Part 1: Travelling to Orlando (Sam's Travels)
Wed 1 Mar 2017
Sam is a leader and mentor of the youth community across Australia and is involved with his local community through Haemophilia Foundation New South Wales. Recently, Sam was the recipient of a Go For It Grant, which helped him to attend the WFH Congress in Orlando. Here Sam tells his story of travelling to Orlando and attending the Congress
Part 1: Travelling to Orlando
It was a cold, cold morning on the 20th of July. Waking up early in the morning is already tough enough, let alone waking up only to be faced with the prospect of soon spending 14 hours on a plane. It was, all things considered, a quick and easy drive into Sydney Airport, probably because I left at 5am and my plane wasn’t till 9am. Even after some mishaps regarding walking to the wrong check in gate, and not knowing where the baggage drop was, it was still too early to get on the plane! But I was thankfully saved by the airport, with a terrible sandwich and some even worse coffee. It was time for me to go through security. After getting my (super cliché) departure sign photo, and dealing with my mother breaking down and crying, I passed through security easily. Spending time in the duty free was fun, but I could feel myself spending a lot of money very quickly. So I brought some lollies for the plane and sat at my gate preparing myself and all of my books and videogames for the impending plane ride.
It was the longest 14 hours that I have ever, ever had to sit through in my entire life. After waiting an eternity to actually get on the plane, which was a big, fancy, A380, I sat down in my extra-legroom seat and waited with bated breath to see if anyone would sit next to me. No one did, and I was left alone by myself in my whole row the whole flight. After watching some movies, playing a lot of video games, trying and failing to get some sleep I had finally arrived in Los Angeles LAX airport. This was my first time in America, and my first major trip overseas, so when I stepped off the plane and followed the crowd I was stressing out. After going down an escalator with a giant American flag hanging on the wall above it, it all started to feel real. I was actually in another country, halfway around the world. This moment of wonder only lasted for a few minutes because before I knew it was waiting in line to get through customs and I was worried that I hadn’t done my Visa properly and I was going to be denied entry. This didn’t end up happening, and they let me into the United States of America.
After getting through security, picking up my checked luggage and being told where to go, I left the arrivals and headed to the departures. The first thing I noticed stepping out of the airport was the heat. I was still dressed in the winter gear I wore back in Sydney. Jeans, a jacket and a beanie. I started sweating almost immediately. I found the right part of the building, and waited twenty minutes to get through the Transport Security Administration (TSA). I passed through security fine after taking off my shoes and walking through a full-body scanner. I was now in LAX one of the most famous airports in the world (to me at least). I quickly stripped myself of all of my heavy winter clothes, and headed towards the gate. While waiting for my plane from LAX to Orlando, I got to spend my first bit of American money, and I got to try some American snacks. I had a packet of onion ring thingies, they were okay. This was followed with over-hearing a conversation about the Orlando conference by two people standing near me, and to kill some time, I walked over and asked if they were attending and what they do in the community. This took 40 minutes before they let us on the plane. This plane was nothing like the last one. It was tiny, cramped, I had no room in front of me and big people besides me squishing me into the window. And after sleeping only 30 minutes on the international flight, I was fighting myself in order not to just pass out, but the back pain due to the bad seat kept me up anyway. After another 5 hours in a plane I had finally landed in Orlando!
A very sore and tired Sam landed in Orlando that evening. But the moment I got off that last plane, the travelling, the bad back and the tiredness all fell away when I was faced with my situation. Here I was in an entirely different country, all by myself. I get to do whatever I want, and I get to make my own decisions. A fire was re-ignited in me, and I was ready to get to my hotel and to explore. Speeding though security and baggage claim, I hopped on my airport transfer and headed towards my home for the next 10 days. After an interesting conversation with my driver, and trying to wrap my head around driving on the wrong side of the road – before long, I was at my hotel.
I checked in and met one of my first friends of the trip, the concierge, J. I got my keys and headed up to my room to drop my stuff off. After exploring my hotel room and discovering that there was no fridge to store my product in, I got changed headed downstairs and went off to find some dinner. In Florida at that time of year, it is nearly 35-40 degrees Celsius every day that drops down to about 25-30 once it gets dark which doesn’t happen till nearly 8:40pm and even then the humidity stays a constant 90% no matter what time of day it is. Walking out of the hotel the heat and the humidity hit you like a hammer to the face, and you start sweating almost immediately. I was never prepared enough for the weather. I walked around and found out where the closest convenience store was and I found a nice restaurant to eat at. I ate my burger in a booth by myself for 15 minutes, and left a 30% tip for my lovely waitress (It was my first time!) and slowly shambled my way back to the hotel and passed out by 10pm.
Read about Sam’s tips for travelling in part 2.