The Epic Journey Back Home

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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


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. 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.

  2. 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 🙂

  3. @Tulsa Gentleman – Thank you! I hope you will enjoy my boring life in Canada as well 😆

    @Linguist-in-Waiting – It’s exactly that! Sometimes, your mind rushes: “what would happen if I’d just disappear in a bus far far away… and never look back?”. But I doubt it would be that enjoyable. One can only run away for so long…

    @Breigh – I’m freezing already! Seriously, it’s good we went through Sydney and L.A to gradually adapt back.

    @Cynthia – 🙂 Thank you, I certainly hope so!

    @Em – Thank you! 🙂

  4. Hi Zhu, warm welcome back to snowy Canada. Funny you should mention about plane weeping – I don’t weep but I typically get emotional when I am arriving home – when I arrive in Mumbai or Toronto. It just reminds me of memories and how happy the sight of home make me.

  5. I have the same feelings when a trip ends… the feeling I might never come back… the feeling that I need to go back to the same old life I left for a few weeks.

    Now its better…I quit the rat race some time ago… and I can really do whatever I want. Going home doesn’t have the same meaning anymore…I know I can get out anytime I want:-)

  6. Wow – what a shock it must be to arrive back home. I would think just having different food and adjusting back to the dreary weather would be a little odd.. I still want to know your secret to taking such long extended vacations!

  7. I know all about the airport tears – did that every summer saying goodbye to my Dad in France. Now I’m 28 and still get teary in airports, no matter who I am saying goodbye to. Glad to have you back though. Now you just have to work toward the next trip!!

  8. @PhotoVigor – Thank you! I loved Singapore and I do want to come back some time.

    @Priyank – It’s not so much when I arrive for me (although I’m always happy to get somewhere after a long trip). It’s mostly when leaving.

    @khengsiong – Easy: get a passport, hit the road, think about the consequences later 😉

    @Sidney – I’m still in the rat race so I don’t get as much freedom. But I take what I can.

    @expatraveler – Adapting to the food isn’t too hard, we eat a lot of Chinese food at home. The jet-lag is tough though, and so is the weather. Both combined make it hard!

    @Melanie – Tell me about it… need to work, need money, need rest! And need a coffee with you 😉

  9. I have full admiration and salute you & Feng for being so easy-going and embraced different types of culture easily. Most importantly to have a great time and gosh….you covered so many countries.

    As much as I look forward to a trip alone, I am just as eager to get back home…I know it sounds ironical but then..nothing beats home ya ;D

    Rest well till your next adventure Zhu 🙂

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