What's the Opposite of Sunshine and Rainbows? - and other fun travel truths (ep. 1)
Every now and then, I get messages from strangers or friends back home complimenting me on how together I seem to have things... how beautiful, and fun, and great it must be to live and travel abroad long-term. I try to be as transparent as possible on social media... but it is, after all, still a highlight reel... and I guess some people don't read the closed-captions.
Among my goals and promises to myself for 2018... (I'm not even calling them resolutions anymore because then I'd have to break them)... is more transparency... which is why I'm writing this post... and likely a couple of posts thereafter.
The last few weeks of my life have been AN. ABSOLUTE. WHIRLWIND. I'm talkin' teacher burnout, travel burnout, jetlag, holidays, and bigggg life decisions. And soooo, without further ado, in an effort to stay true to my transparency promise, I give youuuu, The Honesty Chronicles.
Here's Part 1.
When my winter break began, I was completelyyyy fed up with my job, fed up with winter, and fed up with Korea. I cleared my bank account and packed my bags for home. I realize this all probably sounds very dramatic, but it isn't... Truth be told, I'd already planned to return home for the holidays, and I needed to take extra money to put in my U.S. bank account anyway.
My journey home, on the other hand, was actually a bit dramatic.
The flight started out GREAT. I was one of the only (young) foreigners on the plane, and the flight attendant, Jack, a very Parisian, very middle-aged man, clearly enjoyed having another English speaking person onboard. When he offered me whiskey (WHICH I LOVE) I could not refuse... because who can? Later, he brought me chocolates... a bit odd since no one else got chocolate... but I love chocolate too, so I didn't ask questions. Free whiskey... free chocolates... I was feelinnnnn' the Christmas spirit. Sounds great, right?
Well, it was... unnnntillll, *enter drama* DUN DUN DUNNNNN.
You see, I occasionally do this thing on long haul journeys where I either get reallyyy light headed, or pass out all together. This time, I woke up mid-way through the flight feeling horrible and knew it was about to happen. I reached for the remote to find the flight attendant call button, but, thanks to my already blurring vision, had no success. Knowing that I had about 10 seconds before it was lights out, I decided to try my luck with walking to the back of the plane for help instead. Good idea, right?
Bad idea. I didn't make it.
I took a bit of a tumble with a few rows left to go and smashed my head on the arm rest of some poor guy just trying to catch some ZZZ's... a scene which wasn't funny at the time, but is definitely comical to picture now.
Anyway, there I was... on Christmas Eve... on the floor... in the back of a plane... once again, sucking on an oxygen tank over much of Canada. I'm not sure why this happens... but I sure do wish it'd stop. (WHY CANADA?! This has happened in your airspace twice now!)
Once I arrived home, my time there was both good and bad - Bad because I had extreme cases of mental and physical jet-lag. Those who have travelled to a vastly different time zone know it can be hard to adjust to the time... Expats who have travelled home know it's hard to readjust to life there when you know you'll only be around for a few days.
On the other hand, going back was good. I was able to spend the holidays with family for the first time since 2014(!). I caught up with friends and old coworkers, and, most importantly, finally addressed some things that I've been ignoring and putting on the back-burner for years. I was able to hit refresh - and to remind myself why I chose to go back to Korea in the first place.
Way too soon, it was time to leave.
Early in the morning on New Years Eve, after pulling an all-nighter, I headed to the airport with my mom and younger sister. We watched the sun come up on our drive down I-40, which was VASTLYYYY different than how I spent the morning of New Years Eve the year before... (I spent it in a hot air balloon over Melbourne - see below photos for evidence).
What was even more wild is that on that morning, thanks to snapchat and instagram, I was already seeing my friends in Oz and Asia beginning their New Years festivities. (Fast forward - During my flight from Newark to Beijing, I purchased the inflight wifi... and from over 30,000ft in the air, proceeded to watch 2018 begin for my mates in Sydney, Korea, Bali, Thailand, Ireland, and, finally, the States. I'm tellin you, the Instastories and snaps were better than any of the inflight movies. But it was also very strange. Time is weird... aka time is a man-made phenomenon that doesn't actually exist...).
When we got to the airport in Raleigh, it was no surprise that my bag was overweight. Bronzer isn't a thing in Korea, and neither are my mixed girl hair products, soooo I had to stock up. Also, FYI... some cosmetics in Korea contain bleach (because everybody wants to be pale), and, as I'm not trying to take my chances, or pull a Michael Jackson on anyone, I continue to buy my makeup from the States.
By some New Years Eve miracle, they didn't make me pay for my overweight bag. Instead, their solution was to give me a loaner bag to redistribute some of the weight in to.
I checked both bags, said my thank yous to the gate agents, some teary goodbyes to my family, and, completely unsure if I was ready to return to Seoul at all, began the 24+ hour journey back... a journey which, again, was not smooth sailing.
Since doctors can't quite figure out why I faint on flights, I've been told to alert the airline that it's a possibility. I had never done it before because I don't want flight attendants hawking me on 14+ hour flights. On this day, however, I was feeling a bit uneasy, and after my fainting was handled so poorly on my the home, I decided it wouldn't hurt to give them a heads up. Good idea, right?
Wrong. Bad idea... again...
I was nearly refused boarding... and that made me feel even more uneasy - thanks United!
I called my parents who, initially, told me I shouldn't fly... and my sister (a nurse!), who also told me I shouldn't fly. I told them all that I had to... and felt pretty good about it... after all, I had to get back to work... and my luggage was already checked through to Korea. I really felt like I could do it... until I boarded the plane and started thinking about justttt how long 14 hours really is. I nearly fainted right then.
If we had taken a second longer to taxi out, I would have gotten off of the plane. I had already been scoping out the overhead bin my bag was in AND planning my exit - That's how freaked I was. When the plane finally began to move, I took some solid advice from a friend and did all that was left to do - took a few deep breaths.
I have flown SOOOO many times, and aside from fainting a few of them (which is really weird, I know), I have NEVER in my life been as nervous as I was that day.
I kept myself up for the entire flight. I got up to walk around more times than the parents with infants. The worst part - I didn't have a SINGLE glass of the free red wine. *Eye roll* - such a waste.
FINALLY FINALLY FINALLYYY, we arrived in Beijing... and I had yet another hellishly long layover with my BFF, the great firewall of China. Got some cool photos though... because when you can't aimlessly scroll the insta-feeds of busy strangers, might as well take pictures of them, right?
After SIX hours, it was time to board my final... and sixth flight in less than a week.
A couple hours later, after 24+ hours of travelling, and seeing all my friends in literally every time zone ringing in the new year, I arrived back in Korea. Surelyyyyy, it would be smooth sailing from here, right?
Wrong. I was there... but both of my bags weren't.
Remember that loaner bag I mentioned? The loaner bag that contained nothing but a Christmas gift bathrobe, some socks, a pair of shoes, and some random toiletries?? Well, that was the bag that arrived... with THREE WHEELS. My other bag... you know... the one with the coat I planned to put on because it was below freezing outside...? Yeah, that bag. Well, that bag wasn't there.
By the time I'd finished filing my missing luggage paperwork, and CARRIED my three-wheeled bag to the train, I knew there was no way I was going to make it all the way to my station in eastern Seoul before the metro stopped running... and I didn't. Just before my final transfer, the train reached it's last stop, and I had to get off to catch a cab... which took a while (as everyone else who was riding the train was trying to catch one as well). I wouldn't really have cared, exceptttt I didn't have my coat... it was below freezing... and was almost 1am... on January 2nd... and I'd been wide awake and in transit since December 30th.
I wouldn't wish how I felt that day on ANYONE - not even my dearest enemy... (You know who you are... I'm certain you're reading this... Yes, not even YOU).
There are certainly sunshine and rainbows to travelling... but whatever the opposite is... there's that, too.
Speaking of the opposite of sunshine and rainbows... I quit my job this week.
Wanna know the truth about living and teaching English in Korea? Read all about it in Ep. 2 of The Honesty Chronicles... coming soon.
(Edit - Episode 2 is my rant on Instagram... up next, in Episode 3, breaking contracts).