Australia Bound (or How We Got to this Point)
Thursday, May 19
Mom's dream trip was always Australia. It was always talked about as a "One Day" type of trip. Sometimes, the conversation would be more forceful than others. Like when Oprah went to Australia. Mom watched the episodes and talked a bit more seriously. That was in 2010. And Australia never happened.
Elias and I have gone to the Travel and Adventure Show for the last few years. We usually meet up with Adele and Sooj and wander the halls, waiting for inspiration to strike. That's when the idea of Australia came into focus.
Elias and I drove home from the convention in 2015, talking about what we'd seen. We spent several minutes talking with a travel agent that specializes in Australia, picking up several pamphlets for light reading. During that drive, we came to a decision. It was time to either make Australia happen or leave it be.
Let's be honest. Every year the trip was ignored, it became harder and harder to travel. A trip to Australia would be hard. And both Mom and Dad were getting older (as we all do).
When we returned to the parent's house, Elias and I had a plan. We sat Mom down and told her we were putting a date on the calendar. May 2016, we were going to Australia. It was January 2015. There was plenty of time.
Mom was instantly on board. Dad, a bit less so. But we turned him around pretty quickly. I started working with the travel agent we met at the Travel and Adventure Show and things were going great.
That was until August. Dad went into the hospital and had an aortic valve replacement. So that shut down the process for a while. Rightfully so.
Around the holidays, Dad announced he was ready. The trip was back on. And instead of having a year to work on the particulars, we had five months. We made it happen. As for the particulars...well, you're just going to have to keep reading.
Fast forward to yesterday. That's when things started to go seriously crazy.
Our trip is 17 days long. We lose a day, then gain another during the flights to Sydney. I can't entirely wrap my head around how that works. Even as its happening. Just getting to this point was hard. Work became unexpectedly busy, so I was stressed about that. There's a serious guilt about leaving your team for two weeks.
The day before we left for Australia, I was a bit twirly. I missed a presentation I should have attended, the emails weren't slowing down, and the work kept piling up. And during this time I got an email on my personal account from American Airlines.
"We would like to extend courtesy Gold Status through September 30th. Gold will continue through February 2018 if you fly 7,000 miles between now and September 30th." Yeah...I think that will work.
I immediately forwarded the email to Adele. We squealed a bit and were jazzed about getting Gold again. She got a similar email, but hers said she needed to fly 7,000 miles to get Gold. No complimentary period. Sorry, Adele!!
Today, I was home. Not quite packing, though I should have been doing more. My cell rings with an Unknown number. Being the non-trusting person I am, I answered the phone with a sarcastic "Hello??"
On the other line was a woman with an Australian accent. She said our flight from Dallas to Sydney was going to be delayed. This delay would affect our connection to Cairns. She asked if I was ok with our flight changing to Chicago/Los Angeles/Sydney. Before I could even answer, she said our seats for the LAX/SYD leg would be upgraded to Business Class. For the four of us.
Yeah. That works.
I sent a Facebook message to Adele first. She wasn't going on the trip, but she would appreciate the gravity of what went down. Business Class was a big hairy deal. We had access to the Qantas Business Lounge in LAX. Our seats would be on the second level of the plane. The seats completely reclined. We got amenity kits designed by Kate and Jack Spade. And we all got Qantas jammies. This was the research Adele and I got after 30 minutes of Googling. I hadn't even finished packing. Adele had stopped working. This was more important than anything,
The only issue was our flight to LAX was leaving an hour earlier than our flight to Dallas did. But because the parents were so freaked out about the TSA lines at O'hare, we set up the car service earlier than we really needed to. Which ultimately worked in our favor.
Once we got to O'hare, things were oddly easy. Stupidly so. The agent at the ticketing counter was beyond helpful. There was a problem with Elias's visa into Australia, so while I was on the phone with our travel agent, the ticketing agent did other stuff. The visa worked itself out and we were on our way. Four tickets to Los Angeles all with the TSA PreCheck stamps on them.
By this point, I was ready to buy a lottery ticket. There was no reason Mom and Dad should have had PreCheck. But I wasn't going to question anything at this point. We made our way through the line and grabbed a quick bite before hanging out at our gate. There was, of course a local news crew there to cover the story about the TSA delays. I mean, it is news.
The flight to Los Angeles was fine enough. It was full. We were all mostly separated on the plane. It was longer than our flight to Dallas would have been. I took one for the team and sat in a middle seat. The comfort level was at zero. But we knew what was coming up next, so we soldiered on. And the story of what was next is a story for another day.