Monday, July 6, 2009

Nothing Happened as Planned: A Grateful Retelling

Five years ago yesterday my life started to change in ways I could have never imagined. On July 5th, 2004 I left my house in Boston for a study abroad in Wollongong, Australia. I was 21 years old and flying by myself to the other side of the world. Although I have always been fairly independent, this was a complete departure from anything I had ever done. I was nervous for the flight and for everything that was to follow.
My itinerary included a flight from Boston to Memphis to Los Angeles. I was scheduled to meet a group of students at LAX and continue onto Melbourne, Australia. Nothing really went according to plan and though at the time I thought of it all as bad luck, now I believe that fate stepped in and guided me into the rest of my life.
1.) Boston – Memphis: Fire at a rental car place in Boston’s Logan Airport shut down the terminal which delayed my flight.
2.) Memphis – Dallas: Because the flight was delayed, I missed my flight out of Memphis. I was rerouted to Dallas, Texas.
3.) Dallas – Los Angeles: Thirty minutes to catch my next plane. With three bags over my shoulder, passport and tickets in hand, and a cell phone on my ear; I ran through the terminal toward my gate. I talked to my parents for maybe a minute and a half. When I hung up, my passport was gone. A cold chill ran through my body. I turned around to run back onto the plane and was stopped by security. I explained my situation through streaming tears. Flight attendants were sent to look for my passport as I scoured the area just outside of the gate. The passport was gone. Vanished. My flight was the last one of the day so I boarded, sans passport. Flying to California, I was frustrated, embarrassed, and only a few hours into my 5 month long journey, I wanted to go home.
I made it to Los Angeles with just enough time to catch my flight to Australia but without a passport, I wasn’t going anywhere. At 1:00am, 18 hours after I started my trip, I checked into a hotel near the airport. I spent the entire next day at the federal building in Los Angeles and after 9 hours and $200, I had a new passport. I was on a plane to Australia exactly 24 hours after my scheduled flight.

Fast forward the 20 hour flight, the confusion and excitement of landing in a foreign country, and the several modes of transportation I finally met with my already travelling tour group (you know, those people I was supposed to meet in LA). I was dropped on the side of the road next to a parked bus. I was told that my group was off having lunch but I could climb aboard and wait. There were jackets and bags on all of the seats so I just chose a seat toward the back.
When kids my age started boarding, I was introduced by the driver as the girl who lost her passport. My story preceded me. The girl sitting behind me offered to show pictures of things that I had missed thus far, mainly a kangaroo stampede. I found out later, I had actually stolen her seat and that is how we started talking. I am proud to say that five years later, the girl whose seat I stole is my best friend.
That night, I sat next to a boy on the bus on the way to dinner whom I had not yet met. He was quieter then most but really cute. He was from Minnesota and was unlike anybody I had ever met. Five years later, we are together and living in Minneapolis. That night at dinner, there was a small group of people who were talking about ordering wine. I inserted myself in the conversation and said I would be happy to split a bottle. We did, and today those people are still some of my greatest friends.
Had things played out differently, I do not know who or where I would be. For all of the changes in my life, the moments that matter, and the things that didn’t go as planned; my journey to Australia will forever stand out as the time that something bigger than me, whatever you want to call it, took over and guided me somewhere new and wonderful.

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