THURSDAY 18TH NOVEMBER

Hello there!

I’m currently writing this journal while I’m sitting in an Indian sit position in a not-so-soft couch-y benches at the transit area of Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Thailand. It’s currently 12 midnight here, local time. I’m so exhausted and I can pass out here anytime, so I figured I can ramble some stuff here to keep myself awake.

Today I’m flying out of Manila to embark on my ‘Great European Tour’ to celebrate my 30th birthday. I’m no longer feeling anxious or scared (unlike yesterday), so I think it’s a good sign and I think I’m very fit to fly today.

This is it. This is the day.

I checked out from Holiday Inn Express Manila Newport to proceed to the airport. My flight is around 7-ish at night, but I was at the airport as early as 2PM. Apparently, nobody is allowed to enter the airport unless the check-in counters for your flight has opened. I was told that my airline opens its check-in counters around 5PM, so I spent the next few hours sitting outside the Departure Area of NAIA Terminal 1, together with other passengers who are flying out of the country.

While waiting, I tried my best to be productive (just like what I’m doing now as we speak). I was able to edit and upload my Instagram reel from Holiday Inn. I was able to check some emails for a few minutes. I updated my family of my whereabouts. I’ve booked a Grab rider to buy me more of my meds (because the batch I bought yesterday will run out before the end of my trip), as well as some essential toiletries that I apparently forgot to bring.

FIASCO #1: At the Airport Security

On top of the Airport Security not letting in passengers unless the check-in counters are open, I almost did not make it inside the check-in area. When I handed my ticket to the security, they were asking for my RT-PCR test results (which I do not have because I confirmed with the airline that it’s not required as long as you’re already fully-vaccinated). Also, one of the guards was insisting that the counters for my airline are not yet open when the screen is telling us otherwise. I told them about the information the airline relayed to me, and after around 7 minutes, I was allowed to get in.

FIASCO #2: I almost did not make it to Bangkok

The check-in counter of the airline for my Manila-Bangkok flight was hesitating to check me in because they were informed that there was an advisory from Finland border control not letting in flights from Thailand, something I am not aware of. Trust me, I double-checked all information before I pursued this trip, and if there will be sudden changes along the way, I’m sure there will be remedies to it.

After a loooooong time of waiting at the queue (I am the only passenger left, btw, including one Australian who has some travel insurance issues and two girls flying to Warsaw which also have the same Bangkok-Helsinki flight as me), I made it past the dreaded immigration counter (Filipino immigration officers are notorious for being rude and condescending, btw), down to the boarding gates.

FIASCO #3: Flight to Bangkok was delayed

You heard me.

FIASCO #4: I almost denied entry to Suvarnabhumi Airport

Right after I set foot outside the aircraft, the airlines staff were looking for me and the two girls who will be flying to Helsinki the next day. They told us that there were no check-in counters for transit flights and we should have our tickets for the next flight already printed back in Manila.

But how is it possible if it’s a totally different flight? I don’t know, but is it actually possible? The two airlines are not sharing codes, so I don’t think so.

There was another option: we can have our passport stamped and exit Thailand and then go back to the airport the next day to check-in at the departure counters, but since we did not apply for a Thailand Pass (not required for a transit flight), we cannot enter Thailand.

So what do we do now?

After a looooong time of waiting, we were allowed to enter the transit area. We were told to just take chances in checking in directly at the boarding gate of our next flight 4 hours before the flight.

Since there were no hotels inside the transit area and most of the lounges are closed (the open ones can only allow us to stay for maximum of 2 hours), we slept on the benches at the waiting area.

Yes, we did. This trip hasn’t even begun and I’m already out of energy and good vibes.

More trip fiascos to come,

Sher

WEDNESDAY 17TH NOVEMBER

I’m writing to you while lying in a very cozy bed (with very amazing memory pillows!) while CNN is on the background here at Holiday Inn Express Manila Newport City. My stuff are all over the place, including the empty noodle container by the study. I ate the noodles with a teaspoon because I’m resourceful like that.

My family dropped me off at this hotel around 9-ish PM today because tomorrow I’ll be flying out of the Philippines. My journey was quite stressful. I had very little sleep the night before because I crammed my packing and emptying my phone and camera memories. I had a class at 11AM then at 1245PM. I was still in the middle of cramming for buying my transport tickets and booking my hotel accommodations in advance, including cramming with my travel insurance purchase.

I struggled so hard fitting 35 days worth of essentials in one carry-on luggage, one backpack, and one tote bag. I never missed this part of traveling.

Meanwhile, my GoPro is currently recording a timelapse of the airport (because yeah, my hotel room has an airport view).

I had a panic attack in the car and I can’t tell any of my family about it when it was happening. I was spiraling, thinking about what could possibly go wrong in this upcoming journey, thinking about missing my family, especially my parents, because this will be the first time in a long while that I will be away from them this far, and I was scared of checking-in at a hotel for the first time since the pandemic.

I was sweating, stressing about my super jam packed bags and luggage. I was palpitating, I feel like I want to jump out of the car. I can’t figure out if I’m feeling claustrophobic, hungry, or jittery, or all of them. I want to blame it on the triple shot espresso I had (from Cafe Amazon, btw, and I looooove this coffee shop to death). I can’t afford feeling like this when traveling.

I told my sister about if after I settled in my room. I’ll be flying tomorrow night, so I will have time to rest here in the hotel. I’m very thankful about her support and comforting words. Eventually, the panic subsided. I was better.

Humanity has been very kind to me today. Students have been thankful to me by adjusting some requirements because I was really happy with the performances of all of my classes in terms of class participation. They deserve it. I’m happy to know it meant a lot to them and they appreciate it. They even wished my cat Luna luck because the vets had a hard time neutering him. I booked a Grab rider to get me some meds from the drugstore, and he took the extra mile in visiting three branches just to look for my meds. Of course I gave him a tip because he’s such a guardian angel and he has no idea how much his effort meant to me. I have him a tip, of course, and my heart melted when I saw the genuine happiness in his face. I need to give back in situations like this.

Coming from an episode of panic attack, I had to drink a lot of water. I felt very exhausted. The room has 4 bottles of complimentary water. I used two for my noodles, one for taking my meds, and one because I’m just thirsty. I asked the reception for more bottles of water and they gave me 20 more water bottles. Wow. I love humanity.

As we speak, CNN is reporting how some EU states have started re-implementing partial lockdowns because of the spike in COVID-19 infections despite high vaccination rates. Deep inside I’m panicking about being suddenly barred to enter the EU. A lot of my money will be put into waste. But whatever happens, happens. Fuck it, I’m turning 30, I have to take this chance. I’m also scared of COVID despite getting fully-vaccinated.

Now, I have to sleep. I need to wake up by sunrise to take another timelapse of the airport with my GoPro. I have to have the first dibs in breakfast. I need to catch up with a lot of work, including recording lectures, checking papers, responding to emails, and a lot more.

I’m scared. I hope everything goes well tomorrow.

But nonetheless, I will always tell everyone to live their best lives. Also, never ignore your mental health.

xoxo,

sher