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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My first Day in China was a disaster. I had no luggage, no travel buddy and absoutely zero understanding of Chinese. What would you have done?

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32 thoughts on “My First Day in China Was a Disaster”

  1. Oh no I think I would have cried! I’m a terrible flyer and always arrive feeling ill. Combined with your friend and your luggage both missing in action that truly is a disaster for the first day. I hope it improved! #FarawayFiles

  2. Oh, I have the same bag, and for that exact same reason! I’ve only ever my luggage delayed once, but I’ve only travelled with carry on ever since. 🙂

    And UGH long haul flights are just the WORST. But, like you say, they’re the price we pay for being budget-friendly travellers! 😉

  3. Always good to have a disaster story. Makes for entertaining reading.

    Sounds like you coped, but I can just imagine many a traveller, brain fried after a long flight, losing it completely.

    I’m seriously contemplating a round-the-world trip with just carry-on baggage. Keenly following your adventures.

  4. You know I’m so paranoid about my bag getting lost I almost never check unless I HAVE to bring more than 3oz liquids. I can’t believe they kept you so updated when they said it didn’t make it, though! Just like you said, traveling doesn’t always go smoothly but man does it teach us so many lessons during those non-smooth times! 🙂 xx

  5. Good on you for getting through that! I’ve been to Xiamen in China with my husband and yeah… the language barrier was so huge for us that we felt it was too much trouble to do everything we were hoping to do – I can’t imagine going through what you have by myself. You inspired me to write about my hospital experience there though which was also pretty awful!

    1. Aw I really want to go to Xiamen. At least in Beijing most people I spoke to could speak some English. I don’t know what I would have done if I had arrived somewhere more rural. I can’t wait to read your post!

  6. I’m pretty chilled these days about unfamiliar cultures, but I can well imagine how massive this was for you, and to add a couple of disasters to that… congratulations for only crying a little bit!! The good news is that you now have a lot more coping skills and confidence for your next trip!

  7. Wow, what an experience! Sometimes when a trip starts off this way, it might end up turning out to be one of the best trips. I know how you felt about being nervous in a very foreign culture. I felt like this when I was in Turkey. Although I enjoyed the country, not understanding Nada of the language was nerve racking and frustrating. I hope China turned out well for you 🙂

  8. honestly we just got back from China a couple of weeks ago and I thought Beijing airport was a nightmare. We are well travelled too. But it’s just ginormous and so many people and not enough signs etc. Eventually we sorted it out but it really stressed us out. good on you for getting through it!

    1. When flying out I walked around the Terminal for about an hour because my flight had 2 different gates and it kept changing! finally about 20 minutes before boarding they made up their minds haa. Thanks 🙂

  9. If I don’t have anywhere specific to be right after the plane lands, I am usually almost happy that the bag doesn’t come, as this means free shopping! With good insurance (and some money to spare or good credit card), those have been some of my best shopping moments in my life, fancy dresses and shoes and what not 🙂
    I agree China can be overwhelming at first, and turbulence and long flight have a bad effect on everyone, but I hope you enjoyed the rest of your trip!

    1. Yeah I was definitely nice to now have to carry it around, but my brain couldn’t work properly to go out and buy stuff! When my luggage was delayed a few years ago when I went to Canada the airline gave me a $100 allowance to spend which was great! haa

  10. Smiling, this story reminds me when I first moved to Japan in 1988. In addition to the language barrier, my luggage was lost and I had to wait a few days for it to be located- it was found in Chang Mai. One of the great things about travel mishaps; is, within a few weeks travels amnesia kicks in and the experience feels more comical than anxiety driven. Great post.

  11. Sounds like a hectic day! Having lost/delayed luggage is a stressful experience, especially in a foreign country. I remember one time when I was studying abroad, my suitcase was delayed and I had to wait for a phone call from the airline’s lost luggage delivery service. Luckily I could speak French and was able to explain to him where to meet me at the student residence, or else I might never have gotten my suitcase back (he couldn’t speak English).

    When I booked a 40 minute layover in Munich airport, I had to run through the terminal too! Luckily I only had carry-on luggage, but I was so out of breath and made it just in time to catch the bus to the plane. Ever since then I’ve always booked longer layovers.

    I’ve done quite a few 15 hour long haul flights from Canada to Asia, and they are always a tiring experience. But those long flights are worth it to see awesome attractions!

    Looking forward to more China blog posts from you!

  12. I like the sound of looong layovers in countries where you are allowed to go out and explore the city for the day, but to be stuck in an airport for 15 hours sounds like hell to me! haa. But yea, much better than a mad 10 minute dash!

  13. Nothing like a mad airport dash to get the pulse racing. It’s happened to me once and I swore – never again! Whatever tests you makes you stronger though right? Thanks for joining #FarawayFiles Chiera

  14. Hey, if you didn’t end up having to sleep outside under a statue (my friend did this one in Mexico; he’s an idiot), then I don’t think it qualifies as a disaster 😉

  15. Oh Chiera, it sounds as though it ALL went wrong that first day! You poor thing. We’ve all been there. At least you got a good story out of it and I’m fairly confident the rest of the trip will have turned out well for you. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

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