Okay, so I told you how grateful I was to be able to say goodbye to my family. Now let me tell you that my family comes with a little chaos. My brother earned the nickname "Motor Mouth" when he was a child, and he has since passed that on to my niece and nephew. There's not a moment of silence in that family, and while I love them all dearly, it's not necessarily the best thing for someone with flight anxiety, so when my mom sent out the text that we were going to have lunch together as a send off, it wasn't well-received at first. Not to mention that my mom goes into stressed-out-must-cook-enough-to-feed-an-army mode when the family gathers.
As an empath, I get to feel all the feels, and at that point, I was so exhausted from all of the "oh, that's just India" preparations that I wasn't sure I was going to be able to get my shield up to keep from feeling all the feels. When my normal protective measures didn't work, I started praying and even that didn't seem to help with the anxiety I was feeling on travel day 1. So, even though I knew I needed to eat something for my trip, I couldn't get myself to choke down enough spaghetti to get the calories in that I knew I was going to need for my trip halfway around the world. Not to mention that anxiety for me means that everything is just going to go straight through me anyway. Cue the pre-India cleanse!
Well, actually the cleanse started the day before when I decided that it would be a brilliant idea to get a juice from Juice Bar Belle Meade called What's Up Doc. I had enough credits there to get a free large, so I went for it. The carrot, ginger, garlic goodness was the perfect cure for the sinus funk I'd developed sometime during my frenzied preparations. It also started me on a great unintentional cleanse for India.
So, with a snotty nose and an empty belly full of butterflies, I loaded up in the car to the airport with my parents, my sister and friend, Beck. I knew that if I could just get through security, I would be able to find a quiet spot to sit down and relax. I got my bags checked in without a problem, said my thank yous and goodbye to the fam and headed off to security. My bag stopped in the middle of their scanner, and as I started to grab my other stuff off the conveyor, I went over in my head what I had packed in my bag that would have set off alarms. Then, I watched as the TSA agent opened my overstuffed carry-on and scanned it for explosives before beginning to rummage through the massive packages of Always pads that I had Tetrised into the top of the bag along with my journal and some tummy tea from High Garden Herbs, just in case. As he dug down through there, I asked if I could see the scan of what they were concerned about and immediately realized that I had packed my crystals in my carry-on. I have a beautiful Rose quartz heart and Citrine that I don't leave home without. I thought I had packed them in my checked bag, but there they were!
After that question was answered, I watched as he crammed everything back into the suitcase, wanting to help point things back into the "right" places and getting a quick lesson on letting go of control. I left security and went off to find my gate. There was a gate right next to mine that was pretty much empty with several available plugs, so I camped out there for my two hour wait. I listened to some Abraham Hicks and Wayne Dyer while I was waiting and that was the key that finally got me to breathe. I had laughed in the car ride over that I can teach other people to relax all day, but getting myself to relax sometimes takes an act of congress. By our boarding time, though, I felt pretty relaxed and happy and ready to begin my adventure.
I was making the journey with someone I hadn't actually met before. Her name is Michelle, and she had added me as a friend on Facebook, so I had a picture of her to find her at the gate. Everyone had told me how much I was going to love her, but history had shown that the people who seem to be a perfect match for me aren't always so. (Spoiler alert, this one actually was!) Once I was nice and relaxed, I walked over to see if I could find her. She was easy to find with her beautiful smile and the glow of excitement of someone so in love with India that she couldn't wait to return. We hit it off immediately and chattered easily about yoga and chanting and anything else that came up.
At some point we realized that it was past our boarding time. An announcement came over the speakers that there wasn't overhead storage on the flight and that larger carry-ons would need to be checked at the gate. I went up to ask the gate attendant if there would be a problem getting to our next flight in Chicago if I checked my bag and she assured me that we had plenty of time between flights to get my bag and get to our connecting flight. I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to check my bag and wait for it on the other side and then sat and waited as our flight was delayed another half hour and then another until our two hour layover in Chicago was reduced to 30 minutes. We finally boarded the flight and made it to Chicago only to wait for what seemed like forever for the "carry-on" bags on the other side. There was a line up the walkway of people waiting for their "carry-ons" that had been checked at the gate. A load came up and all the bags came off and mine was nowhere to be seen. The attendants didn't seem to be in any hurry to get the next load, and after encouraging her to find the next load, I chatted with the other passengers about the run we were getting ready to embark on through the Chicago airport.
I had done this once before when I went to Harlaxton College in England in 1999. We were held up in Louisville for our flight to Chicago and made it to the gate in Chicago just after they had closed the door to the plane. They don't open them again once they're closed, by the way.
Michelle waited patiently for me outside our gate as I waited for my bag and she took the opportunity to find the fastest route to our gate. Finally, with my bag in hand, we took off for the international departures. Security did a great job of getting us through the line and as my bag stopped midway through, I yelled to them that it was crystals. I swear it! They obviously can't just take your word for it, so I was cursing under my breath as I waited impatiently for the man to run the explosives test and rummage through my stuff only to find the two crystals that I had promised them were in my bag. As I turned around, an apology on my lips for Michelle having to wait for me again, she was waiting there, too, with her security guard. Apparently she had forgotten to empty her water bottle before going through, so they had to take it out and empty it and run it through the scanner again. We just laughed as things that were out of our control just happened and ate through the 30 minute window we had to get from our arrival gate to the departure gate.
Once we finally made it through security, we sprinted off to our gate, which was, of course, at the opposite end of the terminal. About halfway there, two women with Qatar Airline (the airline for the flight we were supposed to be getting on) stopped us and asked which flight we were running for and told us that it had already left. They explained that there was one more flight leaving that night that we could probably get on and sent us back to the exit and to another terminal to get booked on another flight to...beautiful London! I was actually incredibly excited that we were going through London instead of Qatar. I knew and loved London, and the idea that we might get to spend a little time there was delightful. We went out and got our flights booked through London to Chennai and took some time to explain our checked bags to the airline staff so that they could pull the four bags and get them on our new flight. We would get in with just a few hours in London before we left for Chennai, and even though we wouldn't have time there, just the idea of being in the city made me a little giddy inside.
We had plenty of time before the flight to London departed, so we took our time going back through security, this time removing the crystals and water bottles from our luggage and even stopping at a duty free store before walking to the gate. When we got to the gate, we found an empty row of chairs and Michelle said, "I just want to lie on the floor for a minute and put my feet up on the seat." That sealed the deal, folks. I already knew I loved her, but after that, I knew we were kindred souls and would have a blast together on this journey. As we were lying on our backs with our legs resting on the seats, a gentleman came up and started talking to us about how relaxing it looked, so we invited him to join us. Turns out that he was traveling with a coworker to give a presentation to some big wigs in London. His coworker scoffed at the idea of lying on the nasty airport floor, but he settled into the chairs across from ours and chattered away as we waited for our flight. And waited. And waited. And waited.
They eventually came on the speaker and informed us that the flight was delayed because they were waiting on a captain to get there. Apparently there was a problem with the one who was scheduled to fly us to London, so a new one was being brought in. After about an hour of waiting for the new captain, my captain, they came on to let us know that the captain who was replacing the original captain wasn't going to captain for us after all. So, our 9:45 pm flight was delayed until 8 am the next morning. It looked like we were crashing in Chicago for the night courtesy of American Airlines. They booked us into a Holiday Inn and gave us a shuttle voucher and sent us on our way. Apparently there are several Holiday Inns with shuttles from the airport, though, because when we arrived at the Holiday Inn, they informed us that they were different from the Holiday Inn on the voucher. Oh, and since they didn't have an account with American Airlines, we would have to get ourselves to the other Holiday Inn for the night or pay for a room. An Uber drive later, we arrived at the appropriate Holiday Inn and checked in for the night.
Since Michelle and I had hit it off so well, we decided to save American Airlines some money and share a room for the evening. What we didn't expect was that when we checked in to the Holiday Inn and went up to our room, there would only be one bed there. At almost 1 am, we looked at the bed and looked at each other with bags under our eyes from a long and eventful travel day, shrugged and said at the same time, "I'm ok with it if you are." Not much later I was passed out cold on one side of the king-sized bed with my new friend and roommate on the other side, travel day 1 under our belt.
Protestors outside Chicago O'Hare for immigrant rights
A little floor time at our gate at Chicago O'Hare
Our single king sized bed at the Holiday Inn