I’d only ever travelled abroad once before in my life until two days ago. The first time I went “overseas” was for one night in Sydney, and if you’re coming from New Zealand, it’s really not all that far…
If I’d been told at the beginning of the year that I would be in San Francisco in April I would have never believed it, let alone be be told that I’b here for three months, for work… on a work-paid trip!
It was just a few weeks ago that my boss suggested the trip over here, and to be honest I thought he was just having a laugh. I still almost didn’t believe it when he booked the tickets, or even when I was wondering around the departure lounge looking like a lost lamb in Auckland Airport.
Yet here I am, sitting in an apartment on Nob Hill, in San Francisco, California.
Am I dreaming? It still feels quite odd.
Because this trip is so interesting, and because I thought this may help others stumbling into this city from New Zealand, and because my family wanted me to, and because I want to look back on my very first account of the United States, I’ve decided to reinstate my blog, and write about this whole big overseas experience.
So, let me begin from the beginning.
When I first heard about the trip, it was maybe 2 months before it actually happened, but when the flights were finally booked and paid for, it was maybe 2 and a half weeks before I left? And when you’re going somewhere for three months I’m sure it’s normal to want to get affairs in order.
I, however, was so busy with work, and extra work, that I had no time to put all my things in storage the night before I left, and no time to prepare for travel but the Thursday morning before the flight on Monday.
What does one do when unsure on what to take overseas? Ask the world of Facebook of course. So I did, and thanks to a lot of generous friends I was packed to the brim of advice, and so my carry on bag was packed to the brim of “things you should take on a plane”.
I had rushed around like a headless chook buying this and borrowing that until I was pretty confident that I could need or want for no more on the plane!
In my carry on bag I had:
Laptop and charger (for I was so fearful of my suitcase getting lost)
Tablet and charger
Phone and charger
Noise cancelling Headphones
Bliss tablets (throat probiotic things)
Teeth cleaning travel tablet toothpaste things
Blotting paper (ladies! Am I right?)
A change of clothes (including underwear)
A Pen (omg YES)
Snacks (Snickers Pods, and Beef Jerky purchased at the duty free place)
An empty drink bottle (that you can fill up after all your bags are checked and you’re in the departure place)
Vitamin B pills (I dunno why I had that really, but it was prescription and I was scared to put it in my suitcase)
Cash (both NZ and American)
All my booked stuff and paperwork (a print out of my accommodation stuff, email copies of the ticket receipt, travel insurance)
My US Sim Card
Herbal Jet Lag pills
My reading glasses
A Neck Pillow (thanks Annette!)
The one thing I didn’t have was Evian Brumisateur, but only because I didn’t end up having time to find any.
That is quite an impressive list you might say.
Well, I made it to the departure lounge I sat down near the only young normal looking person I could find, unsure of what was really going on I played it cool and downloaded lots of free books for my Kindle App, pretending to be chilled like a regular jet-setter, but as soon as something happened I would look up wondering if we could actually get on the plane yet! My peer kept fidgeting and getting up and going to the snack machine, I thought he was nervous and had never flown before so I felt pretty cool. This carried on for about 40 minutes, turns out they had to wait for the pilots and the air hostesses to board and get the plane ready or whatever. That was a really long 40 minutes.
When we were finally let on after priority boarders the lovely lady that looked at my ticket said “You’re in row A, Miss Powell, directly on the right” or something like that.
I walked on and looked for some seat numbers like in theatres but couldn’t see any so I sat down where I thought she meant. Turns out I was in the wrong seat. When I got up and asked if I was in the right place I found I was waaaay off, and headed down towards the end of the plane. It was packed. Luckily I had changed my seats to be beside a window.
When I got to my row I saw the person that was sitting beside me was the very guy I had sat down close to at the start! That was good, I was terrified of the stranger I’d be seated next to for 12 hours.
I looked around and everyone was putting their carry on bags in the overhead compartments, I don’t know what I thought would happen but I just assumed I’d have my bag with me. As everyone was waiting to sit down I just grabbed a few things out of my bag then stowed it away.
The things I grabbed:
My water bottle
Noise cancelling Headphones
Travel Wallet (which contained my passport, ticket, pen, travel documents, sim card)
Herbal Jet lag pills
Well, I only got up twice to go to the bathroom over the next few hours, and didn’t want to bother anyone getting my bag out and fidgeting with it, so those were the only things that I actually used during that whole flight. Turns out you don’t really need much for 12 hours.
My friend Charis was so right, taking off was totally the best part of the flight – and landing was pretty cool too.
We got served dinner about an hour in, I got a chicken pasta thing, chickpea salad, a bread roll, cheese and a cracker and I also asked for a tomato juice and some red wine. The Pinot Noir was really delicious, and the flight attendant gave me an extra glass when he misheard my seat buddy order the same! Lucky me, although this definitely took a toll on my bladder.
After the excitement of takeoff and what-not I decided to watch a movie, and went with the new Hunger Games film – it was pretty good, although I couldn’t see it all that well as I had somehow turned the brightness down on my screen, and my glasses were in my bag, but I still managed, and actually figured out how to use the remote control about 2 hours in – har har.
Going to the bathroom about four hours into the flight was great, I felt bad that everyone in my row had to move, but when a lady’s gotta go, a lady’s gotta go! Oh, and I’m really glad I put the toilet seat lid down before I flushed, honestly the velocity of that thing had me worried it could suck me up even with the thing closed!
Later, I asked my seat buddy lots of questions and took half a sleeping pill. I think my two glasses of wine had quite an effect because I became pretty chatty. My friend, Derek I found out, was only answering questions with small yes’s and no’s, although he insists he wasn’t annoyed by my questions. He was American, a Petroleum Engineer and liked Modest Mouse. I thought he Modest Mouse thing was pretty cool, I’m a fan.
When I finally dozed off it wasn’t much, off and on dozing and I’d suddenly wake up and panic a little, drinking water and taking a herbal jet lag pill. This happened quite a few times… Then when I woke up, I decided to try and watch Wolf of Wall Street, it was okay, but I didn’t get to finish it because breakfast was served!
We had eggs that looked kind of like plastic, a little sausage, some weird baked beans, a pot of fruit, a little thing of yoghurt, and some orange juice. The fruit and the OJ was amazing.
Wow, I just realised how long this was getting! I’ll cut it off now, and continue with another post some time.