I’ve discovered after my 33 consecutive hours of driving, layovers, and flights that the physical act of travelling is not as beautiful as it’s cracked up to be. When you’re actually at your destination is where the magic begins. We encountered sickness, conflicts, jet lag, you name it. However, there’s nobody I’d rather brave this crazy journey with than my spectacular AFS & YES cohort. (Including Randell, our amazing AFS chaperone! Props to him for successfully taking care of eleven teenagers travelling overseas for several days.) I’m going to keep this brief and let the photos do most of the talking.
Before my flight to NYC, I had to say goodbye to my family. I was kind of a mess, and it really helped having Sydney as my travel companion. My other source of comfort came before Syd & I met at our gate from some random women who helped me through security without a hitch. I was astounded by their unprompted generosity and kindness and it reminded me of the Americans that I want to represent in my year abroad. That being said, not even ten minutes later, some strangers on our flight took our seats, subsequently split Syd & I up, and proceeded to completely unnecessarily insult us. This reminded me that I’m going to encounter difficult people as well and I just have to persevere!
Soon enough, we were reunited with the lovely YES India & Indonesia cohorts. We also made friends with other AFS Americans going to Thailand for six weeks. The Gateway PDO was a little redundant but still a great experience. I loved talking with ’16-17 YES Thailand alumni Madi and getting some extra time with other exchange students before jumping straight into this crazy journey.
After some serious chess moves with airplane seat switches, Sof, Syd, and I got to sit by each other on our six-hour flight to LA. We arrived in style at around 1am, obviously playing ‘Party in the USA,’ by Miley Cyrus, just for the “hopped off the plane at LAX” line. We then walked across entire terminals for at least an hour while carrying all of our luggage. We stopped at nothing to have the dream last meal in the States: Mexican food. Finally, we arrived at a restaurant that was ironically named “La Lotería,” only to learn that it closed ten minutes prior. Biggest let down ever. We settled on pizza instead.
Our next stop was Hong Kong, fourteen hours away. Sydney and I luckily were seated next to each other, while the rest of the group was split up. We passed the time by sleeping, card games, ridiculous amounts of movies, and journaling. Switching time zones affected our health and state of mind in unexpected ways, but we all made it through in one piece. It was a small price to pay for the adventure of a lifetime!
We landed at around 8am (Hong Kong time) to some spectacular views. We explored a little, grabbed some drinks, and took a short flight to Bangkok. That flight, the YES cohort was all together and our routine card games kept us occupied. Our arrival was smooth and we headed to our first AFS camp exhausted but excited to meet all the other students we would be sharing our exchange year with.
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