I’m getting better at this travel thing. Everything was packed well, organized, with no problem. It’s a system I’ve been honing since I did that Arirang travel show in 2011. Back then I had to travel once or twice a week, so I developed a checklist Google Doc that hasn’t failed me yet. The U.S. trip in 2012 upgraded the checklist for international travel. The checklist is great not only for the obvious but it helps me ease the pre-travel nerves. Something always goes wrong or is forgotten. This time nothing was forgotten. Even all the electronics have the proper adapters and are fully charged.
Some new additions for this time. One, pre-check-in. I did it this time. It saves so much time. British Airways lets you check in online and choose your seat 24 hours in advance. I did so on my phone. The next day I just skipped the line and went to the Baggage Drop-off queue. Boom! Done. I then changed my cash into British Pounds–it’s best to change money at Incheon. The only slight hiccup was Immigration, but even that was nothing. It was the first time using my renewed passport, so the officer wondered why there weren’t any stamps. And since I’m on an F-5 visa, I don’t have any visa in my passport. It’s on my alien ID card.
Once through, it’s shopping time. Ah, my wife! She likes the concept of international travel, but when a specific destination is involved, she doesn’t know what she wants. She sees international travel as a chance to go to Lotte Duty Free. I picked up exactly what she wanted from there. I also got a few cartons of cigarettes for my host in London by request. I had lots of time to kill after that.
One thing I need to also add is to take care of a SIM card. That really can’t be done until arrival at the destination. But I need to remember to investigate options in the future. I was lucky in that my hosts had an extra one for me.
The 11-hour flight was quite smooth. I was almost disappointed I didn’t have enough time to watch all the movies I wanted.
This flight put me into the Magellan Club. I have officially traveled across each line of longitude in the world.
The plane landed forty minutes ahead of schedule. Pilot had that droll sense of British humor. “We shall be passing by Windsor Castle, so we can wave HI to the queen.”
The Immigration line at Heathrow took an hour. The officer asked a lot of detailed questions about who I was and what I do, but it was pleasant. Since my suitcase’s wheel broke, I used EJ’s large shiny salmon-colored one. It was a good idea. It was much larger, and it was easily spotable on the baggage carousel.
Dan and his girlfriend Apple met me right outside. He dropped me off at the hotel, a Holiday Inn Express near Colliers Wood Station, where I unpacked and showered. His friend Rupert picked me up an hour later, and we headed to this pitch, where Dan was playing soccer. There was a pub as well, so Rupert and I decided to unwind with a couple of pints before heading down to the field.
The last time I was in the UK was July 1993. I remember it being colder than what I’m used to for summer. This time, I found that it wasn’t a fluke. It was pretty cold yesterday. I am not sure of the usefulness of my Hawaiian shirts and sunscreen at this point.
I’m happy I’m here, though. It’s hard to be in England and not feel it. Its culture and landscape are all enveloping. The houses, the green, the charming shops. It’s all humdrum to Rupert and Dan, but I find a cozy comfort in all this, having grown up on a steady diet of British TV.
Per my request, we went to a pub for dinner. It’s Sunday, so I had to order the beef roast dinner, complete with mash, gravy, crispy veg. Everything was perfect. I also tried a Scotch egg coated in black pudding. Divine! I said that evening that I could eat this type of food all the time, but I know that after a month I’d be craving kimchi.
Jetlag finally kicked me between the eyes right after that protein and starch heavy dinner.