Traveling a breeze? Not always!
Fear raises its ugly head and sits beside me. I’ve been fed, watered, had a nap, and now fear demands I re-worry about how to get from Los Angeles international airport to its domestic terminal. Once again I doubt my ability to complete this journey. Am I capable of travelling alone, for a year? Will I find a bed each night? With my lack of other languages, how far will miming get me? My mind has a long conversation with itself until I finally push these concerns away, practice living in the now, staying in the moment and leaving the future to arrive, and be worried about, when it is due.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to land in Los Angeles. Please fasten your seat belt and ensure your tray table is upright and your hand luggage is stowed under the seat in front of you.”
My heart beats faster, I’m here. My big adventure is really starting. Deep breathing, I brace my back squarely against the seat while the pilot completes the most dangerous procedure of any flight, and within moments we land smoothly, as smooth as I hope my travels will be.
Customs. Despite having nothing to declare I would love to declare the world is wonderful place or some other such facetious remark. Luckily I don’t as I meet the customs woman from hell. She is a well manicured, big haired, beautifully made-up Mexican woman.
‘Next’ she yells. I walk forward.
She grabs my passport and papers. ‘Where are you staying?’ she snaps without a glance in my direction.
‘At my friends in Juneau, Alaska’
‘Write her address down’.
‘I have,’ attempting to point to the form.
‘That is a Post Office box, you are not staying in a post office box, a post office box is this big’ she says without taking breath and describing the dimensions in the air, her bright red false nails and loud voice attracting everyone’s attention to me. ‘You are not staying in something so small’ I want to sink into the floor. ‘Stand aside, write down her address.’
Feeling criminal I stand aside as directed and rustle frantically through my hand luggage – a day pack that matches my large backpack – and finally find my address book. Checking, I confirm I don’t know Ingrids’ physical address and panic starts afresh. Maybe this holiday is doomed to fail at the very beginning. I will be sent home on the next flight, I don’t have enough money to rebook the Auckland / LAX section of my journey again. In seconds my overactive imagination creates a series of disaster scenes yet again.
Frantically flicking through the pages I see the name, and address, of a woman I’d met in Seattle five years earlier. “That’s it” I decide, I’ll use her address- justifying the lie with the thought that I land in Seattle before going to Alaska. I write her name and the required physical address then send thought messages to the woman who appears to control my destiny.
‘I’m ready, please hurry, I have a connection to make, quick quick’. The man in front of her is chatting pleasantly with her and I fume. ‘Hurry hurry, how can you be so nice to him and so nasty to me.’ At last she beckons me over, barely glances at the amended form, marks my passport with the desired entry stamp and I rush off to claim my bag and onto the next nearly-missed stage of the trip.
And you thought we travelling writers never have fear? Well that is what my journal records from the beginning of a one year, round the world, no bookings, backpacker trip in 1995.
Read more of my tales in my book Naked in Budapest: travels with a passionate nomad
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