Shit scared. They’re the words that entered my head when I woke before my alarm. How was I going to be without Dan for months on end? When he woke, after I said good morning, I just said, “shit.” He knew exactly what I meant.
My alarm went off and we didn’t muck around, having to be out of the house by 8:30am to give me enough time to catch my flight. We showered, had a quick breakfast then I packed the last few things that weren’t already in my bag. Just as I started brushing my teeth, Dan walked into the room carrying a present. “Happy birthday,” he told me. I was taken completely by surprise. I’d told him me and my family don’t really celebrate birthdays so I wasn’t expecting this. Once I was done with my teeth, Cleo and Dan sat with me on the bed as I opened my gift that he and his mother had picked out. It was a beautiful watch and it fit on my wrist perfectly. He figured it was a good choice because my $6 watch had been lost to the depths of the Cabana somewhere along the way. I laughed at that and thanked him profusely for something that suited me so well.
That’s when I got my first bout of tears I wiped roughly away from my face. We got up to go. I said goodbye to Dan’s Dad, thanking him for having me and all the beautiful food he’d put in my belly and he told me I was very welcome. With that, we walked out the door, Cleo in tow. I let Cleo ride with me on my lap up front since it was our last ride together. There wasn’t any hint of petrol smell coming from the Cabana either, Dan’s patch job had done the trick nicely. We were pretty quiet driving the twenty minutes to the airport and I was grateful for all the red lights Dan had to stop at.
When we reached the terminal, I dreaded what was next. If there’s one thing I suck at, it’s goodbyes. We sat for a long while in the Cabana, saying our last words, me getting out of the car to prevent too much show of emotion. I said goodbye to the beautiful Cleo and told her not to go trying to kill herself anymore and instructing her to look after Dan. Then it was time to say goodbye to Dan, this time for a while. Neither of us had any doubt that we would rage again in future, but instead of being a day or two’s drive away, I would now be on the opposite side of the world.
I said everything I wanted to say to him and we hugged for a long time. I broke away when the tears came into my eyes – a side effect I always suffer with any goodbye. We waved as I walked away and I walked backwards to see that Cabana move away from me. I once told Dan he was the highlight of my trip but he is so much more than that to me now.
I wiped my face as I walked into the terminal and found my way to my gate. The rest of my day was spent waiting in queues and sitting on planes – one to LAX, then another into Oakland. As we landed in Oakland, everyone’s phone went off to alert us of a high temperature warning. That was nice news to fly into, I still wasn’t wick of warm weather. I picked up my bag and caught an Uber at the front of the airport. Being an Uber pool, we picked up another rider on the way which made me late getting to Kylie and Derek’s house. It meant I missed Ross who’d dropped my bags and bike off just before I got there at 3:30pm.
Kylie and Emma greeted me when I knocked on their door. She’d been making trifle and Emma was watching some TV while Oliver slept. Until Oliver woke up, Kylie and I caught up on the events from the last couple of weeks and talked a lot about the concept of going home. She was due to make the homeward trek in a couple of months so we shared common feelings.
Once Oliver was awake, we got dressed for swimming and went out to the pool. Although the weather was warm enough, the pool was pretty cold so it took us a while to build up to going in but we all eventually got there. I jumped in a few times as Emma counted me down then once I got too cold, she suggested we go in the spa. What a great idea Emma! Me and Emma sat in the spa while Kylie and Oliver sat to the side and we talked some more. Oliver and Kylie went inside after that while me and Emma had one last dunk in the cold pool and another soak in the hot tub.
We walked back to the apartment, got dried off and I had a shower so I didn’t have chlorine in my system for all the flying that was to come. Derek came home soon after and dinner was arranged. The kids were getting pretty tired, but Emma was determined to have a play outside before bed time and so we all went out and sat on the soft grass while Emma swapped between riding her bike and running around with either Mummy or Daddy. Oliver meanwhile was fascinated with a squirrel that was hopping about the place. Having met and spent so much time with Cleo, I will never look at another squirrel the same way.
Emma went to bed easily enough having tired herself out with the afternoon’s play but Oliver was a more difficult piece of work. As Kylie tried to rock him into slumber, we sat around in the darkened living room until it came time for me to go. Oliver was just nodding off so I gave Kylie a quiet hug before I walked out the front door with Derek. Ross had already loaded all my gear into their car so we just had to jump in and leave. It was good to have one final catch up with Derek on the way to the airport. Being on the road at night made me realise just how little I’ve driven in the dark since I started my year off.
On way to the airport, I thought that perhaps I should check my bank account. I was surprised to find I had a grand total of $328.44 to my name. Still needing to pay $147 for my excess luggage and $5 for the rental of a luggage trolley, that meant I left the country with $175.44! My timing couldn’t have been more perfect. After working for 16 months in the country of America, I travelled for 12 months all thanks to the money I earned at Tesla. If I hadn’t bought Scottie for $4,000, my funds would have been more sufficient, but I was ecstatic at the neatness of it all!
Despite the late hour, the airport was busy and I wasn’t looking forward to coordinating the transport of my bike and two huge bags from the car into the terminal. While I retrieved a trolley from the racks (for $5), Derek manhandled my bags out of the car, miraculously managing to carry one in each hand simultaneously. We managed to balance the bike box and the two bags on a single trolley, then I was set. We gave each other a quick hug, then he drove off.
I successfully navigated the revolving door to get into the terminal and found that my check-in counter wasn’t open yet but I joined the queue that had formed anyway. If I had to wait anyway, I figured I might as well wait in the queue. Good thing I did too. Half an hour later when the counter opened, the line bent back on itself and disappeared fro my view. It looked like everyone was travelling pretty heavy too so it meant I was more likely to be able to book my extra bag.
After an hour and a half of standing in line, pushing my bike up and down the queue lanes, I made it to the counter. I had feared issue with the bike box being too big, or one of my bags being overweight, but everything was perfect. The combined weight of my two bags was 54kg and with one piece at excess weight, my allowance had been 55kg. Nailed it! They didn’t even weigh Scottie, just accepted that it was a bike in a box. I was issued my boarding passes, paid my luggage fee then took Scottie to the oversized baggage drop. See you soon baby, I’m glad she is insured.
And so my flying began. I ate some food at a Chinese place before going through security then settled down at the gate to catch up on some very overdue blogging. Having been at the front of the check-in queue, I got to watch the area by the gate slowly fill up and even had to battle with people for the powerpoint my laptop was plugged into.
At 1am, I boarded my 13 hour flight to Taipei. I stayed awake long enough to look out the windows as our plane left the ground and I left American soil. Goodbye America, it’s been more of a life changing experience than I ever could have imagined. It’s a shame about your president, but I’ll be back.