Part 8: Heading Back to the U.S.
Today I head back to the U.S., and I am writing this entry in my seat on an Air China Boeing 747. We are on the tarmac and about to take off for the flight back to the United States. It has been a whirlwind trip, but every part has been exciting, intimidating, thrilling and exhausting. It was an amazing opportunity, and I will be sad when this trip officially comes to an end.
This morning I woke up and enjoyed my last day in my little apartment in the middle of Beijing. I made my traditional morning cup of cocoa and checked my emails until it was time to pack up to check out of the hotel.
The hotel arranged a car service to pick me up and take me back to the airport. As soon as I entered the door, I realized that I was back in that crazy airport that started this whole experience. I was not taking any chances this time, so I quickly found an English-speaking traveler and asked if they knew how to check in. I filled out a few papers and I went through customs and immigration fairly quickly. I then went through security and in minutes was heading to my gate. No problems at all.
I was flying business class, so I was given access to the Air China lounge. I went in and had a glass of juice and sent a few emails to my family, letting them know that I was safe and ready for my flight home.
When it was about time for me to board the plane, I walked over to the gate and found out that they moved the flight to GATE 25! If you read my first blog, this was the EXACT same gate that I arrived at, and it was CHAOS! There were hundreds of people all screaming, and all of them were in line for the flight to New York! After about 30 minutes of being pushed and shoved, I realized that there was a separate line for business and first class passengers. PHEW!! Thank you, Travel Channel!
I am now on the plane, and I am snug in my big seat in the \”bubble\” of the plane. I have a nice gentleman sitting next to me who is a federal judge and lives in Washington, D.C. Meeting someone on an airplane is sometimes painful, but on a 12-hour flight, I was sure glad to have someone this interesting in case he wanted to start up a long conversation!
12 hours later…
I am still in my seat on the aircraft and I am now looking out of my window and over New York City. Travel offers such amazing context. I have such a sense of pride overlooking the United States right now. When the video screen said that we were over Anchorage last night, calmness came over me — a feeling of great relief to be back in the country that was familiar to me. I really loved my trip to China; the food was good, the history was amazing and the people were nice. I enjoyed exploring new cities and experiencing their way of life. I realized how important it is to study the history and culture of a place before you travel; it adds so much to your overall experience. I also realized how important it is to keep up to date on world events and understand that there is more to this world than just what you experience at home every day. Lastly I learned to be flexible. From the first day when I missed the connection to Beijing, to having to use a Chinese toilet in the middle of the Forbidden City. Travel offers you an amazing perspective on life, and I hope to take this feeling with me on the rest of my travels.