Dripping sweat and backpack heavy upon my shoulders, I paced manically looking for any directions in English that would calm my eager nerves. My excitement of stepping off of the plane in Thailand slowly escalated into weak exhaustion as I moved — lost — about the airport. There was no romanticism in the sights around me: long, white walls stretched on for miles and overpriced restaurants were filled with tired conversation.
The travel companion whom was to greet me as a guide to safety in Bangkok was nowhere in sight. Not left nor right nor up nor down, because I checked there. Twice, three times. I was but a jet-lagged backpacker unaware of my present surroundings. It seemed of the hundreds of International passengers and custom attendants no one could lead me to the direction at the end of my treasure map.
The question, “arrival gate?” was greeted with blank stares. “Free wifi?” returned with empty eyes. When people pointed me in one direction, the next pointed me straight back.
“Is this what backpacking is all about?” the question pulsed like a tick of anxiety in my mind. It wasn’t a question of fear or vulnerability that the guidebooks prepare your subconscious for, but it was a desperate confusion which is something quite notably on par.
Charing past sleeping families waiting for their flights and monks grazing through special security, I climbed the escalator stairs determined to reach the highest floor. I knew there wasn’t much waiting for me except an escape from crowds, a calm in the midst of the storm.
The top floor was quiet and sterile, but even there I couldn’t breathe a sigh of relief. I was still lost: a foreigner far removed from the comforts of my own country.
But there was one man, casual in plaid with a sturdy pair of boots, who typed away unnerved at a computer desk. He was faceless, a result of my purely selfish concerns at present. I charged past him, too, straight towards the waiting attendant. My backpack shook the desk as it dropped unforgivingly from my body to the ground.
“I need to check my email. Quickly, please! Just one minute!” My voice in pleas and my eyes sad.
She rattled back about baht, a monopoly currency out of my vocabulary and of which I had none.
I was stranded without money to open the email I could read perfectly in my head, except for the line with our meeting point which was fuzzy and unattainable from my subconscious. I had been so foolish to not write down the coordinates; naivety led me to believe my memory could carry me around the world. My excitement about Thailand was reduced to a barely-audible sliver of hope.
But the faceless man was an English-speaker, and an eavesdropper. Rising from the computer desk he handed a colorful display of paper decorated with a photo of the Thai king and 500s pressed around the corners. He offered me the money; he was leaving the country for home in Melbourne.
“Find your friend,” he shared with a genuine smile and slip of a business card.
Quickly enough as he entered my story he was gone. I glanced down at the information of the nameless knight and tucked it away in my wallet.
The kind stranger’s money unlocked invaluable words on a computer screen, the words that read where to meet to start my backpacking adventure through Southeast Asia.
I starred at my belongings that were strewn across the floor in a frenzy and gathered momentum to strap myself into a bag full of meaningless possessions. I trudged down and down four escalator stairs.
Tucked between foreign taxi drivers and custom passenger arrivals was a pair of recognizable eyes: big, green eyes against dark, tanned skin. There was my travel companion, casual and calm, licking a popsicle with a grin on his face and without a care in the world.
“Hey there!” He smiled. “Where’ve you been? Welcome to Bangkok! This place is crazy!”
(Also published @Medium https://medium.com/p/fd18f23dc82a)