From the beginning of my travels, I was determined to approach this adventure with excitement and a flexible attitude. I was embracing this idea of beginner’s mind, an idea a friend shared with me before I left. I made it my goal to not panic over little hiccups so when the people I am working with changed where we were staying a few hours before our flight left I did not allow myself to panic. I did spend sometime regretting my packing choices, but I have decided that is inevitable. Somewhat predictably I packed way too much clothing and looked ridiculous. My co-workers said they were bringing two suitcases so wanting to fit in (and glad that they wanted to bring outfit options) I did too. Unfortunately, this turned into me bringing two huge suitcases that I could barely get out of the car. This made the goodbye process slightly easier because I was desperately hoping to check my bags before anyone saw me.
I shed a few tears per usual, but I remained composed during my goodbyes and didn’t enter the airport sobbing, as I have in the past. Before we said goodbye my sweet boyfriend reminded me that goodbyes are not my strength, so I am happy to say that this one was my best one yet! Goodbyes are challenging for me, even when I am seeing my loved one in a week because I feel the need to get in every last hug, kiss, and I love you. I don’t want to leave any love not expressed. It is the same way with goodbye to my parents, with my Dad always standing in the driveway to wave to me when I drive away.
Another part of the goodbye process involves something that I learned was specific to my family growing up, “plane/bus notes.” These are exactly what they sound like, a note to be read on the journey. Does anyone else do these? I am not sure where this tradition came from, but they always make me cry. I think it was a way for my parents to provide comfort during the journey and say all of the last minute I love yous. I asked my boyfriend to write one and despite not quite understanding this tradition he wrote a truly lovely note. I read it twice on the plane and cried (I guess I lost the composure that I had during the goodbye).
This next statement might be filed under the category, “things no one says,” but I actually enjoyed the five-hour layover that I initially was dreading. The airport in Amsterdam seems to have been made for long layovers. Their version of a food court had homemade omelets served on china with a beautiful pattern and adorable little napkins. They even had a free museum in the airport! I felt like I really understand Dutch culture by spending this long in the airport.
I strongly believe that spending a few days traveling with someone amounts to at least a few months in normal friendship time. I have always enjoyed the immediacy of the connection formed with someone when you are killing time during the inevitable lulls of travel. It has been fun to connect with my co-workers in this way and laugh about the inside jokes created a few hours earlier, although it seems like days ago.
In the final leg of my journey to Nairobi, what would be my worst nightmare, a middle seat on a six-hour flight, next to a grumpy Dutch man, was something I just had to laugh about. I got up to go to the bathroom three times, which to me is a pretty reasonable amount for that flight. Every time I asked the man to get up he rolled his eyes and said, “Again?!?!”
The Nairobi airport was more advanced and calm than I expected. Walking off the plane to the customs area felt like walking through a strip mall that belonged in a 1980s bus station. Dimmed orange lighting and shops selling cigarettes and odd assortments. Customs seemed to go much more smoothly than in other countries and they even had a machine for electric finger printing for visas. Despite, the mild 60-degree weather out the locals were dressed in down jackets. I can simply describe this travel experience as a positive almost out of body experience. I didn’t quite recognize the patience and positivity that I was displaying through this twenty-hour journey, but if this is Nairobi Phoebe I hope she sticks around for awhile.