I’m at YVR airport with two hours to go before my 2AM flight to Taipei and then Denpasar, eating trail mix and chocolate, standing at a high table in a fast-food court, which makes a great standing desk. Which is good since I’ll be sitting for most of the next 22 hours, so I’d better make the most of being vertical while I can.
In my second week back in Vancouver, I started to have some severe doubts about my competency to do this sort of travel. First of all, I messed up my Indian visa application. Even though I’ve gone through the process before, I somehow overlooked the part where after submitting your application online you go into the agency office in person and give them the payment and your passport, and the 5 to 7 days for processing starts AFTER that point. (Matthew even asked, “Are you sure you don’t have to go there in person?” and I was all, “Naah, it didn’t say anything about that.”) So after twiddling my thumbs for a week, I called up to check on the progress and found out it hadn’t started yet. This was Tuesday and my flight was Sunday night. I felt a mild panic and Matthew rushed me downtown to the Indian visa agency’s office, where they were super friendly and accommodating and assured me I’d have my passport back, complete with visa, by the end of Friday. So that was a bit touch and go.
In the meantime, I decided to look into switching this first leg of the trip from Bali to Thailand, because Mount Agung has shown no signs of calming down (or, for that matter, erupting – it’s just gurgling away with hundreds of tremors every day). Not surprisingly, I can’t change my flight destination. I’d also be out the cancellation fee, plus the cost of buying a fresh ticket to Thailand, so that was discouraging.
Then I found out that when I booked my Airbnb in Ubud for 28 days, Airbnb had automatically switched my cancellation policy from “moderate” (total refund up to 5 days before arrival) to “long-term” (no refund for the first month for any changes or cancellation made within 30 days of arrival). Meaning that I’d be on the hook for a full month’s rent if I decided it was best to get outta Dodge for whatever reason. Again, something that I simply must have overlooked when I booked – but Airbnb doesn’t mention your cancellation policy on your Trips page unless you actually click the link to change or cancel your booking. I’d wanted to check and make sure what it was over a month ago, but when I couldn’t find it in my itinerary or emailed receipt, I’d gone back to the host’s page to confirm it was “moderate”. This turned out not to be the case.
I wanted to just change to a one-week reservation, to allow for a little more flexibility. I wrote the host with my concerns and he wrote back quickly and enthusiastically – and completely ignored my question.
So by Thursday night I’d hit a low. I hadn’t gotten my visa and if I wanted to change my reservations to get out of volcano territory, I’d have to pay a prohibitive amount of money. I started questioning whether I was cut out for this.
Friday, it all lifted. I got support from Airbnb and they wrote to the host directly, and he immediately changed my dates and refunded me the 3 weeks. And my passport arrived – but only barely. The courier told me it had fallen behind the shelf in the truck, and he’d only noticed it when he was about to pack it in for the day, and realized he had one more delivery to make!
So here I am now, successfully checked in and through security, somewhat humbled by my lack of attention to detail and my good luck. I’m about to leave Vancouver for the longest stretch of time since I moved here fifteen years ago, and go flailing about in some unfamiliar and uncomfortable and likely very awe-inspiring worlds. I’m headed into a place that has an active volcano on the edge of an eruption, and I’m seeking out grounded, science-based information about it rather than the sensationalist scaremongering I’m finding in the news. I’m scared and excited, and headed for so much jetlag I’ll barely know my own name…