Try not to break stuff
November 7, 2014
Looking out the window of the Airbus A340 as it reached cruising altitude I could make out what I’m pretty sure was the Annapurna range poking up from the cloud coverage that seemed to sit right around the snow line. I even got a glimpse of Mt. Everest before the plane banked to the south east affording me amazing views of almost every 25,000+ feet peak bordering Tibet. It was beautiful, very beautiful.
I was leaving Nepal and at that time I was both happy and sad. My thoughts jumped between my friends back home and my friends I made in Nepal. I wondered if I had made a bad decision, it certainly seemed like the universe didn’t want me to go.
Rewind a week.
“I just couldn’t see myself doing this for another 4-6 weeks.”
After my scooter accident it became incredibly difficult to do many necessary things like showering and wiping my ass. I’m not a back sleeper, rather rotisserie sleeper (one who flips side to side throughout the night) which made it very difficult to sleep. To make things worse my lower back would ache every morning, an ache that got worse with each new day. I told myself to give it a week, see how I felt and workout if I should go home. A week went by and the lack of my dominant arm bested my determination to mend in Nepal.
I just couldn’t see myself doing this for another 4-6 weeks.
I decided one morning to look at plane tickets and an hour later I made the purchase. 2 more days and I would be on a plane. I splurged on my friends and family stuffing my backpack full of gifts and settled down in Alobar with my friends who I will most likely never see in person again. The bitter part of travel, saying goodbye.
When the day finally came I didn’t even have a chance to say those words “Goodbye”, everyone was asleep from a night of drinking and I jumped in the taxi and headed to the airport missing then already. When I got in line I immediately made friends with a cute German girl who’s name I’ve already forgotten. She was on the same flight to New Delhi, India so we stuck together through the check-in process. The sky was overcast that morning and by early afternoon it was raining. Flights started to get delayed and 3 hours after our flight was supposed to touch down it was canceled. Nepal wasn’t letting me leave.
Air India put my new friend and I in a really swanky hotel called the Annapurna Hotel for the night and fed us a delicious buffet style dinner and breakfast before ferrying us back to the airport. I’m so used to roughing it I made sure to relish in the experience for a bit, it was pretty fun. We got to the airport at 9am with several hundred other travelers who didn’t get to leave the day before. We had to wait 7 hours till we could get on a plane and around 1am the following day we were finally in New Delhi. I said goodbye to my German friend and headed to the international terminal to work out how they were going to get my ass to SFO. It took another 6 hours of waiting but they finally got me on a flight to Chicago that would connect to SFO.
I remember thinking I hope they put my luggage on the plane. Since I came into New Delhi with no connecting flights I wasn’t sure what was supposed to happen with my luggage. They insisted I didn’t collect it so I trusted it would find its way. Well, it didn’t.
When I landed in Chicago O’Hare I had to collect my bags and jump through the customs circus only there was no bag on the carousel. I immediately knew my bag was in New Delhi and this was incredibly upsetting. Thoughts of some twat sleeping under my quilt flashed in my mind. I hunted down an official and they searched for my bag eventually informing me they found it but it had to be checked for contraband before they could hand it off. I waited hoping I wouldn’t miss my next flight and eventually they hauled out a bag… but it wasn’t mine.
“Nepal didn’t want me to leave and it’s punishing me now because I did.”
It definitely had my bag tag on it but it most definitely was not my bag. The Air India bag dude apologized and hauled it away telling me to file a delayed bag claim when I land in SFO. First my flights canceled and now this– Nepal didn’t want me to leave and it’s punishing me now because I did.
I did as instructed and filed my claim in SFO. Within a day I was receiving notifications by email regarding the search for my missing baggage and after a few days they said they found it and it was being routed to Sacramento International and would arrive at my home the following day. I was pretty damn excited about this so I anxiously waited for the delivery guy to show up. When he did he pulled out no other than the same bag I told the Air India rep was not mine. The bag even had some ladies name/contact info on it. I photographed her name and sent it back with the driver. I immediately jumped on my computer pulling numbers and started calling Air India, the New Delhi airport, United (my connecting flight from Chicago), and anyone I could to make sure they knew and were looking for my bag.
“…and said a little about what would happen in the event they don’t find my bag and it scared the shit out of me.”
I got in touch with a nice lady who told me I would need to file a missing bag claim which is different from the one I filed in the airport. This requires itemization and the paperwork said a little about what would happen in the event they don’t find my bag and it scared the shit out of me. If they don’t located it they are only required to reimburse me up to $20 per KG of weight. My backpack was an ultra-light design and full of mostly ultra-light backpacking equipment. My $500 sleeping bag weighs 18oz. My pad? 16oz. My backpack weighed a total of 9kg or about 20lbs. If they didn’t find it, I was screwed. The next week was pretty stressful. I’d think about it in bed at night and would fight to push the negative thought loops out of my head. I totaled it all up and I was looking at over $2000 in losses.
My friends and family told me to keep my head up, stay positive. It’ll work out. This helped and I managed to push aside the stress and work on defeating another monster that grew in my life, an inability to focus, apparently it plagues people who travel for a long period time. Another week goes by and I get an email saying my bag is at Sacramento Intl. and would be delivered the following day. I had plans to hike that day so I made sure someone knew it was coming and what it looked like so they could dispatch the wrong bag if it showed up again. When I got home that evening there it was, my baby.
Losing luggage happens. Not often but it does. Losing something you’ve carried on your back for the last 6 months, that you have thousands of miles of memories with. It’s rough. I was incredibly happy to open it and see everything was still there. She smelt a little funny but she was stuffed full of all my precious gear and gifts.
So now I’m back home applying for jobs so I can save a bit and see where my travels take me next.
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