***After this incident I was on a blogging hiatus. It’s the first time, now, 6 months, to the exact date, where I found the strength to get back to a somehow normal blogging routine. It is also the first time, in 6 months, where I feel I’m somehow myself again and I can talk about this incident, that put my world to a drastic halt. I apologize to my readers for not having blogged for a while. I needed some time.
*** I had no idea what photos to use. These photos were taken a few days before it happened – in the North Island of New Zealand. The greyish black tone seemed appropriate. Thank you for reading this.
>> Expect the Unexpected: My flight is cancelled.
‘Mam, I have two connections. I NEED to be on this flight, or any flight that leaves within the next hour and a half, otherwise I will miss all my remaining flights’. I’m nearly on the verge of crying. Ben tries to calm me down and runs around to find a solution.
After a very tense half an hour, we were told I was going to be transferred to a Virgin flight to Sydney. I was still going to be on time to make it to Dallas and then Guatemala. My stomach was in knots. What a dreadful start to my own little Adventure.
Whatever next!, I thought.
It was strange that I couldn’t see my flight anywhere on the screen when we arrived at the airport, just before 6am. But I thought it must be a mistake. I remembered the last time I had stood at the wrong airport, when I travelled to Vietnam Solo. Maybe that is just what happens. Maybe my solo adventures are doomed. But all will eventually work out.
When my boyfriend and I embarked on this journey around the Globe, I knew I would encounter a lot of unexpected surprises. I set the tone, hadn’t I, with my tag line?! I was going to expect nothing but the Unexpected. But the good stuff. I didn’t think that would include the bad stuff too.
Not on that scale!
Before we left London, I had the resolution that 2015 was going to be the ‘Year of Change’. I somehow knew it was always going to be a year where drastic changes would occur – things that would shape me. But never in a million years did I expect that.
>> Time to leave New Zealand. Off to Guatemala!
It was July 2015 and I was so ready to leave New Zealand. We had housesat for a month and stayed for a few more weeks after that. The plan had been to stay for a month and leave. Then we decided to tour the South-Island for 10 days and the North-Island for another 7 days.
It was the 14th of July when I eventually stood at the airport early morning to say good-bye to Ben as I embarked on a new journey. It was going to be my time. Travelling solo doing the things I love: Yoga, Meditation, Vipassana, learning to dance Salsa….
Ben was going to stay in New Zealand for another month. Then we would re-unite, at some point, in South- America…somewhere. My first stop was going to be Guatemala where I had a Yoga retreat booked. I researched what felt like forever to find the perfect place. I was going to do Yoga for a week and take part in a writing course – one of sacred expression. To heal some wounds from the past and to learn to focus on the present more.
Plus, he needed a break from travelling.
Perhaps we even needed a break from each other. At that point we had travelled together for a long time and somehow the initial excitement of spending every hour together had weaned. We were irritated. I was irritated with the routine work at the Equestrian property we lived at for a while (a housesitting assignment) and he was annoyed with the constant moving from place to place – he craved routine for longer.
The previous month, I had dragged him across the whole of Australia in a backpacker car. The quintessential dream. For me. After a while I noticed that he was more and more irritable. He was wishing for a living room where you could actually sit without having to be hunched over like we had to be in our car. Fair enough.
But we knew we would be fine. It had never been an issue in our relationship to travel on our own occasionally. We were thrilled to be re-united, eventually. We just didn’t know when it was going to be. I think it took us both by surprise that less than two days later we were re-united. Gee….we hadn’t planned for that to happen.
As we stood there hugging each other, we both teared up. When were we going to see each other again?! With no fixed plans, and Ben having to go back to the UK at some point to work, we weren’t sure when we would re-unite. It could be 2 or 4 months.
Either way, it was going to be the longest separation ever. The longest we had been apart was six weeks, when he went back the first time while I toured Vietnam, Laos, Northern Thailand on my own. We kissed each other good-bye. I was on my way…to Guatemala.
>> Sydney. It’s not getting better.
I arrive in Sydney – my first stop-over. My best friend who had recently moved there was supposed to stand there and pick me up from Arrivals so we could spend a few hours together. But because of my massive delay, and her being stuck in traffic, we had exactly 30 minutes to spend with each other by the time she found me in the Qantas queue.
Little did I know that the cloud over my head was only going to pour some more rain on me…
‘Do you have a return ticket or onward ticket, Mam?’. – ‘No. I’m travelling to Costa Rica from Guatemala next but plan to do this overland’. ‘I’m sorry Mam, we can’t let you board this plane without onward flight ticket – please go to this counter over there to book another flight otherwise you won’t be on this plane, I’m sorry’.
The familiar feeling of those unpleasant butterflies in my stomach which I had felt in Auckland a few hours ago were back. Why is everything going so wrong today?! I turn around and say to Rocio: ‘I think the Universe does not want me to fly today’, as I shake my head. I unpack my Laptop and book a flight to Costa Rica – three weeks from now. The moment I arrive in Guatemala I’ll cancel it again.
***A little travel hack: I highly recommend ORBITZ which is what I have used twice already to book & cancel flights as they have a 24-hour cancellation policy. An absolute life-saver if you are requested to book a flight last minute!
Even this doesn’t go smoothly. I’m even having to try to do it on my phone because my laptop is not loading the page. Eventually, I have my onward ticket booked to Costa Rica – I don’t even know if this would be my next destination. I also honestly planned to do it overland – it’s more fun and at the fraction of the price. Although I’m sure Ben would have been more relieved if was going to fly.
Rocio walks me down to security and we have a quick chat – maybe for 10 minutes, if that. She came all the way from another town to spend the morning with me – as I originally had a 4 hour lay-over – and now this. What else can possibly go wrong? Surely, my string of bad luck would now cease….
>> On the Plane. Still Alice.
The Qantas flight to Dallas was amazing. I had flown with them before and I had enjoyed every minute of my flight with them back then – it was 12 years ago when I boarded a plane to Australia for the first time to go and learn English. I still can’t believe I had done that. I was 17. Travel had always made me do crazy things. But it had been the best decision of my life!
I even ordered a small bottle of Champagne today! I rarely drink alcohol on flights but today I felt victorious and like I deserved it. I was going to quietly toast to myself. I was in the plane on my way to my Central- American dream! I had dreamt about this for so long. What you may not know: I deliberately had left Central- and South- America last on this worldtrip. So we travelled Southeast Asia first. The next four months were going to be all about discovering the beauty of Guatemala, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Peru…you name it.
I could not wait!
The entertainment system was amazing. I watched a few movies. One stood out to me in particular:
It made me think of my Dad. We are estranged. I haven’t seen him since 2004, since my mother passed away. Our relationship was strained. For many reasons. But I had my reasons to keep my distance. There was one side of him that was good. He worked in Alzheimer’s Research. In fact, he had always been one of the big guys in this field. He’s done an incredible work all his life.
In his private life…well…let’s skip that part shall we? Either way. Watching the film brought back a lot of memories. I have a few good memories of him. And my hope throughout the last decade never ceased that perhaps one day we would have a normal father – daughter relationship. Everything is possible, right?
>> I’m going to be happy here.
As I arrive in Dallas, I can feel the excitement arise. I’m soon going to be in Guatemala! My first Central- American country!
And within a few hours I was there indeed. I picked up my luggage and shared a shuttle to Antigua with another Swiss lady. We didn’t talk a word to each other. I sat behind her. We both wanted our space as we both hadn’t slept much. While she nodded on and off and I could see her head bobbing to the side in front of me, my gaze between my Iphone screen, as I am texting Ben, and the window, trying to get a glimpse of Guatemala – it’s dark – I can’t see much. But it’s incredibly clean and quiet.
Somehow I expected something like India – no idea why. Guatemala seemed oddly…normal.
The friendly guy at the Guesthouse shows me to my room and I immediately fall in love with it. It’s colourful. SO colourful! Just the way I like it. I’m going to be happy here! The bed is comfortable. It’s clean. I’m dying to go to bed. But I’m also hungry. So I head off across the road to the small restaurant to have a soup as at nearly 11pm it’s too late to have a heavy meal.
I observe the people around me who don’t take much notice of me. I think it’s an Austrian restaurant owner as I can spot many Austrian dishes on the menu. Again, my thoughts drift to my Dad. He is Austrian. Odd, how he keeps popping up into my mind so often over the last days of travelling to Guatemala…
I finally fall asleep at 2am.
>> The 14th of July. Twice. Forever.
The next morning I glance outside and I’m over the moon. The small courtyard is filled with plants the size of me and a huge palm tree makes me feel like I’m in Paradise. It’s hot. Which feels odd after having spent nearly two months in the icy snow-covered New Zealand. A few days ago I was wrapping up warm freezing my ass off in a camper van and now I’m back to wearing my flip-flops and a T-shirt!
Another reason I love travelling.
I love the feeling of being able to skip seasons and transport myself to a whole new world within a day or two. There is something magical about this time-travelling sensation. And indeed I have time-travelled: It’s the 14th of July all over again! The 14th of July 2015 will be the only day this year that I will have re-lived twice! I woke up to it twice! To the same day. Feels kind of odd.
As if this day had some sort of special meaning to it.
I pull out my laptop. I open my e-mails and I freeze. I feel sick.
I can feel my Heart beating faster.
I can feel the blood leaving my Head. I can feel I must be paler than I was a moment ago.
Subject: Urgently looking for Tess Andrade
Why are they searching for me?
In this moment I knew. >> My Dad.
He doesn’t have my contact details.
‘I wish you a lot of strength in this difficult time’ the e-mail reads. I scroll down to find a forwarded e-mail from my Father’s PA.
He is dying. Of Cancer. Cancer?!?!?!?!? I didn’t know he had Cancer!!!!!!! Why didn’t he tell me???!?!?!?!? It turned out, he didn’t know himself.
I feel sick. I call Ben. He doesn’t pick up. He is on the other side of the world. Asleep. I call again. He doesn’t pick up. FOR FUCK’s SAKE pick up the GODDAMN PHONE! I panic. What do I do? WHAT DO I DO? I start shaking and try to calm myself down. I walk around the room as if I have lost my mind. I tremble. I shake.
I respond to the e-mail. No one knows my phone number. No one knows where I am. All they have of me, is my e-mail address. We were estranged. Completely and utterly estranged. I had every right not to have him in my life. But what do I do now?
WHAT DO I DO NOW? Should I fly back? Should I call him? WHAT DO I DO???! It’s one of those things you never really plan for. My emotions took me by surprise. When you’re faced with someone’s death – particularly someone you once loved so much – and ‘game over’ stares right back at you, you’d be surprised how you react. And somehow all that had happened before, didn’t matter anymore. Only love remains. Only the good memories prevail. I was running out of time to say good-bye. What. do. I. do?!
I decided to shower and get dressed. These ten minutes felt like the longest of my life. I can hear people talking spanish outside my room. Where do I even go? I know nothing of Antigua. I don’t have a guidebook. No map. I’m alone in a foreign place. With nowhere to go.
So I just walk. And Walk. And walk. I arrive at a big square.
With a massive yellow church.
Yep. A church. That seems like the right place to be right now. I don’t take off my sunglasses. Somehow no one is fussed about me wearing sunglasses in the dimly-lit church.
I cry and pray. I whisper: ‘Dad, I forgive you. I forgive you, you hear me? If I don’t make it in time. You can rest in Peace. I forgive you’. I sit there for another 10 minutes. Maybe half an hour. I don’t remember. It felt like a century. Every goddamn minute felt like it would never end.
As if the 14th of July was going to be the longest day of my life. And it was. It’ll always be the day that I re-lived more than once for the rest of my life. In every sense.
I walk across to a small cafe and order a sandwich and coffee. I must eat something. Although I have no appetite. But I also don’t have strength. ‘Must eat something’, I repeat to myself. I sit there and connect my phone to the Wifi. And book a flight. I take a bite off my sandwich and it is all I can swallow – I can’t eat no more.
I e-mail my father’s boss asking her if she could do me a favour and phone the hospital to see if a nurse could transfer the call and place the phone to his ear so I could whisper something to him. He may be unconscious or too weak to hear it. But he may just know deep inside that it’s me.
My cellphone rings.
‘I’m so sorry!’, she says, ‘it was too late. Your father passed away’.
Thank you for reading this. If you feel like leaving a comment, I appreciate it.