Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Journey to Australia

Well, it's finally happening. I am finally going to Australia! It's been a dream of mine since before I even started traveling, so I'm a little excited to be checking this one off the bucket list. 

One of my best friends, Shannon, has the summers off from her school counseling job, and her husband, Ryan, just quit his job to tag along on this trip down under. And I got the invite too! I've always been the third wheel in their relationship, so it's only fitting that we all go on a big vacation together! ;)

Packing for this trip was a bit of a challenge. I had to cram everything from bikinis and flip flops to long underwear and winter boots in to a carry on size bag. June, July, and August are the middle of winter in the Southern Hemisphere. And while winter in northern Australia is mild (70s), winter in Tasmania and New Zealand can be cold. And I hate being cold. 

SO - 1 puffy coat, 1 scarf, 2 beanies, 8 long sleeves (sweaters and jackets), 2 long pants, 2 jeans, 2 long leggings, 1 long maxi dress, 2 shorts, 1 workout shorts, 1 workout cropped leggings, 8 short sleeved shirts, 3 tank tops, 2 swimsuits, board shorts, flip flops, walking shoes, 4th of July Toms, Salomon trail running shoes, and Sorel boots. And all my toiletries and camera stuff and a book and a hat and a water bottle... It's ridiculous how much I am bringing. But I should be good for 2 months! 

The weather looks fine now...but winter is coming! And did I mention I hate being cold?? ;)

So when I was out in Tahoe a couple of weeks ago, I bought these super expensive Icebreaker merino wool sweatpants. They were too long and wide leg, which I didn't like, but I knew I could find someone to taper them in and out some wise elastic around the bottom. 

The first place I took them to couldn't do it in time for this trip. But recommended another place. So I dropped them off there and picked them up this week. I was so disappointed in them! For $40, I feel like I should at least get straight lines and no holes in the fabric right?! Is hay unreasonable? Ugh. 

Anyways. Moving on. I'm keeping them and it's fine. Just annoying. 

The night before I left, my whole family got together to celebrate my birthday a little early, since I will be gone for it. We went to the restaurant I've been working at, Bistro 913. We got the back room to ourselves, but the AC wasn't working...and it was 90 degrees out. We kept the menus for awhile to fan ourselves!

The food was delicious, as usual, and the workers gave me a super sweet card they all wrote in before I left. I know my time there was short, but it was such a great experience and I will miss all those Vietnamese guys! 

Obligatory family photo out front. I have such a cute family!

My sister-in-laws usually get me a little something for my birthday, and this year was no different. 

Allie really took it to a new level this year with a hand made creation. She decorated this box to look like an old suitcase, complete with vintage stamps and sequin hardware! The girl is unbelievable (just like her mother)!

And inside was a matching heart shaped box with a tag on it: "Three months of reasons we love you." I don't think I've ever received a more thoughtful and loving gift in my life! It instantly brought tears to my eyes. 

The box is too big to bring with me, but I definitely put all of the little cards in to a plastic Baggie and will be opening one a day for the next three months. (OH - and I think I'm only going to be gone 2 months, so maybe I'll open two a day here and there.)

The morning I left, I noticed my flight was 16 hours and 55 minutes when I was checking in online. I didn't realize it was that long of a flight from Dallas to Sydney, so I decided to google to see where it ranked on the "Worlds Longest Flights" list. And sure enough... Number 3!! I new it was a long one. Officially the longest flight I will have gone on. (Number 4 on the list is Atlanta to Johannesburg, which I flew last March!)

 Kelli brought the kids over later that morning, and surprised me with another awesome gift! A handpainted print with a travel quote on it. It could not be more perfect for me (I'm kind of obsessed with bright colors and maps of the world) and I instantly found a home for it in my room. Love love LOVE it and am so thankful to have such wonderful sisters-in-law!

By afternoon, I finally worked out how to get everything in to my carry on suitcase and backpack. It was a struggle. For real.  But it's all there. Everything I could possibly need and then some!

Hadley has a new found love for my Willow (dog), and requested we take her to Petsmart. Why? Who knows. I guess because Hadley likes walking her around the store. So of course that's what we did. The kids get whatever they want when I'm around!

            (Looking at the cats ^^ )

I had a few errands to run, which included TWO trips to UPS to return all kinds of shoes i tried out for this trip, and a trip to Walmart to get a ridiculous 4th of July shirt for Ryan. Then it was home to shower, make my last green smoothie for awhile, and head to the airport with my mom!

Sweatpants and a hoodie (tied around my waist) in 97 degree Kansas heat was NOT enjoyable. I stood in the sun just long enough to snap this picture before running in to the air conditioning!

I got to the airport at 5:38 for my 6:38 flight. No joke. Exactly on time. But I always forget how small this airport is. I was sitting at my gate in 4 minutes. No joke. And to top it off, the flight to Dallas was delayed 30 minutes. 

So I sat around on my phone and killed some time. At least my shoes and backpack match. That's always important. Makes me happy. ;)

We finally took off about 40 minutes late. Thank goodness I have a little extra time in Dallas or I would have been really stressing out!

Apart from a few turbulents, nothing exciting happened on the hour and a half flight to Dallas. It wasn't a full flight and I lucked out with an open seat next to me. Kicked my shoes off, put my feet up, and listened to music. Here's hoping I'm this lucky on the next slightly longer flight. 

It was a little plane, so I had to wait on my gate checked bag before heading off to the tram to find Terminal D for my gate.  It wasn't hard to find.  The one with like 500 people hovering around it! 

I mean, not really THAT many, but there were a lot of people.  I walked all over around the gate trying to find some food or snacks, but everything closed at 9...and it was like 9:30.  Starbucks turkey jerky and an apple won.  Not the best, but I know there will be food on the plane.

So back to the gate to try my trick of sweet talking the agent to get an empty seat next to me.  It's worked so many times before, and I was lucky again tonight!  REALLY lucky!

I started out by asking the guy if my boarding pass on my phone would work or if they needed to see my passport and have a paper boarding pass.  (I knew I had to have that.)  So then I got him talking, "Is this a full flight?"  "How many people does the plane hold?" ... and then, "Are there any window seats with an empty seat next to them that you could maybe move me to?"  Worked like a charm.  I didn't just get moved, I got UPGRADED to business class on the upper level of the plane (HUGE double decker airplane) and got a whole ROW to myself!  The configuration on the upper level was 2-4-2 seats (bigger seats and fewer of them).  Lower level was 3-5-3 smaller seats.  So I only got  a row of 2 to myself because I like window seats.   But I was SO excited!

I was on the phone when I guess boarding happened, I mean I was standing right there and was kind of listening, but by the time they said open boarding, I was like, Oh, I definitely missed business class huh.  So I walked up, they checked my boarding pass, and instead of waiting in the long line with everyone else, I walked to a separate line (an empty one) that said "Upper Deck" and walked right on.  Everyone else was already seated, and I went to my empty row. 

And on the side, next to the window, there was this little cubby hole thing where I could put all my stuff!  So cool - and handy. And they walked around and gave out full size water bottles and some little "welcome" Australian drink.  Business class is the way to go. ;)

They passed out menus, and shortly after we took off they served dinner.  I was going to have the Asian chicken salad, but really wanted some vegetables, so I went with the beef goulash...and only ate the vegetables.  And the bread.  And NOT the cheesecake!


My plan was to stay up as long as I could, so I watched a movie.  There were lots of options, and for some reason, I chose Sisters.  Not my best choice.  It was funny-isa at times, but not that great of a movie.

I started The Revenant after that, but fell asleep at some point.  I mean it was like 1:30am, so that's pretty good for me!  I slept the majority of the next 12 hours or so.  Benadryl for the win! ;)  And the fact that I got to lay down across two seats and put my feet up on the window.  I drank water whenever I woke up, and had to get up to pee twice.  Other than that, I didn't do anything or talk to anyone the whole flight!

I slept through the next meal (pizza!) and woke up sometime around 3:30am Australia time.  Just enough time for another movie:  Daddy's Home.  Equally poor choice.  The movie was pretty bad!

They served breakfast around 4am.  Scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato, and yogurt.  I only ate the eggs and the blueberries from the top of the yogurt.  No meat and no dairy for me.  (For the most part.)

So 17 hours after I got on the plane, we landed in Sydney around 6am.  It was still dark out. 

The entry process to Australia was one of the easiest I've ever experienced.  They had these little kiosks all along the main walkways and you could just pop over and scan your passport, and it printed you off this little ticket.  Then you walked to the Customs area and put the ticket in.  It was supposed to just take my picture, see that it matched with my passport picture, and let me in.  

But apparently I was looking pretty rough this morning after a 17 hour flight, and my passport picture didn't look like me, so it kicked me out of the line and said follow the red arrows to the assistance desk.  Ugh.  

It still only took a minute or two.  A lady just scanned my passport, looked at me, stamped it, and I was in!

When I got to the customs area, there were two directions to go.  Lanes 1-3 were to the left and they were searching all your luggage.  Lanes 4-6 were to the right and you just got to breeze right through.  Thank goodness the guy looked at me, smiled, and said, lane 4 please.  Yessss!

I walked straight outside to get some fresh air (finally) and to see the sunrise.  I love a good sunrise!

I went back inside to find a bathroom and to FaceTime my mom to let her know I made it.  (Free wifi in there) and then decided I should get an Australian sim card for my phone so I would have service wherever I was.

After talking to a few of the carriers, I was about to buy at Vodafone when I asked him which company actually had the best service.  Thank goodness he was honest and said Telstra probably had the best.  So off I went to find that store.

A nice guy there helped me out.  Told me which bundle to buy, how to recharge the card and get it all going.  And while I was waiting on him to do all that business to get me on my way, I noticed the crazy KitKat bars behind me!  We don't have those kinds in the US, do we?  I guess I don't each much candy, but I've never seen these before!

With my new sim card ready to go, I went back to the arrivals area to wait for Shannon and Ryan.  There flight landed less than an hour after mine, so I didn't have to wait any time at all for them.

I'll leave this post off here, and begin the next one with their arrival and Day 1 in Sydney!

Let the adventures down under begin!  (I will officially be a third wheel for the next two months!) ;)

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