Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The final day

Monday 30th May 2011

0 days left traveling the world.

MP3 track of the day: The breaking of the fellowship – The Lord of the Rings

Weather: Hot in Beijing / raining and cold in London

As the sun rose, on my final day, I found that an alarm wasn't needed; I woke up, at 6am, of my own accord and began to get ready as quietly as possible. As I'd packed my bags the previous day, it didn't take long to get ready and soon I found myself walking towards the nearest underground station, lugging all my luggage. It was around 7am when the train arrived; I boarded and alighted two stops later transferring onto the airport line. The train was empty and I found four seats for me and my luggage. I stared out of the window viewing China for the last time; I was glad to leave China, however I wasn't glad that my travels were at an end.

Terminal three was a very impressive building; white floors, with a high orange roof, made the airport feel spacious, clean and futuristic. I'd arrived three hours early, however I was surprised to find check-in open. I joined the queue and, soon enough, I found myself facing a young Chinese lady in a yellow shirt. 'Two pieces of check-in luggage?' she asked, looking at my backpack and my suitcase. I shook my head slowly, looking down at the floor, as I asked if my suitcase could be taken on as hand luggage. Her eyes widened and with a, 'oh no', I knew that I wasn't going to win this fight; I opened the case showing her four, breakable, tea sets ... but her answer was still no. As a comprise she said that I could take the four tea sets on within four, smaller, individual bags; I thanked the lady and left the queue to re-pack my bag.

I placed my case on a wooden bench and opened it; with the four tea sets out I filled the case – not brilliantly I must admit – with anything I wouldn't need on the flight. I went back to the young Chinese lady who gave me an approving smile. The next problem was that my ticket only allowed one piece of 'check-in' luggage; forty-five pounds later and I saw both my backpack, and my suitcase, travel along a black conveyable and drop into the abyss. With a small rucksack on my back, and three bags within my hands, immigration, passport control and security was a little more difficult than normal however, after a while, I found myself within the airport lounge. The time was 9:30am; I still had nearly two hours before my flight was due to depart. Not only did I have the time but I had the cash to do some last minute shopping; I strolled through the shops uncomfortably, due to the amount of luggage, looking for something to spend my final Yuan on. Eighteen 'Kitkat Chunky White bars' later and I was left with 150 Yuan (£15) to change back into Pound Stirling.

I sat down, with the plane in view to my right; two rows back, and slightly to my left, sat a lady crying. I tried not to stare but I wondered why she was so upset; end of a good holiday? Leaving a loved one? I didn't know the answer however it made me realise that, out of all transport options, flights affect human emotion more than any other. Over the last year I've felt excited, nervous, sad and happy when boarding a flight; maybe this could explain why flying is more exhausting than any other transport method. My thoughts were suddenly interrupted with a boarding announcement; I waited for the queue to shorten before joining it. Once on the plane I found my seat occupied by a Chinese guy; I asked to see his ticket and informed him that he should be sitting two rows back. I placed my tea sets carefully within the luggage holdalls above and sat making sure that my belt was securely fastened. Next to me was a British bloke who'd spent his holiday within North Korea; as the plane prepared for take off I questioned him about the secret country finding it interesting and a potential future destination.

The plane got into the air and levelled out; it was at this point that the 'in-flight entertainment' came on and I browsed the 'new release films' to find 'The Kings Speech'. I plugged my ear phones into the socket provided and pushed play; the film was good though, with a lot of people talking it up, I was expecting more. Once the film had finished I immediately put 'Black Swan' (weird) on before watching 'Gulliver's Travels' (good film) and then 'The Tourist' (okay film, good twist at the end). By this time I'd been in the air for eight hours; with three hours left I was presented with my second meal ('sweet and sour' pork with rice … best Chinese meal I've had within the last two months) before watching 'Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows part 1'.

I seemed to have timed it just right. Harry Potter finished just before the entertainment system was turned off and we made our decent. It was at this point that reality hit me ... I was home. I looked at the land below with 'job' being the only word coming into my head. Once in the airport I found myself viewing the 'connecting flights' noticing that New York, Washington and Toronto were all possible destinations. I took a deep breathe before following signs to the 'luggage pick-up' area, though I would have preferred to board one of those connecting flights. With every step reality was coming closer and closer; my year of travel had ended, I was broke and I would have to find a job. I picked my luggage up but, before leaving the luggage room, I paused looking at the roof. I've been on my own for so long, without the social pressures of getting a good job, owning a good house and portraying an image of success; for the last year seeing ancient structures, beautiful natural scenes and asking other travellers where they got the cheapest meal had been the most important aspects of my life and this would all change once I had walked through the door in front of me. I'm not afraid to say that I was scared, more scared than I'd been in a long time.

As I walked into the departure hall, with my luggage on a trolley, I saw my mum, sister and youngest brother waiting for me. I gave both my sister and mum a big hug before we started to chat like I'd never been away. My sister lead the way and I followed her to the car; she drove as we chatted, which lead to a rather strange route home (London to Derby ... via Southampton). I arrived home around 7pm. As I got out of the car nothing much had changed; my brother, sister in-law, and their three children greeted me, along with my dad, within the lounge and I gave them their presents (relieved to loose the weight). As I scanned the room I found photos, of me, that I'd taken from my trip. As I tried to remember where each shot had been taken a large lump within my throat started to appear; so many memories and so many places.

I finally went to bed around 11pm UK time, twenty-four hours after I'd got up. As I lay in bed I looked around noticing just how much I had to do. Unpacking, mail and editing my photos ... there was hours of work. Still this was a good thing; as I closed my eyes I realised that I had to keep busy or else I would just sit, eat chocolate, and reminisce. My one year of travel has been the best decision of my life and with 64,174 miles covered (that's the equivalent of driving around the world two and a half times!), it truly has been an epic journey. So this otter is no longer around the world, that much is true. However I can almost guarantee that I will be back around the world … the only question is when.

Toodle Pip!

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