The United States of America has always been, as I’m sure it has been in so many of yours, so big and present in my life. From movies and television, culture and entertainment to the candy, sports and politics of the country, without ever having visited the USA I have more of a familiarity with it than any country I have been to before.
So this trip, unlikely any other before it, brings a set of expectations. That’s not to say I anticipate any of these expectations being met, in fact it is quite the opposite. I’m quite prepared to dash the spectacle I have in my head. How could the reality of a place ever match the Hollywood spectacle of television or my own wild imagination which has been built up from the images and stories of my youth.
Nevertheless my excitement for our travels through the States is bigger and somehow more tangible than previous holidays. Hopefully this daily journal gives you a sense of how I feel going in, and what I take from each day.
Day 1: Traveling is Stressful
We’ll just call day 1 the flights day even though really it’s a spread of three flights with 20 hours in the air and another 10 or so on the ground. At this point we’re not really in the USA but I’d be unfaithful to my experience if I didn’t capture some of the pains of flying as the build up and anticipation of these travel days normally stands in the way of my excitement for the trip itself.
Flying for me is a constant bundle of stress, nerves and anxiety. Try as I might to rationalise the fear, it’s a major obstacle that blurs the enjoyment on the other side.
Our first flight was from Krabi to Kuala Lumpur. It’s only an hour and twenty minutes in total and we often head down to KL because we find the flights are considerably cheaper than going from Bangkok. The flight would have been uneventful for a casual traveller but the small Air Asia aircrafts make take-offs shaky and any sign of turbulence noticeable and give cause for my knuckles to turn white against the armrests. Luckily Mari has a cooler head than I when it comes to flying and her calm exterior helps to sooth my shattered nerves.
We arrived at Kuala Lumpur around 4pm and only departed again the next morning at 7am. Knowing as much we opted to book a hotel room near the airport which offered a comfy bed over the cold hard floors beneath the escalators that we have become far too familiar with over the last few years. We caught an Uber from the airport, put down our bags at the hotel and then stocked up on food from the nearby Pizza Hut. With the prospect of a 3:30am wake up to jump on the 4:00am airport shuttle, it didn’t take too long after dinner for our heads to hit the pillow.
The next morning we took off from Kuala Lumpur on the way to Tokyo, a 6 hour journey and the real start of our American journey. When you’re travelling towards a different country with multiple stops between, you begin to notice how the nationals of countries fade in and out. Our first flight was made up of mostly Thai people with the occasional foreigner, but on this second flight to Tokyo we began to notice the Americans filter in. Sitting at the gate for our flight we were amused to overhear an American businessman talk obnoxiously loud into his sound proof head set, causing us to look around to notice the sudden influx of baseball caps with American branding and the sound of American tinged conversations that had built up around us. We piled onto the ANA marked plane with the businessmen and the baseball caps and set off for Tokyo.
We entered into Tokyo under grey skies although it wouldn’t have made any difference otherwise as we rushed through Naruti airport to be at our next gate on time. We sat down at some of the last remaining seats tucked away behind a vending machine, where a Japanese businessman sat rosy faced with a cup of beer tucked between his legs as he clumsily fumbled through a stack of papers. As he stumbled his way towards the Premium check in counter we saw it was our time to head towards boarding. At this point in the journey your body clocks begin to get a little jumbled, your patience runs a little thin and the last thing you need is a random security check before you board the plane. But yet here I was.
Standing in a line waiting for your hands, body and bag to be dusted and checked for traces of who knows what starts to make your brain race guiltily through your past. Have I done anything recently that Japanese security might take offence to? When was the last time I washed this top? Oh god I let my friends use this laptop the other evening, I’m done.
And then you’re through the gate sitting in your seat and back to worrying about if this take off will be the one that makes your heart finally pop from the stress. What a joy flying is.