“Trish, see the world”, said my beloved grandma one afternoon. At the time, I just smirked and coldly responded “we’ll see”.
It’s not that I don’t like to travel, believe me, I love it! It’s just that I hate facing things that are beyond my control. For me, everything needs to be well planned and predictable. You need to make time to think about the pros and cons, and being reckless just because ‘YOLO’ is for me, utter nonsense.
This is why the idea of seeing the world at that time only triggered in me the need to think about the tons of things that I needed to risk, face, and overcome if I wanted to go happily explore the unknown. One of them is my deep fear of traveling on an airplane.
But then, I finally got into the stage where I became weary of myself, weary of dealing with the tons of excuses that I always come up with, just to chain and lock myself up. Soon, I will no longer be a twenty-something girl. I need to step up my game. No more of being dependent on others, and I should start reaching for more opportunities.
That’s why last year, I decided to use my Personal Development Fund (PDF) to travel to Hong Kong. And yes, GOD always has a way to make you become a better human. How did this happen? Let’s see!
1st: The sudden traveling schedule conflict
I was so happy knowing that my best friend’s work schedule matched mine. This would allow us to celebrate a decade of our friendship by traveling together. Moreover, I was also happy to know that I did not need to travel alone. At least, it will be less scary and daunting.
But then, Maverick announced its annual outing schedule and it kind of clashed with my departure schedule to Hong Kong in October. Gosh! I had already purchased my flight ticket, and the rescheduling fee was, of course, not budget-friendly. Rescheduling would also mean having to cut down on my stay in Hong Kong but on the other hand, I also did not want to miss out on the fun of exploring Manila with my fellow colleagues.
“Trish, I am fine traveling alone and will just meet you at Hong Kong airport.” said my friend when I called her to explain the situation. “The question is, are you willing to travel by plane – alone – to Hong Kong?” she asked. After a brief silence, I reluctantly said, “Well, I guess there is no other way, it’s a risk that I need to take, right?”.
My stomach was churning hard, just imagining what I had just agreed to, suddenly made me panic. But reason finally prevailed as I told myself that I needed to stop being a coward.
2nd: The unexpected chaos that shut down the city
In July, news of Hong Kong citizens’ massive protest made the headline in most news portals. Dear GOD, can you just let my traveling plan go smoothly? I’ve already filled up the itinerary!
I texted my friend to negotiate an alternative travel plan if by October, the protests were still ongoing. I pitched her another country, but it seemed that none of us were excited by that alternative destination. “Ok then, let’s monitor the condition closely and get as much information as possible. If everything seems ok, we go, if not then it is better to just cancel our trip” I told her sadly.
At that time, it seemed hopeless to keep pushing with our plan. After two months of wondering and uncertainty, messages from the Indonesian embassy and one friend that was at the time vacationing in Hong Kong arrived. Both implicitly gave the green light for us to go! Of course, they also emphasized the need to always stay alert.
Engrossed with the spirit of ‘September Ceria’, we then bravely decided “Let’s go to Hong Kong!”
3rd: No turning back
The two buses that carried all of my colleagues to their next stop in Manila finally moved and I was left behind, alone, at the hotel lobby. I waved and tried to give them a brave smile, but deep inside me, I just wanted to cry. “Now, I am officially stranded,” I told myself as I waited for my online taxi to pick me up and drive me to the airport.
My flight got delayed for more than an hour because of traffic conditions at Hong Kong airport. While waiting and trying to finish my hotdog at the Manila airport lounge, I saw some of the tourists protest, airing their disappointment over the lack of flight information. “Please.. just please no more drama,” I silently prayed. Luckily, not long after that, I boarded my flight.
The plane was half empty, or half full depending on how you want to see it. Fear started to slowly creep into my mind again. The sight of the fluffy cloud could not even tame my mounting fear. My stomach had also started to churn and it would not stop hurting. I also could not stop staring at the changing numbers on the digital clock on the screen in front of me. Will this flight be safe? Will the city be safe? Will I be OK?
There was no turning back. I was on my way to Hong Kong.
4th: Touch down! Hello Hong Kong!
After around two hours of battling tons of negative thoughts floating in my mind, I could finally see the Hong Kong skyline appear. All of the city lights made it feel as if my plane was landing on top of a diamond-studded land. It was simply breathtakingly beautiful!
As I walked fast into the immigration line, I felt the excitement build up in me and I rushed to find my friends who had arrived about an hour earlier. I could not stop smiling, not only because I was excited, but also because of what I had just accomplished!
I was restlessly impatient to be able to finally explore the city, visiting DisneyLand, Ocean Park, Victoria Peak, and see the Tian Tan Buddha!
5th: Nope, that is not on my itinerary. Just explore on your own!
Though I already prepared an itinerary for the visit, my friend and I actually did not have a chance to sit down and agree on the places that we would like to explore together. All we knew was that we would go see DisneyLand, Victoria Peak, and perhaps also Macao, together.
Far from what I had assumed, my friend’s plan and mine turned out to be different. Hers, allotted one and a half-day for each of us to go on a ‘solo’ trip to visit some places. I had never really ‘explored’ another country by myself before, but it was also not my place to force her to do MY thing, following MY itinerary, and make this trip only about ME.
That first night in our hotel room, with the TV blaring news about the protests in the city in a language that we did not even understand, I asked my friend “we’ll be safe, right?”.
YES! IT WAS SAFE! and I LOVE HONG KONG! The trip was a blessing for me, everything was fine and safe. This city, that has become a global hub in Asia, is just awesome! Many are the reflections you can get by just observing people in Hong Kong who come from various countries in the world, and the view is for sure, also breathtaking.
As for me, I was also proud of the flexibility and bravery that I showed in doing my own ‘solo’ trip. It really was a life-changing experience.
6th: When your return ticket is no longer available
On our last day in Hong Kong, we decided to just go to the airport right after we checked out of our hotel. Since it is one of the largest airports in Asia, with 530 gates, we just wanted to see how giant it is.
We’ve finally reached our flight check-in counter, and so far our trip has been going smoothly until… “Mmm… I’m sorry miss Avila, but I think your ticket is no longer available. It seems that you did not take your flight from Jakarta, and the ticket you purchased is a return ticket,” explained the airline officers.
As a dramatic horror movie music suddenly mounting inside my mind, I asked desperately: “Is there anything you can do to help? I never canceled my ticket in the first place? So I need to purchase a new ticket? Can you get me the same flight as my friend?” I could already feel the nightmare of having to endure four hours of flight alone. I was just not ready for it!
And yes… when you think that you have managed to conquer all the challenges, the fact remains that there will always be another challenge, another lesson lurking, waiting for you to learn. The charm of growing up, right?
I calmly took out my phone, opened the online travel service App to find another ticket home. The same flight was fully booked, and there were no more seats available on any direct flight to Jakarta. Now, it would be four hours for the first flight, five hours transiting in another country, and a connecting flight of about one hour back to Jakarta. And I had to do it all alone.
7th: That night when I sleep at the airport alone
“You look calmer Trish, you’ve matured,” said my friend smiling at me when we finally separated as she had to board her flight. “It will be safe, you booked a trustable airline!” she assured me.
From all the deep conversations I shared with my friend while at the Hong Kong airport, I think those two sentences were really comforting me. It was in the middle of the night, the Singapore airport was not as packed as I remembered before. Most of the stores were closed, and people were trying to find their own spot to fall asleep.
I don’t actually know what happened to me. I felt so calm facing all of the drama at the Hong Kong airport. Was it because I was just so tired and just wanted to get home? Or deep inside, was it maybe true that I have become more mature?
That night, before dawn came and the airport felt cold and quiet, I thanked GOD for every drama that had happened. All that unpredictability and uncertainty made me realize that I was more than what I thought I was capable of.
I knew at that precise moment something would certainly change when I finally got back to Jakarta. This spoiled and cowardly girl has finally found her way to bravery and now understands what it means to be more flexible.
Written by Avila Trish, Associate.