Day 0- Then just me.

dallas 2 fixed

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Orlando Airport 360

I dropped Angela off at the airport yesterday for her flight East.  Less than 24 hours later I am sitting in the same seat she was in waiting to travel West.  I didn’t sleep last night, trying to hack my body clock into thinking 5:00A.M. is really 4:00PM.  It isn’t bad when its just 6-8 hours, but flipping 11 is tough- even with long travel time.

I took me four hours to pack.  I have been getting more and more lax with my tour packing over the years.  To the point now I throw clothes into a suitcase until it is full and then just zip it up.  As long as I have my laminate and my I.D. anything else can be overcome. But this is a different territory.  Charging cables for all the various gear, travel adapters, UPF clothing, malaria medication, and on and on.  I’m travelling light but not as light as I would like.  I was trying to do this entire run in only one carryon suitcase.  But there are too many different climates to make that a reality.  I’m in two carry ons essentially.  One is gear I won’t really crack open until Europe, and Angela was kind enough to take some of the stuff I will need for the cruise ship for formal nights.

I packed and unpacked twice.  Trying to get more efficient.  Trying to memorize where everything went so that quick inventories before walking out the door are productive.  On tour we call this the idiot check.  One last pass around the venue once the trucks have all been packed up to make sure nothing gets left behind.  Its tough to get things to catch up with you when your a moving target.

Nothing is in the packed luggage I can’t live without this trip. So essentially South East Asia is all one carry on.

It was more difficult than I thought it would be to walk out the door.  There was no one to say goodbye to.  There was no “I’ll be back in three months” promises to make to anyone- Brown, White, and English or otherwise.  When the driver pulled up to take me to Orlando International Airport it was just a quick idiot check and then just me. Out the door and into the big D. Dallas. A last breath of familiar.

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Dallas Airport 360- As kind as she is cruel

Dallas. My usual hub. Old friend and enemy of the travel. It has been a welcome sight as many times as it had been my Waterloo.  As many of my flights to and from Monroe, Louisiana (aka Morse Bulldog Camp) go out of here it was a fitting place to leap from.  It had been the starting and ending points of so many touring adventures, why not this one?  A little piece of familiar before heading out to the so unfamiliar.

An interesting watershed moment in my life happened here. After a long tour that just wanted me back on the couch of bulldogs I was told by American Airlines that they could not get me to Monroe in the next 18 hours. Weather. For me,  it wasn’t going to go down this way. I pulled a fast audible.

I Requested my bags and at 12:05AM my matching Tumi luggage came down the chute as I cancelled my ticket outright to Monroe.  Next, right behind them, a camouflage duffel and a matching backpack shot down. “You, uh, supposed to be on that Monroe flight?” He said.  “Yeah, but I’m not waiting until tomorrow night.  I rented a car.  You want a ride?”

“Sure, if you don’t mind. I’ll split the cost with you.” He said seeing an opportunity to get home quick. “No you won’t” I replied. “I got it. I’ll handle the cost, you just make sure I stay awake and we stay out of a ditch going through this storm.”

We took off on the five hour drive.  We were the same age. Three months apart. He was a fourth generation oil pipe fitter coming back from a job in North Dakota.  I didn’t ask which one. I didn’t want to know. He lived in a trailer in the North Louisiana swampland where he was born and raised wile working up to save for a house.  Didn’t trust the banks. Begrudgingly had a debit card and hated that his wife made him get one.  Ate what he killed- venison mostly. Traded with the farmer that lived close by for vegetables and permission to hunt on his land. His wife was a better shot than he was.  Couldn’t understand why so many people protested where he worked.  “They should be at the corporate headquarters of these companies.  Thats where the decisions are made. By the time it gets to us throwing pipe to ground everything’s already been decided.” He didn’t bring his wife out on this job for two reasons. 1. He was working as a safety tester at night. Dangerous work she hated him doing but the pay was much better. 2. She had lived under constant threat of harm on the last part of this job, as this one was in the middle of all the politics.

We agreed on a lot of things: That we would do whatever we had to to provide the best life for our family.  If to achieve that meant not being around them as much, then that was another sacrifice that had to be made. That freedom is America’s greatest asset- even if we disagreed about what that looked like.  We didn’t have to talk politics. We could tell where the other stood.  Two people looking at the same crystal sphere desiring the same thing and seeing a different reflection of the spectrum.  Through a storm ridden five hour car ride to Monroe, Louisiana I learned that after a tumultuous year in the political side of our country, we were more similar than different.  That NeoUrbanism living, Tumi Luggage carrying, Concert Lighting Director bleeding heart city mouse had more in common with camo wearing, gun owning, zero social media or even computer having self proclaimed middle class swamp dog conservative than not. We both realized that the other side wasn’t completely out of their mind. That a common goal and a desire for the same thing- to just get home to our families- was a stronger force than fear or opposition. That deep down, other America was ok.

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Hong Kong 360- The gates of infinity.

Hong Kong International Airport. Crossroads of South East Asia. Crown Jewel of Flight. 1,100 flights a day. 2 Runways.

There is a humming and buzzing created by 200,000 people changing planes a day that I haven’t witnessed anywhere else. London Heathrow may move more than the 72,900,000 that go through HKG but they certainly aren’t this diverse.
Languages and cultures mixing in a whirl of hub connections. I had five hours there. Most of which was spent waiting on Royal Jordanin airlines to open.
Enough time to recheck travel plans, research exchange rate trends, and seek out a cup of iced coffee.

My body had broken its natural rhythm and bent to my acclimating it to the 12 hour and a day time shift. Yellow dipped Ray Bans and screens in night mode helped to simulate evening as well as setting my clock to sync to Bangkok time. Other than making sure I would be at the gate of my next flight on time, I was trying my best to lie to my body’s ingrained circadian rhythm by making it believe I was already there and time had suddenly slipped.
Most of the long haul from Dallas to HK had been spent fighting these instincts. The incorrect schedule of in flight meals wasn’t helping. American Airlines was still on Big D Dallas time, this meant dinner was served at 2:00 AM Bangkok time and early morning breakfast was sent out when everyone who was trying to adjust is getting ready to sleep.
Fighting the urge to drink coffee when it felt right and force an exhausted mind to give up and sleep. Just close your eyes. Its 4:00 in the morning where your going.

It has become tradition for me to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy on these long flights across the Pacific. Its the fifth time seeing old friends on their own long journey. It started as a tribute to New Zealand on a flight there but now holds itself a place there mostly for comfort- and as a better marker of the passage of time than staring at the slowly creeping plane on the glowing seat rest map.
Although this was not my longest trip ever (my single leg record being held by Dallas to Sydney at 18+ hours). However, this flight was longer in my head.
There was more expectation with every mile that ticked by on the screen. International touring was pretty easy for me now- not because my talent had grown through the years but because of an easily traceable obsession with every detail of the lighting rigs, shows, songs, spotlight cues, and console programming that would be accomplished.

My friend Katie Friesma, an extremely accomplished world traveler and touring networking guru gave me some great wisdom before I left. “When we are on tour we are essentially selling someone our time. We let them dictate everything about our life in exchange for a weekly rate. We let them tell us where to go, what to eat, when to wake up, and what to do. It’s important to get away from that from time to time. Otherwise, we become a slave to our own career.”

She is absolutely right- and I realized there is a pitfall to planning my journey hour by hour.  I would let the flights be the guideposts and prioritize a mental list in each city but that would be about it. This trip would have no tour book. The only guide being the previous months deep dives into journals and articles culmination in the hundreds of clicks created on a google map.
I had strayed away from creating schedules and timetables for the various cities where I could. I didn’t want to force myself to be at a certain place at a certain time for X amount of hours. Instead, letting each place take as long as it needs to, and move along when my heart and mind was ready. In my Ical that I started this with I had put different topics I would get into that day: Floating Markets, Royal Palace, or Temple excursions.
With the exception of Northern Cambodia, which would be a 6 day beast of temple trekking during a very unpredictable Cambodian weather cycle, the journey was going to go at its own pace. I didn’t want to replace Arenas with Wats and tour buses for AirBNBs. Discovery needs space to breathe, and respect the time that it takes. Time takes time.

So far everything was going well. Strategies and planning navigation of Bangkok airport (don’t go to the first immigration line, stop at the fourth money exchange on the right from the Duty Free, ect.) had helped tremendously.  Everything is working out just….. well almost fine. Need to have a small discussion with Tumi about that beloved carry-on of mine.

After finally getting to the AirBNB that was my first home base, it was time to try and sleep.

Tomorrow is a very big day.  The Giant Elephant awaits.

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