Study Abroad: 24+ Hours of Travel, Part 1.

After receiving a travel grant I realised I could actually go home for Christmas and see my dog and my family and all of my friends for three weeks. Ultimately all good and fun stuff. What I didn’t anticipate was that each journey would take over 24 hours. Never have I ever wanted to go back in time and yell at my past self: “The three hour Birmingham train journey is nothing, do you hear me? NOTHING. Now stop complaining you fool”

Alas I cannot do that so here is a very long run down of my journeys.

21st – 22nd December 2017.

Massachusetts:

Now, to be quite honest if I had any common sense I wouldn’t have flown from Newark when I had to travel from Massachusetts but I did. I wanted to see my friends and visit new places in the U.S.A. so fight me. At 9am, after buying another bus ticket because I was afraid my later ticket wouldn’t get me to the airport in time, I left Massachusetts and headed back to New York to get a bus from Port Authority.

This bus trip was generally fine, I sat next to a woman who took up 1.5 seats because she insisted on curling up and going to sleep. I somehow managed to sleep on half a seat and woke up with the NYC skyline in view. Ultimately an okay journey compared to the rest of my long day, I listened to music and I slept there was nothing more I could have asked for.

New York City:

I arrived in New York around 2pm, a whole 7 hours before my flight. To say I had time would be an understatement. I hadn’t eaten breakfast so I went in hunt for food and finally completed my Aunt’s request for me to go eat at Carlos Bakery (I had a cannoli – it was wonderful). I also went to a nearby gift shop to pick up a last minute Christmas present.

Staying an extra hour in New York was a mistake, my large suitcase screamed that I was not a native, I was indeed a vulnerable tourist in need of help at every opportunity.  I was accosted by many men who to be quite honestly terrified me, I usually feel quite safe in NYC until that day. Even the thousand people crowd at Rockefeller did not make me as uncomfortable as those men. Their demands and questions of ‘buy more gifts’, ‘I’ll carry your suitcase’ ‘which airport are you going to?” and “any spare metro cards?” were enough for me to put myself on a bus to Newark Airport a whole six hours early. So, if any of those people who hang around Port Authority with the sole purpose of accosting tourists in a hope they’ll give you money in return for their ‘help’ are reading this (I highly doubt it, they’re definitely in the bus station as we speak accosting another tourist): leave. people. alone. I know we all need to make a living but your method really is not appropriate. I am sorry to the guy I yelled at though, by time you tried to ‘help’ me find my airport bus I was well an truly annoyed but my scream “I’M GOING TO NEWARK” was not necessary despite my stress.

The Bus. 

Okay, so this was my third bus journey of the day and I was placed next to the strangest fellow I had ever come across. As the last person on the bus I had no choice but to take the last seat, which would seem fine.

Well, it was fine until I realised I was sat next to a Russian man who did nothing but file his nails for the entire thirty minutes. Now, I understand nail presentation is important, but is a bus designated for an airport really the place? I don’t think so. We were all literally about to put ourselves on metal boxes that stay in the sky for far too long, I doubt anyone would be inspecting your nails sir. He was also filing them in the space between us which is just rude because his nail dust definitely ended up on my jeans.

Let me tell you, I was real uncomfortable for the majority of this journey. I did learn something about myself: someone filing their nails beside me literally makes me want to die. So I can officially add that to my personal list of human noises that makes me want to launch myself into the ocean. (If anyone is interested that list comprises of: loud eating, loud breathing, specific forms of coughing, sniffling, chewing gum, and now nail filing) (I’m 90% sure I have Misophonia)

Newark Airport 

My speedy exit from New York meant I had a five hour wait in the airport. So much time with nothing to do. Thankfully, I had downloaded an entire season of Parks and Recreation and Broadchurch to watch so I was fully entertained until my kindle had ran out of battery and I discovered there were no plugs to be found anywhere. Luckily I sat near Dunkin Donuts and used their free WiFi before heading to check-in and security. Cheat the system kids and avoid paying extortionate prices for airport WiFi.

Here was another mistake: I passed a subway before heading into security and made the decision not to get a sandwich because there would be food places in the gate area, right? RIGHT? I was so so wrong. Apart from a fancy shelf in the bookstore that sold tiny sandwiches for $7, there was no food in sight after security. My dinner consisted of a packet of ready salted crisps and iced tea. Delicious. I hadn’t seen a vegetable all day and I was probably severely lacking nutrients because my entire meal list comprised of a cannoli and crisps. Travelling makes it hard to eat, apparently.

My departure time of 9.20pm came by and went and I was still sat in the gate. I had started to get excited for the meal I would receive on the plane at that point but I wasn’t boarding the plane there was no meal in sight. I was also very aware my hair was becoming progressively dirty. I hadn’t even got onto the plane I already felt like a walking piece of dirt. It was a long waiting game.

You could tell most of the people getting on the plane were British, because by 8.30pm people had started to queue and we didn’t get told to board the plane until over an hour later.

I finally got on the plane to realise that someone had sat in my seat, the window seat might I add. However, I was too tired, too annoyed, and too awkward to even consider asking her to change with me. I did discover that I love the isle seat though, the freedom is just too good.

The flight was six hours. I watched Dunkirk and then planned to sleep for the rest of the flight. The reality was I sat for four hours with my eyes closed and didn’t sleep at all. The woman who sat next to me slept 99% of the flight and then when she woke up she played sudoko and listened to Mozart. Some people have their life together and she is definitely one of those people.

Heathrow Airport.

It’s now 9am and I’m horrifically tired and desperately in need of a shower but I’m home! Kind of, I actually live no where near London and won’t arrive home until 6p.m (or so I thought). Anyway, I’m in England! My home country! I can hear my own accent! Christmas is in three days! I was delirious and excited. Heathrow’s new electronic customs created issues in which at least 30 of us stared at machines that were not working for ten minutes whilst workers stared at us. It was a staring match between human and machine but finally I was allowed to go collect my luggage and try to make myself human again.

Turns out trying to sleep on a plane after a full day of coach travel is not good for my hair. Over the past few years I’ve begun to care less and less about my hair. It starts raining after I’ve straightened it? Okay I’m annoyed because I wasted time doing my hair that morning but it’s not the end of the world and I no longer want to crawl under a hole like I did when I was 13. Dirty hair still makes me want to hide under a rock though and oh boy my hair was real dirty, so dirty that dry shampoo couldn’t even save it in the Heathrow bathroom. So I put on my hat and hoped the feeling of grossness would not result in death and headed for the tube to Victoria station.

The journey to Nottingham

So getting on the tube with a massive suitcase is actually really difficult. There just wasn’t space for myself and my luggage which was the size of a large child. So I stood for the entire journey, which was probably a good thing seeing as I had sat down for the best of part of an entire day.

After struggling up the stairs at Hammersmith and having to return down them because I forgot how to read a London tube sign, I was in Victoria! I had over two hours to kill and before I had started my journey I had the intention of dropping my suitcase off in storage and then planned to explore London for a little while. However, I was too tired and felt too gross to even consider that anymore. Instead I bought myself a milkshake and burrito and sat in content as I watched the people and pigeons walk by.

After an hour of trying not to fall asleep in Victoria bus station, my coach finally arrived. I must have immediately dropped to sleep because next thing I knew I was waking up an hour later and hearing the bus driver say a sentence I don’t think anyone ever wants to hear:

“Sorry for the delay, the brakes weren’t working”

Excuse me? The brakes weren’t working? WHAT DO YOU MEAN A FUNDAMENTAL PART OF THE VEHICLE WASN’T WORKING? Now, I did only pay £1.50 for the bus journey but that is not the point. I paid very little, avoiding the extortionate train ticket prices but I still deserved a working bus!

Turns out in that hour we hadn’t even moved out of London and an extra hour was added to my long long journey. All I wanted was my bed and a shower and it was placed further out of reach.

It was 7pm by time I reached Nottingham, but my journey wasn’t over, I still had to get myself to my home town.

This was probably the first time that day that luck had been on my side. The train to my home town had been delayed by 15 minutes, giving me enough time to buy a ticket and get on board. Never have I ever been happier to hear the announcement of a delayed train.

In half an hour I was at home and content. I didn’t have to do any extravagant travelling for another three weeks. The next 24 hour journey provided more issues which shall be given in Part 2 of this unnecessarily long post.

 

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