Have you traveled long distances?
You’ve probably felt excited, exhausted and probably even a bit frustrated. That’s exactly how I felt when my travel plans to Chiang Mai didn’t go as planned. I have been pretty lucky with my travels these past few years. Getting upgrades on flights, getting the ocean front bungalow, getting tons of freebies- I was spoiled.
When I made my trip to Thailand to visit my mom earlier this year, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. My luck had finally run out.
Navigating a many challenges when traveling abroad helped to turn my frustration into a cultural journey of awe and adventure.
I’m sure you can relate to some of the lessons I learned.
My flight to Chicago was delayed. By the time I landed, I had missed my connecting flight to Doha. I was rerouted on a different airline bound for Hong Kong instead. My original itinerary would have me in Bangkok by 7 a.m. on Tuesday morning.
I arrived in Hong Kong after a 15 hour flight only to be faced with 4 delays and several gate changes which had me running around the airport like a dog chasing his own tail. Now I was looking at an arrival time at 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
The challenge of flying long distances
At this point, I was giving up. I thought the universe was telling me that traveling at this time was a bad idea and I was paying for the choice to come to Thailand. After speaking to lost luggage and filing my claim, I grabbed a taxi utterly defeated at 3 am in the morning and made my way to my hotel. My taxi driver got “lost.” Remembering some Thai, I directed my taxi driver with leo kaaw (turn right), leo si (turn left), dtrong bpai (go straight). We finally arrived around 4 am.
Luckily the gracious hostess at ZZZ hostel did her best to make me feel welcome and showed me to my room with a hot shower and large bed waiting. With only a few hours to sleep before my flight to Chiang Mai at 10 a.m., I crashed hard. A few hours later, I boarded my plane to Chiang Mai. I had planned on walking to the airport from my hotel but it started to downpour. And for whatever reason, no taxi wanted to take me the the airport. My hostesss finally tracked a cab down but he couldn’t take me to the entrance because he was no longer allowed to enter airport grounds. That was the only explanation he gae me.
Over the next few days, I was on the phone with the airline who couldn’t find my bag. Was it in Chicago? Doha? Hong Kong? No one had an answer or an idea of the whereabouts of my luggage.
After nearly a week of travel and a few days settling back in Chiang Mai, I finally got the call that they found my luggage. It never made it out of Chicago. The airline promised me that my luggage would arrive in Chiang Mai in two days.
My profound exhaustion started to win the fight to stay awake and aware. I began to drift in and out of uncomfortable sleep while waiting to board. With 2 hours to go, I figured I could afford to grab a few minutes of sleep. Unfortunately, a final gate changed was announced and I was abruptly stripped of any rest and darted off again to find my new gate. Which happened to be in an entirely different terminal.
The Hong Kong airport is quite easily laid out just incredibly huge, unlike the Chicago airport which in my opinion is just a big mess with a horrible layout and even messier security checkpoint into the international terminal. Why are U.S international terminals so incredibly hectic? They’re always loud with security officials always yelling, babies crying, and travelers not paying attention. How do travelers in the U.S. still not understand the process of taking laptops out of bags and items out of pockets?
I finally arrived in Bangkok. But my ordeal didn’t end. I got through immigration quite quickly and I was excited that I’d be on my way to my hotel. But my luck had run out 1000s of miles prior.
I watched as everyone on my flight picked up their bags. But mine was nowhere to be seen.
Travel is messy, it is exhausting.
People will undoubtedly annoy you. Customer service people will frustrate you. Lines will be long. Delays and running around airports will drive you insane.
Even though I wanted to let my frustrations out on anyone, I knew that it wouldn’t help my circumstance. I would just be putting negative energy out into the world. And I have come to believe that when we put negative energy out, it comes back in full force smacking ya in the face. So instead I calmed myself and smiled while connecting with the airline customer service agent. With no one in line behind me, we traded stories of the different places we had traveled. She in turn, gave me some insider tips for my planned trip to Vietnam. When I got to my hotel in Bangkok, I laughed with my hostess about how exhausted and unkempt I looked as we drank some calming chamomile tea. She shared her dreams about traveling through SE Asia and Japan.
Anyone who has traveled long distances understands that things often will go wrong and that this part of the journey makes travel well worth the privilege to do so.
With each day I am grateful for the opportunity to return to Thailand to see my family every year and to continue to explore different parts of our planet.
So as I begin this new journey, I’d like to thank a few people that help make my new venture as The Kindred Traveler possible:
Kathleen and Marc S.
Kelly and Seth P.
A Surprise Visit in Chiang Mai
I’ve finally arrived to Chiang Mai and the first order of business was to see my mom and family. They had no idea I was coming so it was a wonderful way to surprise them all (except for my neice, she helped me plan my arrival). It’s been about a year since I last saw my mom and Thai family. We spent my first real night in Chiang Mai at a nice restaurant along the Mae Ping river. Although I was fighting exhaustion, doing my best to hide my yawns, it was great to be back with them.
Up next at The Kindred Traveler
Now that I’m settled in Chiang Mai, join me in exploring the art and culture of Thailand and other parts of SE Asia.
We will visit an NGO working with some of the hill tribes north of Chiang Mai that teaches children reading and writing skills. While we visit we will also learn more about their culture and traditions. We’ll explore Chiang Mai through the eyes of some local artists who are impacting this city with their creativity. Then we’ll trek into the jungle for a visit to a studio where a community of women weavers, embroiderers and designers from different ethnic groups create high quality, environmentally-friendly, and sustainable products that preserve their cultural traditions, plus a lot more…
I will also be traveling to Vietnam for the first time. Then it will be back to Cambodia where I will be revisiting a creative social enterprise that provides free education and professional arts training for young creative Cambodian students.
I will also return to the Philippines. I hope to trace my mom’s journey to the islands where she met my father who had served in the U.S. Air Force, and also learn more about my birth there.
So join me as we seek deeper connections through impactful art, immersive cultural, and transformative travel experiences as we become Kindred Travelers.