I was ready to take on the other side of the earth. To continue forward on this personal, cultural, and professional journey. India.
The Taj Mahal… absolutely, positively on my bucket list.
One of my top to-do’s when imagining my WMFT, was seeing the Taj.
Oddly though, throughout the whole tour leading up to this point, I actually had a notable anxiety about going to India. I mean, it would be the first third-world nation I would ever go to… I’d heard all the horror stories about the filth and feces in the street… about the cab drivers taking advantage of you… about the trains being unpredictable at best… about the health concerns consuming ANYTHING there… pretty much, if there was a horror story to hear, I feel like it somehow made it to my ears.
Nope, not biting… focus on the Taj. Intense experience in a truly vastly different culture. Expanding myself and my travel comfort zone.
This will be worth it.
Oddly again, getting train tickets to travel within India became close to impossible. I had tried everything seemingly possible through my own efforts, inclusive of logging on to their system and the foreigner-go-between system.. I used all three email addresses I have… none worked… I created three new yahoo email addresses… none worked.
I thought it might be some computer hardward hyjinx on my machine, so I finally broke down and asked my friend, Blythe, for help. She had offered, I was appreciative, and after so many attempts of my own, I accepted. She was then launched into the same online insanity I had just experienced. After multiple different attempts on her part, who the hell knows what magic she worked, but our Indian train tickets were secured!
It honestly seemed like a f*cking MIRACLE. I’m not kidding you.
I had also boxed up a bunch of my stuff, knowing I’d be in warm places for the rest of the World Tour, and shipped it off to mysister. I was down to a carry-on. Exorbitant baggage fees, F off. (I seriously had to pay 75 EUROS when I traveled to Athens from Italy. My bag wasn’t even over weight. Gouging, I say.)
So this travel day, I was ready… I even had the food purchased so that when Brian and I met up on my birthday, we’d at least have peanut butter and bread crackers to enjoy.
As much as the lady at the Santorini airport thought I was trying to pull a fast one, I proved to her that my bag did indeed fit in the overhead bin, so on I went, all my stuff in tow.
Arrived in Athens easy peasy, one hour to connect.. made it to my gate, despite the peanut butter getting taken at security. Apparently it is a cream. Even crunchy peanut butter is a cream. That could be a bomb. Yeah, a delicious taste explosion in my mouth, lady! I asked her to at least take it home and eat it.
Anyway, at the gate, much of the boarding was already complete so I just walked right up and handed them my boarding pass.
… This is when it starts to get interesting …
As I tried to board my flight to Doha, the gate agent asks me, “Do you have your Indian visa?”
Internal freak-out begins as I do NOT have any such Indian visa.
I reply, “Uh.. I think so..” a reply coming from the small shred of me that thought maybe I did get it and just forgot because Brian is so on top of things, there’s no way he wouldn’t have warned me.
The gate agent flips through my passport.
The heat in my cheeks rises.
She clearly sees I don’t have one in my passport despite my many stamps. Damn.
I say, “I thought you didn’t need one.. there’s no way I would have come without one if you needed one.”
Clearly I would, because you do.
Total rookie mistake.
She looks it up. Turns out, at the very minimum, I need my online application in process and those pages printed out in order to board.
Aiming to keep my freak-out in check, I quickly whip out my iPhone and pull up the visa site, telling the lady I will quickly type in the information and get it sorted.
Despite my efforts, time runs out and they deny me from boarding my flight to Doha.
Not ideal, but I can handle this.
Freak-out in check.
I quickly text Brian to warn him since he is flying to New Delhi later the same day from Oman.
He receives my text that I’ve been denied boarding.
His reply, “F*CK!”
Hahahaha! In retrospect it’s all so hilarious.
So now one of the nice gate-girls is walking me back to the ticketing counter.
It takes us a while, up one elevator, down another, down this corridor and so on because I guess you can’t just walk past customs when theoretically you’ve already left the country. So I have to re-enter Greece. We stop at another customs desk and the lady informs the man what’s going on. With a stern look, the man flips through my passport, reviews my dates of entry into the Schengen area, crosses my departure out, re-stamps me, and also sternly alters me that I must leave the country today or I will overstay my visa there.
I knew this.. but… sh*t.
There is one flight that can get me to New Delhi later that early evening, leaving just under 4 hours from now. So I essentially have that time to get my Indian visa sorted, or who knows what.
Ok, I can do this.
As soon as I get up to the ticketing counter, I figure out how to re-book on that flight, what it’s going to cost, and how many seats are available. Oh and she won’t rebook me until I’ve got my Indian visa printed and secured.
Athens offers one free hour of wifi, so I get to it.
I race online, fill out all the stuff for my Indian visa, ask Anna, my new friend in Greece to be my Greek contact since that’s where I’m applying from, she of course agrees and is totally helpful and efficient in her help, so awesome. (Thank you, Anna!!!!) I email the stuff to that same ticketing lady for printing, and who knew, we actually get it printed. Nice!
Something is working, woohoo!
In the meantime, I’m texting with Brian, he is sorting his own visa in the taxi to the airport, printing his stuff too, the same works.
So then, it turns out I applied for and printed the wrong thing. I don’t need the regular visa, but rather the Tourist Visa on Arrival. I missed this in my haste to get it done and get myself re-booked.
No worries though, #freakoutincheck, I still have time, but now, damn it, my free hour of wifi has run out. I race down to customer service to see how and where I can get the wifi, given that’s what it’s telling me to do when I try to get it online. The lady tells me to go to some bank of login machines down the way. Ok. I run down to where she says. I see nothing. WTF. I run back to the lady and am like, “Um, I don’t see a bank of machines, where again?” Freak-out mostly in check. I run baaack and find this section of iPads. Ok. I try on the iPads. Impossible. I whip out my computer, plug in. Buy 3 hours of wifi. 8 Euros. Doesn’t work.
At this point, I’m like, “Ok, time to think outside the box…”
I know my Skype works on my cellular data, so I call my best friend Shannon because if she’s home, I know she will have solid internet. Shannon is out driving, but her boyfriend Travis is home. I text him to answer when I call from my weird Skype number. And of course that everything is ok, don’t want to be that girl causing genuine upset in my loved ones sending cryptic text messages. Um, no. I let Travis know the situation and that I’ll need him to log onto this Indian visa site and essentially re-do what I just did, just for the Travel Visa on Arrival. Cool.
He’s totally on board. Duh.
We can do this.
Time is ticking off the clock for me to make the 6:25pm flight do Doha now.
Keeping that sh*t in check. Check.
I have a version of an Indian visa printed out, so I’m thinking worst case scenario, I simply use these documents to at least board the plane and get over to that side of the earth. If it’s screwed up still then, I’m thinking if I have to purchase a new flight, it will at least be a lot cheaper from there.
Ok, keep going.
Shannon has since made it back home from wherever she was and they are both are helping me now. We manage to get to the point where I can pay the $60 for the visa I need. Awesome.
At this point I’m supposed to get an email with two different things that I need to then print out and take with me to check-in and boarding.
These printouts are specifically what I need in order to be let into India when I arrive.
The lady at the ticket-counter is now at least rooting for me, and has reserved my seat so that the one seat left on the flight could be mine if I got my sh*t sorted.
Since no emails arrive, Travis and Shannon take screen shots of the fact that I paid online for my visa and email that to me to email to the ticket-counter lady.
Definitely not what I need, but GO TEAM.
Lady prints them, books me on the new flight, and I now run over to check-in for the 6:25pm.
Oh and this just cost me an additional 480 EUROS to make this flight change. OUCH.
I get to the check-in desk, present my passport and documents…
Turns out the main guy at the Qatar Airways counter in Athens… um.. totally knows what he’s doing. He tells me, even points to the printouts I have handed him…
… that the Indian visa needed to be applied for FOUR DAYS AGO.
So, that flight I just paid nearly 500 Euros for? Yeah, couldn’t get on that one either.
At this point, it’s 100% clear, I am NOT going to India today.
Ok, I can handle this. I actually crack up. Give in. Worse things have happened in the world. I’m not even freaking out now. I energetically give in to the Universe’s grand plan to keep me from this country. Word. I say as much to the counter guy, we both crack up at the craziness of the whole situation, and I appeal to him as to what I can do next.
This guy is nice.
It’s clear he wants to help.
I’m already grateful.
We walk back to he SAME ticketing lady I’ve been dealing with all day, and let her in on the little tidbit, that yeah, I will not be going to India today and need to pick a new destination.
The shock on her face was comical. So wish I had a pic of our little 3-person team.
I still MUST leave the country TODAY, so now I have to figure out:
*where the hell am I gonna go
*am I prepared to get into those countries, and
*please dear LORD let them refund the 480 Euros I just paid and apply it toward whatever new ticket I can get.
We entertain Kathmandu, Nepal, as that’s the next place I’m going after India.
We entertain Bangkok, Thailand, as that’s the next place I’m going after Nepal.
We check the immigration visa situations for each country. I’m good. Can get visas on arrival for either.
So let’s price the tickets quick… why? Because I still need to make the 6:25pm connecting flight through Doha to get out of Greece on time, and now it’s really time for me to check in and get on that flight.
Kathmandu would be my first choice.. I’m SUPER stoked to go to Nepal and the idea of getting more time there feels awesome!
The flight to get me there… 750 EUROS to change.
So I ask him to price Bangkok just in case… like 500-ish Euros but I’d miss Nepal altogether.
Then the guy says, wait one second, there is another option for Kathmandu… that you can stay on the 6:25pm to Doha today, then wait there for 12 hours and take the 1pm flight to Kathmandu the next day. And that option is the same 480 Euros as the first change. And they totally refunded me the previous change.
The obligatory fake-sleeping selfie. #FSS
So this plan got me out of Greece on time… this plan got me the best price to the other side of the earth and re-entered me into the World Tour trajectory.
It also got me celebrating 12 hours of my birthday in Qatar’s amazing airport with delicious healthy food, free wifi, and a quiet room where I slept for a solid 6 hours straight. (From which I posted the obligatory fake-sleeping-selfie, and the #FSS thread was born through my amazing friend, Regan Tetlow. #holyfuckinghilariousWOW Another post coming soon on this specific thing it was that awesome…) Sure, I slept for a couple hours on the hard-ass floor first, but it only made the quiet room that much more amazing, and me that much more thankful to the guy who grabbed me off the floor and helped me get there. 🙂
So that’s what we did.
Booked my flight to Kathmandu, and funny, in letting go of India… I didn’t feel one shred of regret… or upset…. it just felt RIGHT. Literally. Energetically. I felt SO MUCH PEACE.
I felt f*cking enlightened for the entire rest of the journey… deeply connected to my trust in life, the Universe, and everything that happens being entirely for us.
Amidst all the seeming chaos…
It was actually and all.. PERFECT.
Life tries hard to trick us sometimes into thinking it’s not perfect… but it always is.
A couple more comical bits happened before boarding, but nothing could derail my peace….
At the gate, sweating, amazed, and laughing at the ridiculousness of life. And with JT of course, best travel partner ever.
The awesome counter guy actually came up and found me as I was sitting sweating at the gate, and asked me to come back to ticketing with him because they couldn’t refund my payment without my card.
We laughed again.. another trip past immigration and security, sh*t, I’m an expert at that by now, no prob.
Halfway there he got a call that I didn’t need to go, and I got to go back to the gate.
We parted ways again.
What a nice guy.
Then it was actually time to board… I handed my boarding pass to the gate agent, he tore it, and I started to walk down the jetway…
The gate agent calls out, “Miss Curtis!”
I turn back, still unflinchable in my peace, and really just hoping he’s going to still let me carry on my big bag.
Turns out, I had handed him the wrong boarding pass.
Hahahahahaaha… so ridiculous, it’s hilarious.
Best seat ever!!!!
They take two minutes, print me a new boarding pass and I’m headed back down the jetway, big bag and all.
Then… I get to my seat… not only is there TONS of overhead bin space for my bag… I also have the most EPIC BULKHEAD SEAT EVER. Like the BEST.
Leg room from the Gods. Perfect window view. No one even sitting next to me.
Clearly the counter guy took care of me.
He told the guy at check-in to let me take my bag.
He stayed at the gate to ensure I got on smoothly.
No one even next to me!!!!
And he made sure I had f*cking INCREDIBLE seats.
I had the same incredible bulkhead seat from Doha to Kathmandu too.
This stuff tells me one thing…
Do your best to make it happen, to see your plans through… and when it doesn’t happen, don’t be an a**hole… be awesome… be kind to the people you come across no matter what the situation… and great things will come.
Best beer I ever tasted and it wasn’t even that cold.
The age-old phrase is true……………..
YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW.
WHAT YOU GIVE, YOU GET.
IT ALL COMES BACK.
We can’t know when or how, but we can be sure it will. For me it came back quickly through this service professional taking true care of me in trying time.
And I’m grateful.
As I flew over the Palm in Dubai, with my legs outstretched, listening to my favorite music, looking out the window, taking in just where I was in the world.. where I was going… where I had been… how I got there… how I got here…
The last time I flew over the Palm was under my parachute releasing Jonathan‘s ashes.
I was overcome.
I cried ecstatic tears of love.
It was seriously one of those moments where if you had to identify enlightenment… for me, this felt like one of those moments. The emotional flood of feeling free……………. when you GET it… get that you are LOVED… get that you are SAFE… get that life is GOOD.. get that YOU are good… get that everything really is perfect.
Yup… I may not have been to India yet, but that’s what India gave me on this trip.
F*ck, I’m so glad.
And I know I’ll get there.
If my heart calls me to get there, I’ll get there.
Whatever it is… it’s all possible.
It’s all for us.
We got this.
Oh and I got all the emails and visa approvals that would’ve gotten me into India no prob as soon as I got to the wifi in Kathmandu. Hahahahaahaa! Another perfect bit of life comedy right there.
Thanks for reading, you guys, and not thinking I’m too weird.