The Feeling of it Being Real
These past few weeks I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel it when I went to San Francisco for a couple of days before my flight to Hong Kong. And for some reason I didn’t feel it while in the air for the 13 hours it took me to get to Hong Kong or during the 6 hour layover that I had before my flight to Haikou.
I’m not talking about the feeling that’s the magic of traveling. That’s different than this and happens much more often. The magic of traveling is something that comes along with going to a new place, many times knowing that you’re going to eventually come back. This feeling I’m talking about, on the other hand, is something a bit more. This feeling actually surprised me.
The final flight to Haikou — this was happening
It actually didn’t even hit me after I had waited in line for 15 minutes while someone checked my passport and stamped my boarding pass. Or when a smiling and well-dressed woman working for Cathay Pacific scanned my boarding pass and handed it back with a very friendly “Thank you.”
But, as I walked toward the opening of the gate that would lead me to my final flight to Haikou it happened like some sort of subconscious reflex. It’s what I’m calling the feeling of it being real. I was moving. To China. Also, with me being one of three non-Chinese people getting on a plane taking off from a small, satellite terminal that required a shuttle to get to, I also realized that I wasn’t going to one of the usual places.
I wasn’t headed to Beijing, Shanghai, or any of the other cities that most foreigners travel to. Nope, I’m going to a city on an island off the southern coast of China that I’ve never been to or not really even known existed until just a few weeks ago. My mind had gone from calm to freaking out in just a short walk from getting my boarding pass scanned to walking through the jet bridge and stepping on the plane.
Landing in Haikou with a couple I couldn’t talk to – time to get used to it
This feeling is an interesting mix of “Oh shit, what am I doing?” with “Oh my god, I’m actually going through with this thing I’ve been talking about.” It popped up when I least expected it and I guess it’s there to let me know I’m doing something that’s not normal and that this is my last chance to back out.
I can remember this moment also happening during my first flight to Manila as well as the first time I walked off a plane onto the tarmac of a different island in the Philippines. I also felt the same thing the first time I stayed in a hostel with my man Calvin over in Singapore just a week or so after I moved to the Philippines. I even experienced it the first time I walked onto a Greyhound bus in Indianapolis to kick off a 12-hour overnight adventure into the south.
The first time I felt this I thought I might have made a huge mistake, but at this point in my life I know this feeling is telling me that I’m exactly where I need to be. As I now lay here in my new bed, in my new home, and with so many unknowns around me, my mind has now realized that this is happening. Soon Haikou will be my new normal, but getting to that point for me is one of the best parts of the adventure. Goodnight, Haikou — I’ll see you in the morning.
Hello, Haikou — it’s nice to finally meet you