Winter had finally arrived in the Netherlands. January 19 of 2016 finally felt appropriate in terms of temperature. Care had to be taken to not slip and fall, a thin layer of ice started forming on lakes and canals, and people’s breath created little clouds of fog.
It took some getting used to, as 2015 was unusually warm. It just didn’t start to cool off as the months progressed, like the seasons shifted forward a couple of months. Instead of ice-skating down the frozen canals, people enjoyed a beer outside in the sunshine in November.
December felt more like Autumn: moderately warm, gray skies and lots of rain.
This was randomly on my mind as we rolled down the highway on the way to Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam. My folks were dropping me off there, as I moved back in with them after quitting my job and leaving my apartment in the city a month earlier. At age 29, moving back in with the folks wasn’t the most usual thing to do, as my friends around me started settling down (if they hadn’t already), getting mortgages on houses, and, holy shit, producing children.
Australia grants working holiday visas to people up to age 30, which meant this was literally a case of now or never. Through the years I’ve come to the conclusion it’s better to regret things you did than things you didn’t; at least you know what might have been, and every mistake is a potential learning moment.
Australia will be my last stop, but not before hitting Seoul, South Korea; Tokyo, Japan; Taipei, Taiwan, and Boracay on the Philippines.
Going on a trip like this has been on my mind for as long as I remember, and after three years of working an office job, I had saved up enough money to make it happen. No pain, no gain, and all that stuff.
Saying goodbye was pretty heavy, as this was going to be a very long trip with an open ending (one-way ticket). I had already spent an evening in my favorite bar with all my friends the week before. Now it was hugs and tears at the gate with my parents and sister. I checked my bag and went through security, and that would be the last time I’d see them for a long time.
After killing some time at the gate, it was time to board the airport bus to flight KL1771: Amsterdam to Frankfurt. When I went through the revolving door to get on the bus, the cold wind hardened my face, and my nostrils filled with the distinctive smell of kerosene. The sun was bright and the sky was clear; it was a beautiful winter day.
I noticed the bus that took me to the plane ran on electricity. Solar power, even, or so it was written on the side. Interesting times we live in.
The flight itself was short, pleasant, and uneventful. After I landed, I had a Big Mac in the food court of Frankfurt airport. No matter where you go, it really tastes the same everywhere. While waiting for my connecting flight, I started typing out this post in a half-empty terminal lit up by fluorescent lights.
The boarding call came after an hour, first in Korean, then in English. I immediately noticed I literally was the only white guy in line. I got some stares, as I also was easily the tallest. That’s kinda nice. I guess you could call that Dutch Privilege. As I looked over the heads with almost exclusively black, straight hair through the window outside, I saw the mighty Boeing 747 standing in the dark on the runway. Still one of the most beautiful planes ever made.
Asiana Airlines. I’d never heard of them before and for some reason figured it was a budget airline, but when I walked into the plane, I was pleasantly surprised. Easily one of the nicest coach classes I’ve ever been in. Comfortable seats, plenty of leg-room, and big screens. They officially have my endorsement. As a bonus, the seat beside me was empty.
Getting on the plane went down as usual, although I wasn’t really there with my head. By the time the plane took off, it slowly started to dawn on me, as I stared blankly at the screen that told me we were 11 hours away from Incheon Airport, South Korea.
“Damn… I’m actually doing this right now…”
January 19, 2016