It’s 1 a.m. in Miami and I’m still up. I leave for Bangkok in 5 hours. I’m packing, sending out my last text messages and arranging to see friends before I leave. One thing about Miami, is that the city never sleeps and like it, that night I couldn’t sleep either. I was up packing, filling my leopard print carry-on with clothes for about two weeks. Mostly, maxi skirts, breathable tops, loose pants, and printed shorts. Our professor, Harry, told us that the lighter we pack the better. I translated that into only bring a bag full of clothes and a backpack filled with necessities such as, chargers, my laptop, toiletries, and a neck pillow for the long plane rides.
This would be my second time out of the country, the first being to Cuba when I was nine to visit family. I was 22 now. The week leading up to today, I was mostly working making sure that I had enough to support myself while abroad and hoping to make enough to also purchase a camera. I also made time for friends. I went out pretty much every night that week to meet friends for dinner, spend time with family, do last minute shopping for the trip, and most of all, kick my summer off right after a long, hectic semester filled with documentary deadlines and papers. I needed a vacation.
I was to be gone for 35 days. It still didn’t hit me. This was the longest I’d be away from home. Everyone kept asking: “Oh my god, are you excited?” I’d look at them, nod and shyly say yes. But in reality, I was scared, nervous, anxious and deep down, I guess I was a little excited. I had been planning the trip along with my best friend Andrea for about a year. Knowing that I’d be away for so long with her by my side, put me and my mother at ease. I guess what scared me most is how much home would change while I was gone.
My little sister Sina, who is my pride and joy, would grow up in that month, learn new things, go on field trips, need help with homework and I wouldn’t be there to help, to support her, and to talk about her day like we did everyday. My friends and family would create memories that I wouldn’t be a part of while I was gone. I hoped they wouldn’t forget me while I was abroad because I knew I’d be thinking of them while I was gone.
After I finished packing, I laid in bed, answering text messages and calls from friends who wanted to wish me a safe flight. It was now 2 a.m. I laid there restless. I was to leave for the airport at around 4 a.m. My first flight was at 6 a.m. I would fly from Miami to Chicago. Chicago to Tokyo and Tokyo to Bangkok. In total, that added up to about 20 hours on a plane and about 7 hours of layover. I thought to myself: “what am I going to do on the plane that long?” The only thing that crossed my mind was sleeping, after a week of sleepless nights in Miami.
The house was quiet. My mother and sister slept in the room next to mine. But I couldn’t sleep. Because if I slept, 6 a.m. would come sooner and I would be leaving Miami and everything else, sooner. I know I should have been excited but I was more nostalgic than anything else and I hadn’t even left yet. I decide to sleep for an hour or two to get my mind off things and prepare for what was to be one of the best experiences of my life as they said.