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I’ve landed in Bali!

But, as anyone who has traveled across the world probably knows, the actual getting to the destination is never completely uneventful.

This is the story of a girl and her airports ….

It all began in Orlando. I said goodbye to my family (extended and immediate) and kissed my love goodbye (pictured below):

Syd & Keno
(she’s definitely frowning because she is going to miss me …. definitely)

Then I finished my last packing touches (spoiler alert: which I would later learn almost immediately upon touching down in Bali were for the most part a small portion of the much larger category of items entitled: “things I overpacked”):

suitcase

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Anyway, first airport: Orlando (airport code MCO)
Subtitle: Disney World: Remember your moneybag

Who would have thought the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend would be a busy flying day? Aha! It would be for those that don’t celebrate Memorial Day — aka our world travelers! Orlando is not a city unfamiliar with the visitor from abroad; as you might guess, Disney and Universal (among other park families) draw tourists from everywhere. And today I saw a bunch of them. For me the most surprising takeaway was that, like many Americans who travel abroad, these foreigners are just as concerned about getting their passport and monies stolen; there was almost a 100% hit rate of secret money patches being removed by folks as they walked through security. Weirdly enough, this actually made me, more than perhaps any other element of my 2 day journey to Bali, feel connected to all my fellow men. Everyone is concerned of getting their things stolen abroad: We are the world, We are the children.

Anyway, another important finding I realized early on into my travels (that would only get reinforced throughout the journey) is: if you have the miles (award points) to upgrade to business class for international travel, just do it.

I had been pretty sick leading up to my departure date. My mother, concerned and aware of how many leftover miles from consulting I had, encouraged me to use 40,000 of my 80,000 remaining miles to upgrade. I fought her for a few days, but then my illness (proving how resilient a cold can be) decided to hang around a bit longer than invited and I caved, purchasing the upgrade. What they don’t tell you is that, for international flights, these upgrades also buy you access to the business class lounges at many of the airports across the world. Think: warm meal, hot shower, free wifi (#clutch).

Here’s me on my Lufthansa flight from Orlando to Frankfurt:

Lufthansa

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Second airport: Frankfurt (airport code FRA)
Subtitle: You can’t just walk into any shower you want

What fun to land at a European airport midday! For some reason, I always end up in airports abroad at too early or too late of times to have any interesting (at least in a painless way) interactions. Really: ask my sister or me about the time we ended up in the Beijing airport at 2a with no visa at the front of the only customs line where the agent spoke no english.

Frankfurt security does mean business though. Apparently toothpaste counts as a liquid (but the agents were nice and let me keep the only toothpaste and hygiene supplements I was bringing with me abroad).

The Lufthansa lounge was luckily super close to my gate, so I was able to camp out for a couple hours in a pretty nice location with very little stress about making it onto my next flight:

Lufthansa Lounge

Things I learned from the Lufthansa lounge in Frankfurt:

      + Giant grapes probably have seeds in them

 

      + Good internet does not always play nicely with VPN services

 

      + You should ask to use a shower (“you can’t just walk in there”)

 

      + If you start a sentence with “this might sound racist but” it 1) is probably racist 2) is not something you should be yelling at your colleague in a very packed lounge with a lot of people sitting around who don’t know you

 

    + Try not to look lost while choosing what snack to take back to your seat, friendly Europeans will try to “help you”

Off to Bangkok:

Thai Airways

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Third airport: Bangkok (airport code BKK)
Subtitle: Thai Airways is the winner

Thai Airways. You. Are. Amazing. Yes, an 11 hour flight is no joke. And, true, your movie choices weren’t fantastic. BUT, best sleep I ever got on a plane (you could really lie completely flat!) and your service was exceptional. Also, and to be fair, I am only 60% sure y’all planned this for me, but I sat next to the cutest baby (and how often do you hear someone compliment a BABY after an 11 hour flight).

We landed in Bangkok early (just before 6a). Not my first time at the BKK rodeo, but I have to admit, this go-around I was a bit grouchy. I de-boarded with a pretty bad headache and the airport felt 1000 degrees (I may be exaggerating). Thank goodness the Thai Airways lounge was right outside of security.

Royal Silk Lounge

I have never been to a lounge with so much good looking free food. We’re talking pork buns, we’re talking orange cake, we’re talking hot dog soup (don’t knock it til you’ve tried it), fresh papaya, creme tarts, a help-yourself-bar with pretty much anything you could want! Sadly, I did not eat much (maybe only time I’ll ever say this: but thank goodness for a tight layover). Showered quickly and grabbed what I could carry. Next stop Bali:

Thai Airways 2

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Fourth airport: Denpasar (airport code DPS)
Subtitle: Order the fishballs / What do you mean by “clubbing”?

NOTE: I will always have a special place in my heart for Denpasar’s airport. DPS is the sickest airport code; as someone who always plays a melee DPS in video games, I (probably like an idiot) nerded out a bit too much over this, but I yam what I yam.

I also should mention, if you are ever on a Thai Airways flight and a food option is “fishballs,” just say yes. Amazing! Also, crazy that we got a hot meal on a 4 hour flight! American airlines, take note.

Pretty easy flight. Admittedly I passed out when we were landing so no cool pictures from the plane … next time? Customs was a breeze (the visas we got ahead of time worked! <— not not worth celebrating if you knew the pain it took to get these).

Koming, the owner of the homestay we are staying at while looking for a more permanent housing solution, was late to pickup. Good news though: I got to experience first hand how friendly (/ aggressively friendly) the Balinese people are! Not only did a complete stranger let me use his phone to call my ride, but another cab driver (just chilling in the airport) sat and talked with me for the hour I waited.

Mana (sp?), my new friend, told me all about Kuta and Denpasar. He thought we’d be bored in Ubud (central Bali), but I also quickly learned he thought I was here to paaaartaaay. Hey, at least now I have a friend in the Denpasar area. Even though, I was a little concerned about his comment that, “We could go clubbing together and you can meet my family” (his family including his 10 year old and 5 year old) — chalk this one up to “clubbing” being a lost in translation word.

Map of Bali
(Source: Baliguide.com)

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Well that’s it for my travels. Stay tuned for an update on my first few days in Bali soon!

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Almost six months ago I turned 25. Early on my birthday, I joked with a colleague that my days of rounding down to 20 were finished and now 30 was in-sight. My friend, twisting the knife as fair punishment for my feigned age-anxiety, pointed out that, actually, I now also rounded up to 50.

By no means did this make me feel old, but I did pause and think: I am halfway to 50 …. and what have I achieved? I looked to my resume:

      + High school valedictorian

 

      + WashU undergrad with College honors

 

      + Internships at Teach For America and Goldman Sachs

 

      + Business Analyst at McKinsey with offer to return after b-school

 

      + Fellowship at Khan Academy

 

    + 760 GMAT

Great … right?

But then I thought about what wasn’t on my resume (and things that my resume could not reflect)….

      + I had never lived abroad and my travel abroad had been limited

 

      + I never finished that book I started in high school and worked on in college

 

      + My physical health and fitness never took priority

 

      + My last visit to the doctor revealed I was low on vitamin D (not enough sun, she said)

 

      + My longest romantic relationship didn’t even stretch a year

 

    + AND, I felt tired and stressed all day, all the time (with an 8+ hour night of sleep feeling like a miracle rather than a certainty)

At what point had the destination eclipsed the journey? At what point did accolades and jobs and diplomas and bragging rights become more important than personal enrichment and happiness? And, most important, what could I do to reset the scale?

A friend of mine, maybe having reached a similar impasse (?), had already chosen to make his goals and his happiness his guiding star. His plan: quit work in January, move to NY for Hacker School, then move to Bali in May and work on a project of his own.

Like a good friend, at first I felt raging jealousy at the choice he’d made. And then, like a better friend, I began to talk to him more seriously about the path that led him to his decision. Realizing that his rationale was the final evolution of how my own thinking was taking shape, I asked if (or maybe I assumed? – sorry Joel!) I could join him in May.

So here we are: < 1 week before I move to Bali. Joel is already there (championing the way!). I cannot wait to follow his lead and kickoff my next quarter-life with an adventure all about the journey, self-fulfillment, and the lines that won’t be on my resume.

Bring. It. On.