“Adventure is worthwhile.” ~Amelia Earhart
I think it is only appropriate to quote Ms. Earhart since the last three days of my life have included three different planes, 20+ hours of flying and four different airports. Luckily my travel story ended better than hers did!
I have one word: OVERPACKED! When I left Portland with three suitcases, I knew I had my work cutout for me before I left for New Zealand. With careful planning and skillful packing I only had to check two pieces, but their combined weight was over 130 lbs (oops!) When you have already spent close to $2,000 in airfare, an extra $360 in luggage fees is a little hard to swallow. I also realized that my carry-on items were oversized and rather difficult to tote around. I guess I should have done my research and realized that the Aussies were going to be a little more strict with their carry-on policy.
Despite my baggage “issues”, I thoroughly enjoyed my International flight on VAustralia. When I arrived at LAX I had to claim my bags and check-in for my international flight. As I pushed my luggage cart from one side of the terminal to the other, I kept passing the drab airline counters filled with unhappy employees. When I reached the end of the terminal, the VA check-in was like a mirage (or a upscale cocktail lounge.) Lady Gaga was blaring, the décor was trendy and beautiful Australians were there to greet and lift the velvet rope for me. Was I boarding an airplane or hitting up the club?!? I had a few hours to myself before my flight, so I went over to Terminal 1 for dinner. This is where most of the flights to Asia depart from. Wow, that was a culture shock for me! I decided to hit up the only Pho cart in the terminal and was reminded that other cultures don’t believe in lines and don’t acknowledge your presence. When I finally got my pho and diet coke, I unloaded my bags and dove into my book. (I have resorted to reading and journaling since I don’t have a cell phone or access to WiFi.)
The minute I boarded the plane I knew I was going to enjoy this flight. The plane was baller -- it had mood lighting, a bar set-up right when you walked in (for first class of course) and they were playing Ray LaMontagne over the intercom. The plane was gigantic and the seats were spacious. During my 13 hour and 20 min flight, I enjoyed two vegan meals, a couple glasses of wine, watched four free movies (Inception, Going the Distance, The Social Network and Sex in the City 2) and slept for a nice chunk of the flight (thanks to the meds from Dr. Pill Pusher.) I was seated next to a nice guy from New Zealand (South Island.) He had just taken a month off from his job to travel the West Coast and was then stopping off in Australia to explore for another week. If only our country had the same mentality as the rest of the world!
I landed in Brisbane at 8:00 AM on Wednesday morning (Tues back home). I explored every inch of this airport and even read an entire book from cover-to-cover. I exchanged $25 (US) to get cash to pay for lunch and I was handed $19 (Aus)…ouch! That barely covered my combo meal at Subway. Mike and Laura were right - I will definitely be eating out less. Luckily Mike is a good cook! I met a nice young couple with a 11 month year old baby. They also live in Hamilton and met while she was teaching aboard in NZ. People have been very friendly.
I also met an older couple on my flight to Auckland. When I sat down, he asked me if I was escaping or traveling the world. That question caught me off-guard, but then I realized he was talking about the flooding. Over 75% of the country is underwater and this is worst flood since the mid-70’s. The man told me that he and his wife had to leave because the water was up to the roof of their house. The city of Brisbane doesn’t allow homeowners to carry flood insurance, so all of these poor people are left to fend for themselves. I asked him if the Australian government would step in and he said at this point doubtful. He said that their farmland is destroyed and that most industries have come to a screeching halt – the coal mining industry is losing $1 billion dollars a week. He also said they are concerned about the drinking water because most of the reservoirs have been contaminated. This just reminds me how lucky I truly am.
Our flight was an hour late because of the weather, so I almost made poor Mike late for work since he has to be there at 4:00 AM. After days of traveling it was so nice to see familiar faces. They even made me signs, but they didn't recognize me so they gave me the signs later. I enjoyed catching up on the hour or so drive back to Hamilton. It was quite hilarious watching Laura try to navigate. However, I am not judging because I am a little nervous to drive on the opposite side of the road.
It was a little surreal to wake up this morning on the other side of the world, but I quickly adjusted after a great day at Waterworld (the pool) and a good workout at the gym with Laura. I am excited for the weekend because we are going to the beach and hiking near Raglan tomorrow and up to the Bay of Plenty near Tauranga. We are going to the Blues, Brews & BBQs Festival and then camping at the Silverbirch Holiday Park. It should be a great first weekend in New Zealand!