No matter how often I have traveled or how far I have gone, the day before a new adventure always stays unnerving. This time it’s more stressful, because being able to travel depends on having a negative covid test. I have the test on Tuesday afternoon and it’s much easier than I thought it would be. I walk in, identify myself and a friendly guy gently sticks some kind of straw in my mouse and nose and it’s done. A few minutes later I walk outside again, wondering what the fuzz was all about. Compared to the painful self test I had done the day before this was really nice and easy. But now I’m already spending more time writing about it than it actually took in the first place, so back to the topic of travel stress.
After more than two years of no intercontinental traveling it’s now outside my comfort zone to go on a long distance adventure again. It’s so much easier to just stay home and live normal life. Do I really want to go on a plane for about 17 hours, have a jet lag and be in a place far away? Even though living in Utrecht isn’t always perfect, meaning the small house and many gray and rainy days, it’s what I know well. It’s relatively comfortable. Stepping out of the known is quite challenging for me again. Embracing the unknown and accepting some uncertainty. It is an adventure.
The test result was promised to arrive at 11pm, but I decide not to stay up for it and go to sleep around 9pm as usual. Just before 11pm I wake up anyway. As I lay in bed I realize that strangely enough part of me hopes for news that’ll keep me here. I’m glad that I already decided earlier that no matter if the journey will go through or not, I’ll accept the outcome and be happy either way.
I open my email and see the message I was waiting for. I open the link, have to confirm the page with a code I get by text message and a moment later I see a green text stating the word NEGATIVE. My immediate reaction is a feeling of relieve. I can go! A smile comes on my face and I’m thankful. I’m thankful to be healthy and able to travel again. Yes, it’s out of my comfort zone, but it’s also an adventure and I think adventure is an important part of life. Also, the prospect of the Californian sun is appealing after several gray and rainy Dutch weather days. I text my family and friends, write down the first part of this new blog post and try to go back to sleep. The alarm will go off early in the morning so I can be at the airport on time where the adventure will continue.
I feel really tired when I wake up around 4.30AM. Being a morning person, I usually wake up early, but this time I’ve slept only a few hours. Fortunately the excitement kicks in within a few minutes and I’m getting ready for the journey. A hot and cold shower, getting dressed and printing the test results of last night are the main things left to do. After breakfast and locking up the house, I’m on my way to the train station.
I realize again this morning how rituals bring peace. Starting the day with water with lemon and ginger like every morning and putting on my dad’s big old sweater like I usually do when I go for a long flight. Rituals like that bring comfort on adventures as well as in your daily life. When you don’t feel at ease in this strange time we live in, try to create some daily habits that will bring a bit of structure in the day. It can make uncertain times a bit more curtain.
It’s quite busy at the airport, there are a lot more people traveling than I expected. I get in the line and start a conversation with a friendly elderly couple in front of me who travel to South Africa to visit their daughter. I’m glad I came to the airport on time, because the line is really long. I’m learning to be more patient, but long lines can seem a bit daunting still. After about 40 minutes waiting, my bag is checked and I can continue to the next line for customs and then walk to the gate. I was thinking to do some work at the airport this morning, but the whole process took a lot more time than I thought and it’s almost time to board when I arrive at the gate. I get myself a cup of coffee, call my family and then it’s time to get on the plane. Everything goes very smooth and as I walk through the gate to the plane I’m very happy. It’s finally happening, I’m gonna fly to America again! This is a good moment to give a shout out to Delta Airlines. I’m really happy with their customer service and super excited about their Premium Select seats. Since it’s been about 2.5 years since I traveled to America, I decided to pay extra for their upgraded seats and that’s so worth the money. First I get priority boarding and when I get to my place in the plane I see how comfortable the seats are. There is a lot of leg space and the chairs are super comfy. Also the window is quite large and at the right height, so I can enjoy the views outside. There are big media screens, which I choose to turn off for the first part of the flight to enjoy the experience and allow myself some time for writing and reading.
When the plane takes off I get a super freeing feeling of escape. It’s never easy to leave my family behind, but I very gladly leave the Netherlands with all their current restrictions. As we fly above the clouds I’m feeling thankful and free. A peace comes over me that I haven’t felt in a while. I’m traveling again.
We haven’t even flown for an hour yet when the air hostesses stop by to ask what we want to eat. I get a nice pasta and ice cream for dessert. This makes me even happier. I look outside while I enjoy the food and feel like I’m dreaming a very good dream. And the cool thing is that it’s real! I realize how blessed I am. When I was talking to some people in the line earlier this morning, I mentioned to them how thankful I am to live in this time. This time where we can just fly all over the world and what turns out in a very comfortable way as well. Flying high in the air and enjoying a meal, it really is wonderful.
I try to read a few pages, but after having only slept a couple of hours last night the tiredness is catching up with me and I fall asleep. When I wake up an hour or so later we’re well on our way to Iceland. My favorite part of the flight is still ahead. The real land of ice: Greenland. Far stretches of snow, ice and mountains. So remote, there are probably only a few people who’ve been there. A landscape untouched by human hands, so rare and beautiful. One day I hope to travel to Greenland. I think that would be a real adventurous journey. For now I’ll just enjoy the view from above.
The rest of the flight I alternate reading with doing an online course and watching Netflix. Normally I only watch movies and series, but I decided that I want to use my time on the plane more productive.
We land in Michigan for the first lay-over. While standing in line for customs I have no idea what is waiting me. They are usually quite strict at the American border and ask a lot of questions, but this time I get picked out and have to open my bags while the custom guy goes through all my personal stuff and asks me tons of questions. He acts quite intimidating, but I decide to use it as a practice to keep my peace and fortunately I am quite successful at it. Of course it’s a bit scary, because he can decide if one can enter the country or not, but I just stay calm and answer all his questions as good as I can. I have to wait quite a while and he even calls my friend to confirm my story, but after some time he tells me it’s okay and I can continue my journey. I’m glad and talk a bit more casual with him. He tells me that they pick people out from time to time, but that he doesn’t always meet people as friendly as me and that it was nice meeting me. That feels to me like 180 degrees different than just a moment ago and I’m thankful it all worked out.
One of the stewardesses told me that there is good coffee at the center of the airport and I’m very happy to see a big sign of illy when I arrive there. I can really use a good cup of coffee now and take a moment to relax after this stressful entrance of the United States. I call my family to tell that I’m landed. It’s so nice that these days you can call anyone so easily from the other side of the world. After a delicious cup of coffee and a nice chat with my parents and sister I walk to the gate and get on the second plane. After the super comfortable first flight it takes a bit of adjustment, because this plane is smaller and there is no window in my row. I’m quite tired now, so I don’t mind too much and choose to watch comedy series for this last stretch of the journey. I now realize that I haven’t written down my destination for this trip yet. I’m going to San Diego. It’s actually still quite a long flight from Michigan to California, about 4.5 hours. I’m tired, but can’t sleep so I alternate listening music with watching series. I’m happy I’m getting closer and will arrive in a few hours. The customs guy asked me what my plans are there and I honestly said that I didn’t quite know yet. I would like to visit Yosemite National Park and maybe some other parks, but I think I’ll just see how it goes once I’m in California.
Even though the second flight is half the length of the first one, it feels just as long. Probably because of the smaller seats, no window and that I’m tired. But I’m absolutely not complaining. I’m really thankful that I can travel again. And as I finally see the lights of San Diego when we’re landing, I’m happy that this long day of traveling is coming to an end. It was a great and exciting day and from here on the adventure will continue.