The Beginning of an Adventure
On September 19th, 2017, I left home for the first time in my life, to travel the world. Not only was it the longest I would have ever spent away from my friends, family and the town where I was born, it was also the furthest away from home I have ever been.
I specifically remember sitting back in my airplane seat just after take-off, staring out the window as the jet engines whistled through the tumbling clouds, wondering why the nerves hadn’t kicked in yet. You would think I’d be an anxious ball of stress, even I thought that, but it turns out I was only filled with excitement and wonder. I suppose that’s also justifiable, considering the circumstances.
Naturally, it was tough to say goodbye to my friends and family. If you’ve ever been travelling, or even if you’re travelling as you read this, I would make a solid bet that you could relate to that. The night before I left was spent sharing laughs and uncountable shots of tequila with all the people that I consider to be the most important people in life. No matter where I go, or who I meet, my friends from home will always stay close to my heart. I can’t remember a time when I was in tears of laughter without them being there. I know that the second I return home to see them, that it will be like I never left.
Of course, it was just as hard to say goodbye to my family. I guess you could say my timing was bad, considering my sister was 7 months pregnant with her first child, who is already growing up so fast. I can’t wait to meet my darling Niece, Raine Joseph, who looks exactly how you would imagine the child of my sister and brother in law would look. I would also miss my brother constantly inventing a new way to insult me, as well as my mum stressing about every minor detail of my trip. And of course, my dad, who I have always been very close to.
Then there was Grace. It seems almost cruel to meet someone who became such a special part of my life a couple of months after I had booked my flights. To this day, she is still my greatest friend and one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
If you’re thinking of booking your own trip across the world and don’t know where to start, its worth considering STA Travel. I booked virtually my entire trip through them and my rep Claudia, who was excellent at keeping me up to date with my payments and any other details that would be easily forgotten. They handled everything from my flights and my tours through Asia, to my New Zealand Working Holiday Visa and transport around the country. I will be reviewing STA Travel in a separate blog post, but for now, just note that they are an exceptional travel company to arrange long trips through and I would highly recommend them.
So, after several months of planning, over spending, under saving, uncontrollable nerves and excitement, I was ready to leave. First on my long list of destinations, was Beijing, China. Obviously, that’s not just over the pond, so first I had to endure a rather lengthy flight from London Heathrow. To be honest, that was a piece of cake compared to the car journey to the airport itself. My mum and dad dropped me off, while I was trying to survive a pretty brutal hangover. You may know how it feels when its 10am and your mum is asking you a never-ending barrage of questions, while you have a splitting headache as a result of the inevitable jager bombs from the night before. Take that and add the emotional breakdown of a woman thinking she will “never see her son again!”. Yeah, that bad.
Once we all had a coffee (desperately needed to combat that dreadful hangover), it was time to say goodbye to my parents and pass through security into the Terminal. Usually waiting around airports seems to last forever, but before I knew it, I was 30,000 feet in the air, watching as the British shores disappeared into the distance behind me. Take-off was however briefly delayed due to a traumatised Chinese woman who was desperate to use the toilet after the seatbelts signs had pinged to life. It took a while for the air hostess to get her back in her seat as she loudly exclaimed “I will pee myself! Do you want me to pee myself?”.
I spent a long time on that flight, thinking about all the important people in my life, as the sun poured through the airplane window onto the empty seat next me. I thought about how much I was going to miss them all, and how I already couldn’t wait to see them all again.
I flew with Etihad airways, on a stop over flight to Beijing via Abu Dhabi Airport. If you ever take a long-haul flight and want to experience luxury comfort for a very reasonable price, Etihad’s Airbus A380 isn’t a bad way to go. The seats were extremely comfortable with plenty of leg room, headphones, a wide selection of movies, TV shows, audio books and music to choose from. They also had two choices of meals, chicken or steak, as well as vegetarian option. It really was a very relaxing flight and made the 14-hour journey to Beijing fly past (pun unintended).
It didn’t take long for me to make a new friend as well! The first hour of my flight was spent drinking Gin and Tonics and chatting with Shirley, a lovely woman who was travelling home to Perth, Australia, after spending time with her mother in Nottingham. We swapped stories of previous travels and as she had also traveled to New Zealand herself, she painted an exciting picture of the experiences that I had waiting for me.
It’s safe to say that the day I left home, for the longest time and greatest distance, was the most emotionally confusing day of my life. I didn’t know what to feel. But, it wasn’t long before all that confusion fizzled away.
As our plane slowly descended below the thick brown smog hanging above the gargantuan city of Beijing, the sense of uncontrollable excitement took hold again, as I realised that this was only the beginning of a long, exciting adventure.