After I quit my job, I started doing some research. In fact, when I was in the four-wheel drive in Mongolia, I had decided to go to South America despite the fact that I didn’t know any Spanish word including ‘Hola!’ The couple also said I didn’t need to speak perfect or fluent Spanish to travel around in that area.
When I was doing my research, I kept in touch with the couple. They sent me links of blogs about backpacking. I actually adopted quite a lot of the tips. That made me a wiser backpacker.
Other than this couple, I started asking my friends including the one who went to France and Norway with me. She then introduced her other friend who had travelled to South America to me. I had a chat with that guy who gave me a rough estimation on the cost of his entire 6-month trip and the list of countries he visited. The cost was in line with what Kevin said. I had more confidence now. Those who have been there told me that area wasn’t as dangerous as it was portrayed in the media. All I needed to do was to exercise common sense. Those who had never been there told me it was dangerous and I shouldn’t go. Who would you believe?
The next thing was to research the air ticket. Back then, Qatar Airways was having a promotion to the US. I checked the site a few times, still couldn’t make up my mind as to which date.
I finally bought the ticket knowing that if I kept procrastinating, I would never fly.
I would fly in two days.
Those two days were for me to pack.
At least, that was my original plan.
I planned to stay in the US for a couple of days and then from there to South America.
It happened that my mum was also in the US back then so I’d stay with her and my aunt. It’d only be for a few days.
The next thing was to start to pack.
I saw a scout at the metro station carrying a backpack. I was curious so I approached him and asked, ‘what does it mean by xx litres to yy litres? Does it mean that you can shrink your backpack when you don’t have much inside?’ He explained to me and told me which area I could find all these backpacks.
Day 1 of packing:
I bought a new smaller backpack in the area recommended by the scout. I wanted to be a minimalist too but it turned out I couldn’t. Why? I don’t remember. I guess, it was mainly because of the winter clothes.
As I continued to research on the internet at home, I checked my air ticket again.
Then I realized, I didn’t have ‘Day 2 of packing’!
The flight would depart after midnight. That’s why the date was tomorrow!
I HAD TO LEAVE TONIGHT!
ONLY A FEW HOURS LEFT BEFORE THE FLIGHT DEPARTURE!
I quickly stuffed everything in my backpack which was probably the most unorganized backpack I had ever packed.
Buckled my backpack waist strap.
Wore my hiking boots.
Off I went to the airport.
I was the last one to check in at the Qatar Airways counter. Somehow, it took them a long time to find my record. One of the staff asked me, ‘when did you buy the tickets?’ I answered, ‘yesterday.’ They checked the system again. I heard them mumble something. ‘Is there anything wrong with it?’ I asked. The staff said, ‘No. It’s just that the payment hasn’t gone through yet.’ I was concerned, ‘will I not be able to fly?’ Another flight attendant joined. There were three of them at the counter now. The lady said, ‘You’ll be able to fly.’ Another one said, ‘we just need to get the authorization from your credit card company.’ The one who had been checking my record made a call. While he was calling the credit card company, the lady asked me, ‘6 months in the US. Where are you planning to go?’ I smiled, ‘I am only stopping over in the US for a couple of days and then I will fly to another destination.’ Her eyes brightened up, ‘up north or down south?’ I said with a smile as if I was going to get married, ‘down south.’ All of them except the one who was making the call went, ‘OMG! I’d love to go there too!’ ‘You can always fly there. You are a flight attendant.’ The lady said, ‘hm… not really…’ The staff hung up and said, ‘sorted. You are good to go.’ I was so relieved. All three of them wished me a happy journey. Thanks to all of them. 😊
What a day!
I sat on the plane.
What a relief!
It’d be a long flight.
I would have to stop at Doha for a couple of hours and then to the US.
That’d mean I’d have traveled around the world before arriving in the US.
As my aunt needed to work, my mum and I walked around in New York City. On 29 October, 2012, I even walked around New York City by myself. Really? I did? According to my record, yes, I did.
Hurricane Sandy hit New York City on October 29, 2012.
Metro started to stop running. I quickly went back to my temporary home.
I was stuck in New York.
The place I stayed at wasn’t too bad. We didn’t have electricity and water for only a couple of hours on one night. But just across the street, they had nothing. Over the next few days, cars were queueing up for petrol, people stayed at home, there was no water, no electricity, and the entire metro system was paralyzed.
Was it a good experience?
I saw how Americans handle the crisis.
I saw another side of this supposedly developed country. The way some people handled it was like those in developing countries. No offence. But please, complaints can’t help.
Years later, I talked to a volunteer who had helped the Americans during crises like this. He said, ‘they just kept complaining. They didn’t think up solutions and didn’t take any actions to help themselves until we came and started building a “canoe” to get them out of the flooded areas.’
When Hurricane Sandy started to leave, I said to mum, ‘once the domestic airports are open, we will fly to LA to visit your friends. You HAVE TO visit all of your friends in the west coast. I will pay for your tickets.’ I reckoned, by the time we came back from LA, I’d be able to fly to South America.
I bought the tickets online and off we went.
My mum’s friend was extremely happy when she knew that my mum was in the US and was going to visit her. They have been friends for longer than 40 years.
Her friend came to pick us up at the airport. Gosh! I had never seen my mum being so happy before. It was worth it, for HER. She had a stomach problem and couldn’t eat quite a lot. But when she saw her friend, her appetite came back. I said to her friend who was a nurse, ‘that’s psychological.’ Her friend agreed. My mum ate so much at breakfast. When we went back to the east coast, my mum said, ‘no, I actually had stomachache when I was in LA.’ Like I believe it.
Her friend drove us around and we had a few gatherings with all of her friends there.
I could understand why the couple wasn’t too excited when we saw the mirage in Mongolia. LOL!
I liked the west coast. The weather was good. It was a bit hot though. Compared to the gloomy east coast, the west was much better. It was sunnier, people were friendlier and happier. I liked it. And of course, I also got to see my idol.
Of course, you have to go to the museum. Look at this dinosaur. I only know T-Rex. Is this the museum in the movie? I guess so… so, that means they’ll all move at night!!!! 😱 But I didn’t see the tablet…
We spent the whole day there. My mum and I also visited the Planetarium. It reminded me of the Milky Way I saw in Mongolia. It was so beautiful!
That ended my journey in the US.
I had my tickets to Ecuador and I was ready to fly down south. 😊
26 October 2012 – 10 November 2012
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