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The Epic Journey Back Home

I had my heart bro­ken a few times. The first one, I was 16 and I was not cry­ing over a guy but because I was fly­ing back from Bei­jing to Paris and I didn’t want to go back home. I wept all the way to France, look­ing through the win­dow as we were fly­ing above China, the Himalaya, Rus­sia, East­ern Europe… the world seemed huge and I wanted to see it. Here I was, hooked on traveling.

I kind of became a pro­fes­sional “plane weeper” after that. It got worst after 2002—not only I was emo­tional because I didn’t really want to go back to France but on top of that Feng and I were not liv­ing together and had to part ways in many air­ports. In 2002, after our first trip together, I cried all the way from Ottawa to Toronto air­port where Feng dropped me off. In 2003, I sobbed in Syd­ney: I was fly­ing back to France and Feng back to Canada. In 2004, I briefly stopped cry­ing because I fol­lowed Feng to Canada. Yet, it took me a few more years of going back and forth between France and Canada to sort out my immi­gra­tion sta­tus before I stopped weep­ing in depar­ture lounges. And now, of course, my mother and I sob uncon­trol­lably when I leave France to go back Canada. Life as an immi­grant, I guess.

Even though I’m not cry­ing as much as I used to, I shed a few tears on Wednes­day, when we took a last walk on Cir­cu­lar Quay, in Syd­ney. It was par­tially because I was exhausted and frankly, I don’t think I would have stayed any longer in Aus­tralia: the coun­try is ridicu­lously expen­sive right now (not to men­tion flooded). Yet… we were leav­ing. For real.

We left Sin­ga­pore on Tues­day evening and arrived in Syd­ney early morn­ing on Wednes­day. We barely slept in the plane (note to self: bud­get air­lines suck for long-distance trips). The F1 Hotel we had booked in Kings Cross looked like a halfway house: the shower was a trickle of water, the win­dow was busted and there were cig­a­rettes burns every­where. Both exhausted, we headed to Bondi Beach for a last look. Syd­ney was much cooler and qui­eter than in Decem­ber, and no one was swim­ming in Bondi because of the huge waves. I was so tired I fell asleep on the beach. I can barely remem­ber what we did after that: we came back to Cir­cu­lar Quay, grabbed a bite in Kings Cross, com­plained about Australia’s high prices, slept a few hours… and next thing we knew we were on the plane again.

We left Syd­ney on Thurs­day morn­ing, fly­ing to L.A on Qan­tas’ infa­mous A-380, the double-decker plane that had a few tech­ni­cal prob­lems this win­ter. We didn’t regret it: this is prob­a­bly one of the best flights I ever had. First, the plane was half empty to we had an extra seat in our row. The on-board enter­tain­ment was really cool and the plane was very quiet. Oh, and the view over Syd­ney and L.A was unbeat­able! We man­aged to get some sleep dur­ing the 14-hour flight and arrived some­what rested in L.A.

It took us over 90 min­utes to get through immi­gra­tion at LAX. The process was painfully slow as the coun­try requires fin­ger­prints from most trav­el­ers and a short inter­view. We checked-in by the air­port, rented a car and on the road we went, all the way to Bur­bank where the T.V stu­dios are. Feng’s idea was to try to get in as audi­ence mem­bers of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, which is taped in the after­noon. We were lucky: we got some stand-by tick­ets just by show­ing up at NBC stu­dio and were let in easily.

It was fun to see the show we watch so often being taped—Americans are great at enter­tain­ment and it was a fun (and free!) thing to do in L.A. Then, we headed to Santa Mon­ica and watched a weird movie. The whole evening is a blur as we were once again exhausted and jet-lagged.

We slept a few hours and got up before sun­rise to return the car and make it to the air­port to catch the last two flights, the Air Canada to Toronto and then Ottawa.

Am I sad to be back? Well, yes and no. Being my usu­ally pessimistic-self (it’s imprinted in my French genes) I always fear this will be my last trip. But there is a time for being home and a time for explor­ing the world. Being on the road all the time is nei­ther real­is­tic nor enjoy­able, and this is the time to be home.

Frozen hell, here we are!

Asleep on Bondi Beach

Syd­ney from Above

Arriv­ing in L.A

L.A Free­way

NBC Stu­dio in Burbank

NBC Stu­dio in Burbank

NBC Stu­dio in Burbank

17 comments

  1. Your life is one big adven­ture. Wel­come home. I enjoyed your trip.

  2. Oh Zhu, I so can relate to this! Not that I cried in air­ports, but the emo­tional rush is def­i­nitely some­thing famil­iar to me. When left Mex­ico last month, I felt sad. It was the first vaca­tion in which I hon­estly thought what would it be like if I skipped the plane and instead rode on a bus and hit the road some more and went to Guatemala instead.

    In other flights, I usu­ally get the bizarre feel­ing along the lines of “wow, I am actu­ally doing this”. When I landed in Taipei for the first time in order to give a talk, when I landed in three dif­fer­ent Euro­pean cities in three dif­fer­ent years to visit my par­ents when they were assigned as diplo­mats there and real­ized that my fam­ily is so geo­graph­i­cally atyp­i­cal, I always get this feel­ing of won­der and sadness.

    In the end, I think it’s the result of the con­flict between the urge to run and run away pit­ted against the sup­posed ratio­nal deci­sion to go back to one’s abode and rou­tine. In the end, it just fuels my desire to head out again, hit the road, and seek another adventure.

  3. I agree with Tulsa Gen­tle­man, your life really is one great big adven­ture, I’m envi­ous! I’d love to see Aus­tralia but like you said… expennnnssi­i­i­ive! Wel­come back, try not to freeze :)

  4. You got at least 40 more years to travel, so don’t fear the last time yet ;)

  5. Wel­come back home Zhu!

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