Study Abroad: 24+ Hours of Travel, Part 2.

Before starting this narrative of my journey back to the US, I’d like to give some background information. For my flight home I was extremely stressed about missing my flight or having it cancelled. So stressed I would stay awake until 3am thinking about it. So stressed that I bought another bus ticket to New York City because I was afraid my original one wouldn’t get me into the city on time. A lot of stress and anxiety was involved.

For my flight back to the US I hardly thought about it. I had managed to get a cheap train ticket to London, I knew how to navigate the tube and I knew that I would have plenty of time. This was to all end the day before I was due to fly back to the US.

Friday 12th January

My last day at home. I had planned to go into town to buy last minute items and pack. The rest of my day would be spent having a fun and relaxing time. I’d walk my dog, I’d cook dinner and I’d watch TV. Nothing too stressful or aggravating.

That morning I was awoken at 7.30am by builders outside having their morning conversation. I ask you, what time is 7.30 to be talking loudly? A ridiculous time let me tell you. When I finally fell back to sleep I dreamt that I was losing all my teeth. Have you ever lost your teeth in a dream because let me tell you I have never experienced anything more horrific. Brush your teeth kids.

After the stress of loosing my teeth, I gave up on sleep all together because to be quite honest I wasn’t having a good time. My mum came home from work as I was still eating my breakfast and said the most horrific sentence:

“The train station is on fire”

Are you being serious right now?

(I would like to say before I rant about this that no one was injured or caught in the fire.)

Only my calm emotions and sense of sanity was injured that day.

I immediately go onto the internet to find out any information I can, I have a train to catch tomorrow! I have a flight tomorrow! But Nottingham train station was on fire and at 8.30am it didn’t seem to ending anytime soon. Every single train had cancellations and delays. A new train ticket from a different station would cost me £60+ and a bus ticket would cost £45 with an added 3 hours onto my journey time.

Things we not looking good and I did not have the money to spend on a new ticket.

Twelve hours later the fire had finally been put out and I had discovered that the next stop on my train route was a station only a 30 minute drive from my house. My journey to London was still safe.

They were suspecting arson and I have many questions. Question number one: who sets fire to a train station bathroom? Question number two: who sets fire to a train station bathroom AT 6.30AM? 6.30am. That is not an appropriate time for serious crime. Actually no time is appropriate for serious crime but why weren’t they sleeping is all I have to say.

Saturday 13th January

The train

The day of my flight! I was all packed and ready to drive down to the M1 to catch a train! I was lucky to be catching any sort of train, let’s be honest.

My journeys on Saturday were pretty good. No overall trauma was experienced. My mum drove me to the train station, and we had a cup of tea before the train arrived.

Let me tell you, the trains to London are NICE. East Midlands go all out on their trains to the capital. I could barely tell the train was moving as it pulled out of the station. The seats were comfy and the engine was so silent I could listen to music at a normal non-defeaning level. Wonderful.

I didn’t even have to change tube lines, just one hour on the piccadilly line and I was at the airport. It couldn’t have been more simple.

The Airport.

I had about an hour wait before boarding my flight and spent it wandering around the airport shops. I bought myself some snacks for the flight to get rid of loose change. Nothing too dramatic or inconvenient happened.

My flight was called to board and this was where the strangest thing happened: There was no people. No one was around.

I walked into the gate and almost considered retreating because I was clearly in the wrong place – where were the people?! Gates are usually filled with your fellow passengers, screaming children, and you have to queue. THERE WAS NO QUEUE.

I showed my passport and walked straight onto the plane.

I have never felt more confused in my life.

There was 10 minutes before departure and half the seats around me were still empty. I didn’t know what was happening but I liked it. I liked it a lot.

Apparently only 100 passengers had booked onto the flight meaning the fight would be half empty the entire time. The flight was eight hours long but it was definitely the nicest time I’ve had on a plane.

Newark Airport.

Here is where the joy ended. It was 7pm EST but my body thought it was 11pm. I stood in a queue for customs for two whole hours. TWO HOURS. I hadn’t slept on the plane and I was seriously considering just curling up on the ground because we weren’t moving very far.

Here’s the thing about customs, you can’t do anything. You aren’t allowed your mobile phone, you aren’t allowed anything so entertainment is out of the question. You just have to stand and stare at the wall for however long you’ve been cursed to stand there for.

In front of me was another exchange student, and an Australian boy who has jumped the queue in an effort to not miss his flight. Now, jumping the queue I was fine with, his determination to flirt with the girl in front of me I was not fine with. Let me tell you, when there’s nothing to do but hear the failing flirtation of some Australian boy who’s going to a business conference in Tennessee you really do contemplate what the TSA agents would do if you just decided to make a run for it. An hour of their conversation and I was done. Two fact Russian people pushed in line as I was three people away from being out of there and I nearly lost my mind.

I’ve decided that slow customs is the worst thing about travelling.

I understand why there was hardly anyone on my flight, clearly people who had dealt with Newark airport had the sense to go to JFK or some other US airport that doesn’t take six years to process people.

The Bus

I had gone into the day thinking I would be on a bus back to Wilkes by 9pm. Instead I was wandering around Newark airport at 9pm trying to find my suitcase.

I was tired and annoyed, the relief I felt getting onto the bus to New York City was incredible. I wasn’t in the airport anymore! I was FREE!

My bus back to Wilkes was at 11pm, and let me tell you Port Authority bus station is a completely different world at night. If I wasn’t so exhausted I might have people-watched and had some fun tales to tell. Instead, I sat on the floor and stared at my suitcase until it was 11pm and I could get on the bus.

I don’t really remember the actual bus journey, mainly because the moment I sat down I pretty much fell asleep and didn’t wake up until we hit Scranton at 1.30am in the morning.

It was 2.15am by time I arrived at my dorm. It was 7am back in the UK and I had been awake for 24 hours. Again.

Things I’ve learnt from international travel:
1. I can’t sleep on a plane, no matter how aggressively I close my eyes
2. I can sleep so well on coaches that I literally miss crucial moments of the journey, like the bus driver trying to figure out why the brakes aren’t working
3. I hate waiting in lines for nearly 2 hours.
4. Not having hand luggage in the airport is the most freeing experience.

That being said, I haven’t been put off travelling entirely. In the next few months I’m going to San Francisco, Washington, Boston, and Toronto.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Can’t wait to read about your further adventures! Have fun and take care!


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