I wrestled with a few names for this post. For example, “an apology letter to anyone that has had the misfortune of seeing me stressed in an airport” but that seemed a bit long winded. I have always been a person who likes to be early. I blame my mother. We use to arrive to every party, sports game, or event at least an hour early. This quickly carried over into my travels. People recommend being at the airport two hours early? That means I should be there at least three hours early just incase. I meticulously plan every detail of my transportation to the airport or train station and spend even more time checking, double checking, and rechecking the length of my layovers and all of my flight times. Some people like to find the shortest layovers while I prefer a nice 4-6 hour break between my flights so I make sure I never miss one. However, I have found that sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you plan, traveling doesn’t always go smoothly. Combine that with long flights and little to no sleep and we have my top 3 (hilarious) emotional breakdowns while flying.
3. Hong Kong —> Fuzhou
As per usual, I got Alex and myself to the airport in Hong Kong about 3 1/2 hours before our flight was going to take off. Plenty of time to check in, go through customs and security, find our gate, and even get a bite to eat. The problem is it was New Years Eve weekend, the line to check in was already ridiculously long, and I’m not even sure if the line moved for the first thirty minutes. I repeatedly stared at my phone and watched the minutes pass way too quickly for my comfort. By the time we finally made it to the front of check in, we were about 40 minutes from our flight taking off and we still had security and immigration to go through. So I literally took off and may have even left Alex behind in my panic. We ran through security and immigration (sorry to the lady that I think I may have queue jumped) and ran to our gate. We went up and down escalators and then had to wait for one of the airport shuttles to actually get to our gate. Luckily, we made it with 10 minutes to spare even though the flight had been delayed. This was my absolute nightmare and I think it took the whole flight home for me to mentally recovered. Luckily, I payed a bit more attention the next I was in Hong Kong and found out you can check in for your flight before you ever board the airport express train in the city.
2. St. Louis —> Detroit —> Shanghai —> Zhengzhou
My original trip to China. It was my first long haul flight and was excited and terrified to be spending the next year in China. I finally had gotten a lot better about navigating airports and was much more relaxed about planes than the year before when I took my first flight to Belize. However, this trip decided to throw a complete curveball at me. I got an email as I was boarding my flight from Detroit to Shanghai that my flight to Zhengzhou was cancelled and I needed to figure out a new flight when I arrived in Shanghai and message my school so they knew when to pick me up. I figured this couldn’t be too terrible but then the whole language barrier thing hit me. Being new to China and not quite accustomed to figuring out the broken English to communicate, figuring out how to get a new flight seemed impossible. I got sent to one terminal to talk to the airline I was suppose to be flying with who sent me to a different terminal to talk to a different airline that had a flight and then back to the original terminal because the airline that cancelled my flight had to book the ticket for my new flight. Then the airline tried to put me on a flight that left from the other airport on the opposite side of the city and was leaving in an hour so I would never be able to make it. Then, finally, we settled on a flight for 8 hours later that night. On top of all of this, I couldn’t figure out how to access the internet without having a Chinese phone number to receive a passcode and couldn’t fathom asking someone how to fix this. So I spent the first ten minutes of my layover exhausted, jet lagged, confused about the language, desperate for internet, and questioning why I ever came to China. Then the water works hit and if everyone at the gate wasn’t already staring at me for just being foreign, they were definitely staring now. Needless to say, China and I got off to a rocky start.
1. Zhengzhou —> Beijing —> Houston —> St. Louis
China and I also finished the end of my first year on a rocky note. If you ever take a flight China, you’ll probably quickly find out that they are never on time. This trip was going to be no different. Luckily, I always planned for this and left myself 6 hours between my plane landing in Houston and my next one taking off for St. Louis. Should be plenty of time, right? Nope. I sat around in the Beijing airport for a couple of hours and then headed to the gate at boarding time. As usual, no one was boarding and it was clear the flight was delayed. The worst part is though no one ever tells you how long the delay will be and most don’t even acknowledge that the flight isn’t leaving on time. So I waited an hour and then two and three. Then I started to get nervous but still figured three hours was enough between flights. Four hours went by and five. Finally after 5 1/2 hours, boarding started and I was hoping we could make up some time in the air. Instead, the plane landed 30 minutes after the flight from Houston to St. Louis already took off. There I was in the Houston airport, trying to get through immigration, realizing I wasn’t going to be on that plane, and I just lost it. I FaceTimed my mom and cried. I cried through immigration, I cried when I picked up my bags, and I cried while I waited in line for two hours to try and get a new flight. I was tired, jet lagged, and starving. My flight had been delayed so long that by the time I got a new one, it was 11:00 pm, I couldn’t go through security, and there were no food places in the airport open. There were none available until 1:00 pm the next day so I was stuck on standby for a 7:00 am flight and left to figure out something for the night. My hunt for food ended with a vending machine which quickly made me realize that I had no US dollars and the machine didn’t accept cards. So I cried again. I was so over the whole day. I just wanted to be home with my mom having dinner and going to bed. Things turn around the next day and I managed to get on my standby flight (only after some tears at the gate) and the lady checking tickets even let me borrow her phone to call my mom and let her know I was on my way. I might have left Houston airport flooded with tears.
The moral of the story: I am not the most emotionally stable person in an airport and I once again apologize to anyone who has had the misfortune of witnessing this. I also need to send a huge thank you out to my mother, my best friend (Katie), and my boyfriend for always being around either in person or on FaceTime to let me cry it out. You definitely deserve some kind of award.