365 Dates of Travel

I set myself a challenge. Have I actually been travelling on every single date of the year. Interesting thought and trip down memory lane. Appropriately, I’m starting with the day my travelling life began. For this trip, I had multiple sources with which to build a detailed picture of what happened: a diary; trip scrapbook; photo album; original guide books and snippets of memories. I wish I could say the same for every trip. This first trip is still my all-time favourite and would love to re-live it again. I hope you enjoy all my travel tales but particularly the snippets of this trip as they appear throughout my 365 dates of travel.

Saturday 7th November 1992

This was one of the longest days of my life. It started at midnight, the departure time for the Albury to Sydney night train. Being the only passenger boarding, the conductor bustled me to first class for a free upgrade. The conductor said, “Because of the old witch.” Who the old witch was, I will never know. But thanks for the upgrade. Even with extra comfort, I managed only three hours of sleep from multiple catnaps during the nine-hour journey.

I’d planned to shower at Central Station before meeting friends. Alas, the shower facilities were only available on weekdays, and it was Saturday. I dwelled on this information for two hours whilst sitting on my bags, waiting for time to pass.

After catching up and bidding goodbye to my Sydney friends, I headed to the airport. Showing the changes since 1992, my diary states I arrived at 2:20 pm; I got my boarding pass; bought plug adapters and a $29.95 roll of film from Duty Free; passed through customs; and had twenty minutes before boarding my 3:45 pm flight. Did you pick up I arrived at the airport only one hour and twenty-five minutes prior to departure time? No mention of security. I’d have a heart attack arriving that close now, and there’d be no chance of shopping or lingering.

My amazing scrap book for this trip contains my train ticket to Sydney, $59 return; the Duty Free receipt; my plane ticket, which states cost $775 for a one-way ticket from Sydney to Los Angeles; my Air New Zealand boarding pass noting seat 49A is in the non-smoking section; and my menu for the flight which was run by Qantas.

Watching Sydney disappear from my window seat evoked strange feelings. When saying goodbye at Albury Station, I said, “See you in ten years.” Would it really be that long before I returned to Australia? This was the beginning of my travel life. My first trip with a one-way ticket and plans to work around the world. I was so young, eighteen, and so naive. I should not have survived. But I did. I did not know what the future held then, but I ended up living abroad for seven years, arriving home, coincidently, on Saturday 6th November, 1999.

I had achieved no sleep throughout the flight. So not sure the roast chicken in cheese crust, sandwiches, coconut gateau and apricot fruche, as per Qantas menu card, would have staved off hunger. I didn’t watch any movies. No seatback screens in 1992. Everyone watched the same movie from the drop-down screens. Seat A was not a suitable viewing location unless the screen was a row or two in front. Not sure if I’d already seen the movie or I could not see the screen, but no sleep and no movies made a long flight even longer.

The 7th of November had lasted for thirty hours by my arrival at Los Angeles Airport (LAX) at 10:20 am local time. The day was beginning again thanks to crossing the International Date Line. When I’m not sleep deprived, I love arriving before departing. But not ideal when your day, the date, started at midnight. I did not wake up at midnight, so I would have been awake around fourteen hours before the seventh began.

I proceeded through immigration, which was slow and nerve- wracking. My guide book on working around the world said to be prepared. They suggested having a minimum of $500 cash or traveller’s cheques per month of stay, and not to lie as would be asked to count it out in front of the Immigration Officer; to have a credit card; have the phone numbers of friends visiting, which may be called, and you’d have to wait if unreachable; and be prepared for luggage to be searched and diaries read looking for evidence you’re coming for work, not as a tourist. I was granted a six-month visa and allowed to enter the country, with none of the above occurring. Phew.

I wish I could tell you how much money I had. I haven’t noted a figure anywhere, but my finances were not abundant even for a budget traveller. And I did not have a credit card. I applied before leaving and I am forever grateful they declined my application, as I am certain major debt accumulation would have ensued.

I collected my baggage and headed towards the accommodation board. I used the free phone to call a hostel to check availability. Then paid US$10 for a shuttle bus alighting at the Venice Beach Hostel. This hostel had a free shuttle bus from the airport, but nobody mentioned it on the phone. I concluded I somehow did not end up at the hostel I had spoken to. It cost $12 a night to share a room with three guys, and a Swedish husband and wife travelling with their eighteen-month-old daughter.

I’d packed for winter in the Northern Hemisphere, but it was more like summer in Los Angeles. So I bought a pair of shorts and two T- shirts when walking on the beach with the boys. $40 gone from my minuscule budget. Yes, I have the receipt in my scrapbook.

I noted everything else was cheap, including McDonald’s. A Cheeseburger was 69 cents, medium fries 99 cents. The McDonald’s menu surprised me as contained extra items, being four varieties of salads and burritos.

Los Angeles didn’t impress me this first time round. It was hot; pollution haze filled the air; it was weird adding tax onto prices; the public transport and transfer system was confusing; the constant need for exact change while no one gave you change became annoying; crossing the street was dangerous with cars driving on the opposite side of the road; and easy getting lost whilst getting directions was almost impossible. On the positive side, I noted in my diary that the video store was huge, and the Rocky Road was nicer than back home!

Over time, Los Angeles has become one of my favourite places. It grew on me the more I visited. I’m never disappointed by having a layover in Los Angeles.

I spent the evening listening to my roommates’ travel tales. Finally, an end to the date that was the 7th November 1999. I’m uncertain how many hours this first day entailed, but we can say over twenty-four, more than thirty, and potentially greater than forty. What a first day of my travels.

This is where it all started and now starts once more. Next week I will post my travel tales from 8th through 14th November. Hope you enjoyed this introduction.

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