I feel I am a well travelled individual. I have spent my fair share of time navigating airports and I go on at least a few trips a year. I’m a pretty confident traveller these days. And then China happened, the farthest I’ve ever been, the biggest language barrier I’ve ever faced. I was a ball of nerves sitting in Schipol airport for my 5 hour layover. Why was I going to China? Was I crazy? And only for 10 days! What’s the point? Looking up at the departures board and seeing a flight to Glasgow, thinking I could just go home. But I persevered. Nerves are normal, especially when you are heading into the unknown. Lucky for me I was visiting a friend who had been living in China for a year already so I could rely on her to shepherd me around like the lost little sheep I was. Or could I? (We’ll get to that later)
Long Haul Flights are THE BEST
My second connection to Paris was 50 minutes. After a 5 hour layover in Amsterdam, I though 50 minutes would be the perfect amount of time to stroll through Charles De Gaulle. I didn’t have to recheck my bag. Perfect. That is, unless your plane sits on the runway for 40 minutes leaving you only 10 minutes to sprint through a surprisingly large labyrinth of an airport. I was a sweaty mess by the time I arrived at my gate at 11pm, but at least I made it.
The flight itself was not great. Everytime I take a long haul flight I tell myself I will never do it again. 7+ hours of sitting in the one spot, not really able to move your legs is torture. Alas, it is the price we pay to see the world. The cheapest possible price. A couple of hours in they turned off the lights to let everyone sleep. Then the turbulence hit. Five straight hours of not so violent but definitely very annoying shaking was not ideal. Needless to say I slept maybe 20 minutes on that 10 hour journey.
Where’s My Friend?
After we landed I turned off airplane mode on my phone. Just out of habbit I guess, I didn’t really expect to get bombarded with notifications in China, the land of no internet. However, I did receive about seven text messages from a friend back home letting me know that the friend that was meeting me at the airport had missed her flight, and she would be 10 hours late. My first instinct was to sit in the airport and wait for 10 hours rather than try and navigate China on my own. However, it didn’t take me long to realise that was a stupid plan.
Where’s My Bag?
Okay so here is the stupid and totally avoidable bit. I specifically bought the Osprey Farpoint 40 for this trip so I didn’t need to check anything. The night before I realised I wanted to take my facewash – which was over the liquid limit – so I decided to check it. At first it seemed like a great idea. I could wander around Schipol without a massive backpack to lug around.
You know how I said I had 10 minutes to run to make my flight? Yeah, my bag couldn’t run that fast it seems. Waiting in the queue for immigration I got a text from AirFrance telling me that my bag did not make the flight and they were currently trying to locate it in Charles De Gaulle. My frazzled brain snapped at this point and I burst out laughing. China was shaping up to be a bit of a dick.
This has unfortunately happened to me before so I took care of all the boring stuff when your bag goes walkabout. I got a reference number and contact number and was sent on my way. Set loose in China. Now what? I realised at this moment that I had planned entirely for my friend to just take me to the hotel. Where even was the hotel? After milling about for a few minutes I spotted a taxi queue. Thankfully, for whatever reason, the Booking.com app still worked with no internet and I was able to get the Chinese address to the hotel.
And Now I Can Sleep
After checking into the hotel I instantly connected to the Wi-Fi, messaged my friend to find out what was happening, then video called my mum. I may or may not have had a little cry to myself but let’s not worry about that! Although that first day was as stressful as it could have been, I was so proud of myself for navigating a little bit of China on my own. I may have just shown the taxi driver an address, but if you had told me back in Schipol in my anxious mess that that would happen I think I would have just gone home!
Basically, I was thrown into the deep end a bit and realised very quickly that it wasn’t the end of the world. Everything is solvable. Travel isn’t always smooth sailing. It would be boring if it was.
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