It was December 2006, we were 21 and had been married for 18 months. For years we had dreamed of living and working overseas, finally our time had come and our adventure was about to begin.
I was at Sydney airport, my bags had been checked in, I’d said my final goodbyes to our parents and through the tears I headed to immigration and security. It was really happening now and I had to get my brave on.
Once I was air side I made sure I sat near a window to soak up the last rays of the Australian summer sun as I didn’t know how long it would be until I saw that glorious sunshine again.
I got an exit row! Lets face it, that is pretty much an upgrade to me. Being able to stretch my legs out for the duration of that long journey is perfect. I got comfortable in my seat and suddenly I hear my name. A flight attendant was standing in front of me with a message from the their check in staff. “I’m sorry Mrs van Bentum but we couldn’t get your husband onto this flight. We hope to get him on another flight later today otherwise we’ll try again tomorrow.” My heart sank, this was meant to be ‘our’ adventure!
I don’t mind flying alone, I guess the love of flying helps. Watching movies, reading books, having food brought to me, not having to clean it up and knowing there is an adventure waiting at the other end are just some of the highlights for me. This, however, was not going as planned…
I arrived at Hong Kong airport and had no idea where in the world my husband was.
Here is the background story. My Father-in-law used to work as a Flight Service Director with a major airline and therefore my husband received cheaper flights with the condition that he flew standby. As a young couple heading overseas to live, everything was on a budget, so we decided we would take advantage of the cheap ticket knowing the risks. I was ok about it, I figured that I’d traveled alone before so I’d be fine if he didn’t get on the same flight, well, that was until it happened!
I searched for a pay phone to call home and see what happened after I took off. My mum answered, very sleepily, and explained that he had, only just, gotten onto the next flight headed to Singapore BUT he was not guaranteed a seat on the next flight after that.
So here I was in Hong Kong, my husband in Singapore, me about to fly to London and him… no idea!
‘Welcome home!’ were the words I heard from the customs officer as I handed over my shiny new red passport. Home? I smiled and said thank you. I had only just received my British passport and had never been to England before so to hear those words was very funny for me as this was so far from how I thought this day would pan out.
We had plans to work over in Europe on the snow throughout the Winter season so we had a huge snowboard bag packed with both of our snowboards and gear inside. Half way through the flight to London I remembered that the 30kg+ snowboard bag was with me along with my suitcase packed full to the brim. The original plan was that we would take the tube from Heathrow into central London where we would meet my Brother-in-law at his work. How on earth was I going to get a huge and heavy snowboard bag plus my suitcase onto the tube and into the city by myself? To say I was slightly freaking out was an understatement and you can imagine my relief when I got a voicemail from my Mother-in-Law saying that my Brother-in-law (who was already living in London) was going to meet me at the airport. Phew!
Somehow we dragged the snowboard bag and suitcase down to the tube station and I officially became a Londoner as I got my Oyster card (the local travel card for those unsure). We headed into Victoria Station and to my Brother-in-law’s office as he had a meeting. I dumped my stuff there and went for a wander until his meeting was done and we could go back to their place.
All of a sudden I found myself wandering the streets of this amazing city that I instantly fell in love with but with a bit of a problem…I was alone and my man was somewhere else in the world and at that point I didn’t really know where! I don’t know about you but sometimes when I’m feeling a bit insecure I look for something familiar – McDonalds! I knew that place and wasn’t in any mood to try something new. Coffee and a bacon & egg muffin made me feel much better and then my phone rang.
He was still in Singapore…
That whole time that I was flying my poor husband was wandering the airport and waiting to see if he had a seat. He missed quite a few flights as they were all full and the only option was to fly to Frankfurt in Germany and then we book him another flight to London from there. “Go for it” I said, “just get into Europe and I’ll find you a flight here”. Within minutes he was on the plane and again no contact until the next day.
Fast forward to that next day and I had booked him a flight from Frankfurt to London City airport so when he arrived in Frankfurt he went to an internet cafe to check his email and get the details of his next flight and told him I’d meet him at London City airport, wherever that was!
Remember that this was a time before smart phones…it was a time where internet cafe’s were your only option to access the internet while out and about so neither of us had the fallback of checking our phones, emails or maps while on the go. This was real adventuring and I was sure of it, ha!
After a quick run down on the way to get to London City airport and handing me an A-Z to take with me (London map book, pre google maps remember!) my Brother and Sister-in-law were off to work and I was on my own. I could do this right? Well I had to because we only had one phone between us and I had it!
I left way too early but I was so excited to see my man and properly start this crazy adventure all over again. I found my way to the tube station and then worked out all the different tube lines I needed to take to get there. My Oyster was getting a work out and by the time I got there I was feeling like a pro. I walked into the airport and standing all around were security guards carrying machine guns. Where the heck was I?! I took a deep breath, bought a newspaper and sat for what felt like 4 hours (I think it was 1) with the beady eyes of every security guard watching me (not really, but you try to stay calm with that many semi-automatic weapons surrounding you!). Then the moment happened, he arrived!!!! It totally would have looked like that cheesy scene in a movie when a couple are reunited after being separated for months or years on end. It had been 2 days… but they were the longest (pre-kids) 2 days of my life.
So ready, here we go, take 2…
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