centered folks. I had only been to London for two days prior to this trip, but apparently that was enough for my brain to formulate such a judgmental opinion of the entire country. But I was a different person before, I assured my self. And whether that was true or not, the next two days and nights in London completely altered my view of the people and myself dramatically. Before these two nights, I barely had any desire to even visit London. Now, I could easily see myself living there. London is fucking AWESOME. And now I want to tell you why.
To Be Continued in Chapter Three: "You know we are going to talk to you, right?"