There is this Map where you can see exactly where you would be if you dug a hole straight through the earth. It is kind of depressing because you end up in the ocean more often than not.
My trip to Australia would be close to the furthest I could possibly be from home. Not actually because that is in the middle of an ocean.
I literally started out from the tiny (and clean!) airport in Madison. I have a travel companion this time, my dear friend Erin. Who is really experiencing international travel for the first time. A travel virgin! It is a lot of responsibility. Half of my travel advice is logical and well thought out half is off the cuff and weird. For example, my tradition of going to the duty free and loading up on a free sample of J’dore Doir before a long flight. I shared this ritual with Erin, who shrugged and was not nearly as impressed with how wonderful the perfume smells. (This is actually not a ritual in vain; have you ever smelled a flight full of passengers 11 hours in? It’s not something you make a candle scent out of. so next time take a light spray of something in the duty free just enough to cover your funk).
Traveling to Australia is the definition of a long haul. We would spend the next 24 plus hours sitting next to each other on various planes, trams, buses, Uber’s, etc.
24 hours before our flight Delta sent an update that because of the wildfires in California we could experience delays. Los Angeles is pretty much the only city we could fly out of to reach Australia with Delta. So with no decisions to make really we prepared for delays at airports and the fact our trip could possibly be longer than the already longness of it. Travel advice that makes sense…don’t freak out about what you can’t control just prepare for the worst and work with what you’ve got.
I downloaded the LoungeBuddy app which lets you buy temporary access to airport lounges. Hoping I wouldn’t have to use it.
Naturally you come across a lot of strangers when you travel. People you will absolutely never see again. The beginning of this trip this was the oddly the case. I say oddly because I don’t think of myself as extroverted so I’m not usually trying to make a conversation. I met a vegetable farmer from Washington state who lives off the grid and who is traveling over winter to Peru to visit a friend in Peace Corp and hoping to try Ayahuasca for the first time; an Australian man who travels for work and fell in love with the city of Washington DC this last trip, a dairy farmer, Mack, and his wife of 47 years (still madly in love) from Macksville, Australia who were just in Canada visiting other dairy farmers to learn from them; a hopeful 21 year old girl who was going to backpack in Cairns for a year because she didn’t want to work in the coal mine in her small hometown just yet…she wanted to experience the world and see a palm trees for the first time; a mom who uses her Delta credit card religiously so she can afford a trip every year to visit her daughter in New Castle (outside Sydney) once a year.
When I started training for triathlon you often hear people say “remember your why”. Which, when my tri got cancelled and I scraped up my bike and my knees in a silly crash, was difficult to understand what my why was exactly. It would have been easy to quit and it felt rewarding to finish, but I didn’t have some grand purpose for doing it.
While I was traveling to the other side of the world I learned a lot of strangers why they travel stories. They are all inspiring in a way and reminded me of why one travels this earth in a smelly cramped airplane for 15 hours with strangers who skipped a visit to the duty free store. And although I will never cross paths again with these people their stories will live on for awhile in my head. And that makes it worth it to keep an open ear for that stranger sitting across from you.
People always tell you “take a lot of pictures” when you leave for a trip. It’s kind advice, but taking pictures actually hinders your travel experience, because you don’t live in the moment. I appreciate the sentiment that is behind those words, but my advice would be keep an open ear.