If Roy Orbinson could brag “I Drove All Night.” Then surely I could add “I Flew All Night” to see my sister get married on the other side of the world. Long term readers will note my little sister lives in England and yet I am here in Brisbane, Australia. She is well travelled and successful in her chosen career as a school teacher. In 2011 I married my wife Karen and Nadia flew to Australia to be there. She arrived on a Friday morning following a commute that included a five hour stop over in Singapore sporting some jet lag, the wedding was on Saturday and Sunday evening we had dinner before she flew out Monday morning and Karen and I drove up the coast to Maleny for our honeymoon. Roy Orbinson and I, it is fair to say are in good company. Having set the bar so high as my new brother in law noted in his wedding speech it seems I was determined to top such an exhausting commute.
The idea came to me not long after watching Paddington 2, I awoke one Saturday morning to the idea that somehow I would make it to London for my sister’s wedding. When the engagement had been announced I had simply relegated myself to the idea that I would not be able to attend with my wife. But the idea came to me in my sleep that I should go and once these things take hold in my mind they are very hard to shake. I looked up the cheapest flights available, one was a 38 hour commute with a 17 hour stop over in a place called Guangzhou. I worked with an English lad recently who told me of his flights over to Brisbane with long lay over in the Middle East and a stop in Perth. Uncomfortable long commutes that saved hundred of dollars were more appealing to me than any sense of comfort. So long had I not travelled internationally that surely a Chinese airport would prove vastly interesting to me at least… I hoped. I flew to London courtesy of my parents on a family holiday in 2002, we went from Australia to Singapore in 8 hours before boarding a 14 hour flight to London. I had been 21 and 78 kilos. Now how would I fare older and heavier with such a commute? An attack of deep vein thrombosis seemed very possible.
But the more I thought of it the more this all seemed to steady my course. I would go to my sister’s wedding, I would not sightsee, I would not have any spending cash, I would not take my wife, I would get in a steel tube, deposit myself at the other side of the world, attend the wedding, sleeping on floors of my sister’s apartment, climb back in the steel tube and arrive home. I talked to Karen, I looked ahead with our budget, I made a decision. I rang Flight Centre who had given me a quote a couple of weeks earlier. If the price had significantly gone up that would be the end of it, it was not- the flights to be booked now were $5 less. I bought the tickets, I was going.
I messaged my sister who was surprised and worried about the expense but happy I think. She arranged motel accommodation for me out of her own pocket in her neighbourhood of Bexleyheath, as a windswept and global traveller, she offered advice, she was generous and helpful to a fault. My only hope was to not get in the way and already she was doing things for me.
I went to a currency exchange and got some pounds and yuan. The gentleman there asked if I needed any travellers cheques. I told him this was it, he asked me how long I would be in London because those amount of pounds wouldn’t go very far. I told him I would not be long, I was to go to a wedding and fly out the next day. He nodded, assured of the amount now and impressed by my plans. Still it made me think of how people in days gone by had arrived in countries to settle with little in their pockets. I could not imagine doing it but they had. For me there was something that made it real when I got the other currencies more so than when the ticket had been booked. My mother gave me a lend of some money for an emergency, the emergency thankfully never came so I returned the money and gave her a tea towel and some magnets from far away lands.
This was only possible because of the generosity of others, my brothers and new relatives bought dinners, I was hurried to Ubers already paid for by fellow passengers who refused my outstretched notes, I walked past tempting eateries in airport lounges only to smile when the food was passed out on my flights hours later. The kindness of others and good luck made this trip possible and I will forever be grateful.
to be continued….