Nearly 26 hours after leaving my house in Portland, I arrived in Tel Aviv. Here I am, 12 hours after landing, finally going to bed. (I couldn't stay awake long enough to finish this post, so now it's 8 hours after that :-p) Sure, it sounds like a looooong day (and it was) but it was one of the best travel days I've had. The morning run to PDX went smoothly. Even though it was an early flight, my friend offered to take me which was really nice. Not just because it would save me from paying for a cab, but because it's always nice to get dropped off and picked up at an airport by a familiar face. Bonus: a friend who doesn't live too far was flying to LA 30m before my flight so we got to extend the offer of an airport drop and get twice the gratitude. Unfortunately for him, though it turned out to be a good thing since he was going to be waiting a few hours at the airport for his friends to land, he missed his flight as we waited for breakfast burritos. With a smile and pleasant chatter, he was confirmed for the next flight which means he got to "see me off", just like the old days when you could walk someone to the gate. I know it seems trivial, but it meant a lot to me to have someone there. Lucky me, the fun didn't stop there. My sister, Heena, splits time between India and the US and she had just flown in the day before---so she too was able to see me off! Sure, she couldn't come all the way to the gate, but she did bring me cupcakes and food! Call me senti, but it felt symbolic to me to have not one, but two people see me off, especially a family member. Having moved away from home over 10 years ago, that rarely happens unless I'm leaving from Toronto. There's just something about giving someone a big squeeze before walking through security/onto a plane that's nice.
The flights themselves were uneventful. It was my first time flying Turkish Airlines and I was pleasantly surprised. Each seat came with slippers and a mini care kit and personal TVs. Apparently there might have been wifi but I fell asleep right as we took off and slept for 8 hours of the 10 hour flight to Istanbul. I slept through the first meal but the second one was good! I'd recommend the airline based on my experience, especially since I prefer Star Alliance airlines. I did have a small moment of panic when I thought I would miss my connection to Tel Aviv (landed at 12, my flight to TA was supposed to board at 11:40, close the door at 12:25 and take off at 12:40), but I remembered that I didn't have a "timeline" and eventually I would get to TA, so why stress? Even blissed out, I wasn't about to not try--let's be real, even a blissed out Sejal still has Sejal tendencies--so I found my way squeezing by other passengers, asking other travelers if they would mind letting me by, and speed walk/running towards the gate, just to get there at 12:23 and see that boarding hadn't started yet. Needless to say, I made my flight.
Three hours later I found myself in the customs line in Tel Aviv, tired but oddly not exhausted and very much eager to see some familiar faces. I was expecting to get questioned by the customs official because my reason for coming to Israel was a bit strange and because my two friends had been taken to a small room and questioned by them--instead, after a 5m chat, I was given my entrance paper and was on my way.
The movie Love Actually talks about airports and how they're full of emotions as people fly in and fly out and that's really stuck with me. If you ever just look around at the departures or arrivals area in an airport, everyone has a story behind why they are there. My story for this trip was different than any other trip I had taken. You could say that I had just finished taking the flights that would change my life. As I waited for my friends, I looked around, wondering about what everyone else's story was and was sending them positive vibes when the faces I had been looking for appeared. Things just got real.