Saturday, February 4, 2017

There's No Place Like Home, There's No Place Like Home, There's No Place Like Home

On Wednesday I awoke feeling my absolute weakest physically, and completely drained emotionally.
I'll kick this blog off with a few more pictures from my trip:


My flight to Denver wasn't until 3:00, but expecting things to go wrong at the airport, I decided it would be best to get there four hours early. I packed up my bag Tetris style, checked out of the hotel, and hailed a taxi to the airport. It took about 20 minutes to get there. I made sure I had all of my belongings and then headed in. I glanced up at the list of departures, and I was so early that my flight wasn't even listed yet. In spite of my super early arrival, I was still able to check in and check my bag with United. I walked up to the self-service kiosk which asked me to insert my passport so it could fin my flight. Guess what? My pathetic temporary passport couldn't be read. I typed in my confirmation number instead and it pulled up my information. The next screen asked if I wanted to upgrade to first class for the low, low price of $768. Umm...no thanks. I checked the YES box when asked if I needed to check a bag, and then something poetically ironic happened- I had to pay $26 for the checked bag, and I had to pay with a credit card. I couldn't help but laugh- for the last ten days I needed only cash, and here I was, finishing out my trip, and now I needed a card.

I asked a United agent what to do, and he told me to walk to the additional services office on the other end of the airport. On my way there, I stopped at immigration services to show them my police report so I could get out of the country. See, in Mexico they give you a paper for immigration and you fill out the information on the top part and give it to the immigration officer and then you're expected to keep the bottom half until you depart Mexico. Of course, when my passport was stolen, so was that dumb piece of paper, which is why I needed to file a police report and bring it to the immigration services counter at the airport. I got that taken care of fairly quickly, and then went to the additional service counter for United. They let me pay cash to check the bag there, gave me my boarding pass, and I was off to security. 

I wish I had actually looked at my boarding pass before entering the security line because I shockingly ended up with TSA Pre, which is awesome because you don't have to take liquids out of your bag or take off your shoes and coats. It didn't matter much, however, since the line was pretty measly and took hardly any time to get through. In Mexico you don't have to take off your shoes which is SO nice. Once again, I accidentally left my knife in my carry-on and they let me get away with it. I felt SO secure knowing that...

So all of this, mishaps included, still left me with about three and a half hours before boarding. But I had made it through immigration; I was finally on the other side. Perhaps now, as the Argentinian man said, my nightmare had ended.

I decided I should get a smoothie to at least get something in my rumbling stomach. I got one of those insanely healthy green smoothies and my stomach instantly started to feel wonky. I ran to the bathroom and threw up. Naturally, there was a massive line of people and I am not the quietest vomiter so it was a great time, puking while tons of strangers listened in. Whatever, I'll never see them again. I sat, read, listened to music, eavesdropped on the quirky conversations of fellow travelers, and ran to the bathroom once more to hurl up the remaining smoothie. The time went by rather quickly- all of a sudden, it was time to board. I felt the corners of my mouth curl upwards as I realized what was happening. My steps were leading me to the plane that would take me back home after such a trying journey. I did the weird superstitious thing I do when flying and touched the outside of the plane, then stepped on board and found my seat. 

Thankfully, my seat neighbors were silent and didn't get up in my grill. I brought plenty to do on the plane but wasn't aware that to access their free entertainment, I would have needed to download the United app which I obviously didn't. I tried to sleep, but it was one of the "new and improved" planes which basically means the seats are substantially smaller and closer together, there are no TV screens, and my seat didn't go back at all. But I was still on a plane. A plane to Denver. So none of that mattered. 

I landed and headed to the kiosks you can use to scan your passport to get through immigration. Can you guess what happened when I tried to scan my fake looking emergency passport? It read it just fine. Just kidding, it said it couldn't read the document so I had to go downstairs to the old school immigration lines and actually interact with one of the officer. He was incredibly kind though and said he was sorry for what I went through on my trip and welcomed me home. Next was baggage claim, I had to wait awhile for my bag but it eventually made its way onto the conveyor and I grabbed it, told the customs guy I had nothing to declare, and the experience ended. 

One of my friends who was helping me back home while I was in Mexico came to pick me up (that's how you know who your friends are- the ones willing to give you rides to and from the airport) and we drove home, mostly in silence as I was simply drained and felt unable to speak. The sight of the mountains made me grin from ear to ear. I couldn't wait to get back to climbing. 

After this entire epic journey, I felt like Frodo after he (and Gollum, technically) destroyed the ring. I could only think of the scene where Frodo and Sam were lying on the side of Mount Doom as lava flowed around them and they couldn't even muster the strength to stand. 

Except it was just me. 

Now comes the end of my series, and I suppose it's expected of me to reflect on the trip. When I tell the shortest version of the story, most people ask me if I am officially disenchanted by travel, but that is simply not the case. I could take the perspective that my journey was a drawn out series of unfortunate events, but I refuse to take that negative viewpoint. Instead, I just think about the people who saved me. The people who helped me and if they hadn't, I might still be in Cuba or Mexico. It inspired me to have such kindness shown to me, especially by strangers, and motivated me to try to be a better person and help others in kind by paying it forward. I also look back and can now laugh at everything that went wrong. My experience was quite like an Oscar Wilde dark comedy; a comedy of errors which are my favorite type of literature. 

It's time for this blog series to come to an end. But before I do, I want to dedicate them to everyone who helped me, especially Josh, Joel, Greg, my parents, Argentinian guy, lady cop, and Lucy. Thank you for going above and beyond to get me back safe and sound, because there's no place like home.

Some Starbuck's fails from Mexico (this I expect in the States, but my name is Hispanic. You'd think they could get it right):

Bria means wind. 

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