Bon Voyage! Heathrow - day 1
Trip Start Apr 07, 2010
13Trip End Ongoing
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Having spent the night at each other's respective family homes, the plan was for Zelda, Ross' sister, to drive him and his parents to the McDonnell house for a 5.30am rendez-vous, and then both families would drive in convoy to Heathrow. After a stressful incident involving the McDonnell dog, Buster, a carton of chocolate milkshake, and a cream carpet, we all pressed on with bleary eyes.
Once we parked at Heathrow, the pace picked up, and after just a few blinks of our tired eyes we were at the departures check-in. We were relieved to find that the flight was only a third full, and so they were not being hot on baggage weight (both of us were a kilo or two over the 20kg limit). Even after checking-in, the reality of what was about to happen just wasn't registering. We took ourselves upto a coffee lounge where we all sat; the family members were chatting almost nervously amongst themselves, perhaps speaking of nothings to pass the time and not focus on the imminent upheaval... whilst we just shared odd glances.
The time came for us to sip the coffees a bit quicker and finish up; time for Lauren and Ross to walk away. To avoid the moment a little longer, Ross requisitioned the service of a passing workman to take a few photos of the families together. Then more photos. We forget how it started, but all of a sudden there was a flurry of hugs, kisses and floods of tears. After a second (or third?) round of farewells, we reluctantly prised ourselves away from our kin and headed for the security queue. They all gathered round as best they could, so we could all share a last glimpse of each other, for what we had promised would be at least a year, if not longer. With a final croaky yelp of 'I love you!' from Lauren, we were sucked through to the departure lounge. After a final gush and some knowing consolation of one another, along with a stiff shot of free Baileys as we passed Duty Free (!), the tears subsided and we settled for the wait to embarkation.
Around 11am, we made our way to the flight's gate, which is where we caught first sight of the behemoth Airbus A380 that was to whisk us away, the largest passenger plane in the world. As mentioned, the flight was only a third full, so we had three seats to spread across. Not long after take-off, we soon found ourselves in the indulgent world of a five-star airline, regardless of being in Economy. Despite the ample legroom, extra seat, and several free gins, we found it difficult to relax and switch-off in order to get to sleep to force our way into the new timezone.
Instead, in between a number of films, we leafed through the travel guides we have brought with us (yes, Lonely Planet fans, that includes a Shoestring guide!), in order to start to firm-up the loose itinerary we had. Our thoughts and intention have always been geared towards nothing being set in stone, and to that end we had actively avoided making arrangements in advance; apart from this flight to Singapore and the onward flight to Malaysia five days later, we were as free as we could be. In relation to this, our longer-term plans are that this initial period of travel will last around six months (owing to the cash we have saved, or lack thereof), and to follow that we have a few rough ideas about working to earn cash to carry on; flitting here and there for months at a time. That said, another hope of ours would be to find longer-term jobs (such as trying our hands at teaching English, or graphic design for Lauren, and Ross anything that might finally make him content), and in finding those we would deliberately let fate take its, and our, course. Reckless, no; traveling on recommendation, on opportunities, unhurried and unimpeded, yes. Though, with all these fairly grandiose ideas, we sober ourselves with the thought that we might hate endless bowls of rice, or won't stand the heat (or the cultures, maybe?), and be back in time for Xmas!
The rough plan is therefore informed by little else other than a map and a desire to travel overland or by water as much as possible. So, as of April 2010, our 'traveling' is to be: acclimatising in Singapore, then traveling northwards up through Malaysia; across the border into southern Thailand, visiting some of the numerous islands we had heard great things about, then venturing to the historical northern provinces; a circle of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam in one order or another; flight across to Manila in the Philippines, then island-hopping south; reaching Malaysian Borneo to experience the rain forest and wildlife, and test ourselves against Mt. Kinabalu.
Thereafter, who knows? It could be teaching in Korea, financing in Hong Kong, designing in Shanghai, or sheep-shearing in the Australian Outback... So, please do watch this space!