The furthest I have been away from home is the Mayan Riviera. It was wonderful and I would like to go again. But I have never been off the North American continent. I have heard that once you travel overseas, you forever have the itch to travel again. I would love to explore the world, so what have I been waiting for? Then my niece offered me round trip tickets to Zambia. It was all very last-minute and spontaneous, and it was the furthest I’ve ever travelled for a babysitting gig. You can read all about how that went down here.
Never having travelled overseas before, there was a lot I didn’t know, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Here’s what I did know:
- I would be travelling for two days, including two very long red-eye flights.
- I would have a 10-hour layover in London, which was enough time to leave the airport and go explore the city for awhile.
- In-flight meals were likely to be served at odd hours, and possibly not delicious.
- At some point I would need to sleep.
I bought a travel backpack on Amazon. Pink, of course, and theft-resistant. It was delivered the next day so I had plenty of time to pack it to my specifications. There is plenty of room for snacks and travel-size personal items. It fits my laptop and iPad perfectly. There is even a special compartment for shoes and/or wet clothes. I used that space for a light sweater, a light rain jacket, a T-shirt, and extra socks. I found a secret pocket for my ID and travel documents. I tucked away my sleep mask and ear plugs where they could be easily accessed.
Most world travellers use carry-on baggage exclusively. That makes sense, but the list of Canadian goodies I wanted to take with me kept growing, and I would be gone for nearly three weeks, so I would need two suitcases as well as my travel backpack.
One suitcase got packed with my things, the other with gifts and treats. Things like chocolate chips and potato chips in flavors they can’t find in Zambia. Tim Horton’s coffee. Real maple syrup. Lawry’s Season Salt to make Grandma J’s Sunday Chicken. Dietary supplements and Christmas gifts. Books by some of my author friends.
My daughter came over to help me pack. She strapped it all in and we hoped by the time I got there they could enjoy actual potato chips rather than chip crumbs.
My adrenaline was running high and I found it difficult to sleep. At last it was time for my husband to take me to the airport. I prefer to arrive a bit early when I fly, just in case there are any delays checking in or going through security. Feeling rushed before a flight is far too stressful.
No waiting at check-in or going through security. I smiled as I donned my backpack, wondering if I looked like a first-time world traveller. I didn’t think so. I was feeling quite smug as I checked the clock and decided I had enough time for a drink before boarding. Maybe I would even start my travel journal.
I took a seat at the bar in Chili’s, ordered a glass of wine, unzipped my backpack and reached for my laptop snugly stowed inside…
I was missing my phone and iPad and the little bag of liquids too. I had used two bins at security – one for my backpack and one for my devices and liquids. It finally hit me – I had grabbed my spiffy new backpack and walked away without the rest.
I asked the bartender to please save my wine, I would be right back. I walked back to security – they were waiting for me. I showed my ID and boarding pass, collected the rest of my very essential items, took a deep breath, and gave my head a shake. I was going to need to be much more mindful going forward. I didn’t have my husband there to look after me and make sure I didn’t forget things. I went back to the bar, enjoyed my wine, and started my travel journal.
I met a lovely couple at the boarding gate. They were looking for a place to sit and I offered them my seat – I was happy to stand because I knew I would be sitting for the next 8 hours. As she sat she handed me my passport and boarding pass. I had taken them out of their pocket in preparation for boarding, and didn’t notice they slipped behind me as I stood to offer my seat. Two near-catastrophic mistakes and I hadn’t even boarded the first flight yet. They laughed with me, recalling their own euphoria before their first big trip.
They were headed to London as well, on a slightly later flight, to visit family. They told me about other trips they had taken before Covid locked us all down, and places they still wanted to see. She mentioned something about feeling hungry. I quickly offered a couple protein bars, because I already knew I over packed snacks. He waved it off as they had snack bars packed. Of course they did. I laughed at myself, a first-timer, thinking I had something to offer the well seasoned travellers.
They recommended things to see when I went into London on the Tube. They also recommended that I leave my backpack at the Left Luggage store in the terminal, which I had already planned to do. I had a small crossbody purse/wallet that I could wear safely and not be weighed down while I went exploring. I recommended that they turn on the evening news for possible reports of a distracted tourist cutting a swath of chaos through London, leaving devices and travel documents in her wake.
I’m the person who rolls her eyes at other people taking pictures of random things, yet I took pictures out my plane window of the ground crew de-icing the plane.
I know. I rolled my eyes at myself but it did no good. My adrenaline was too far out of control. I knew I should try to sleep but my brain wouldn’t settle. I managed a couple naps of two hours or so, but that’s it. Next stop, London!
How much of London can one experience on a layover? Stay tuned for the next chapter of my epic Zambian adventure…