Safe Travels, Salads, and Sloppy Seconds

For my travels to Australia, I crafted myself a Zupan’s Market salad of mixed greens, steamed beets, roasted Brussels sprouts, rotisserie chicken, crumbled goat cheese, toasted sunflower seeds, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic (the dressing was in a separate bag of course to prevent the greens from premature wilting). I packed an additional ziplock bag to fill with ice once I passed through security to preserve the salad until dinner time.  I reveal my epic meal not to brag, but as a blatant illustration as to how much I’ve stepped up my travel game.

Last year, I arrived at the airport with my belongings shoved into three colossal bags-two of which were overweight, a loaded to the brim backache-inducing backpack, and a few straggling items such as my foam roller, puffy jacket, and water bottle. My mom and I had to splay out my belongings in the middle of the airport and redistribute some of my heftier items into the lighter bag.  I then had to sit on top of my bag as my mom pried the zippers closed. From there, my trip spiraled into all sorts of Amanda Bynes crazy. I realized 10 minutes before my second flight’s departure time that I was in the entirely wrong terminal. Somehow by the the most microscopic hair on my chiny chin chin and grace of the heaven-sent Qantas flight attendant I made my flight (Full story here: Not So timely Travel Day).

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As much as I fancy wild adventures, I was keen on maintaining a normal blood pressure this time around. So I strategized and downsized days before.  On the day of my departure, I moseyed into PDX with two regulation-size bags, a comfortably fitting backpack, and my 40 ounces Hydroflask water bottle masterfully carabingered to my backpack strap.

With a swagger in my step, I checked in over 2 hours before my flight. My parents and I then meandered over to a pub to chill and catch some of the Duck football game.

As we were walking, I felt a punch-like sensation in my gut followed by a vivid visual of my salad left behind on the kitchen counter. My salad!

Was I getting too cocky and comfortable? Before I could answer this question, I thought just maybe my brain was lying and perhaps I did slip the salad into my bag before I left. I zipped open my backpack and sure enough there my salad quietly rested.  Silly Kendall, don’t doubt your travel game. 

I regained my confident stride, and we made our way to the pub. None of the channels were playing the Duck game because they don’t receive the proper channel. I wasn’t too concerned but my parents are massive fans, and I felt bad they were missing it. I called my brother up, who has a knack for fixing technical glitches and he instructed me how to whip it up on my computer. Nobody, not my brain nor the pub, was messing with my travel day.

After shedding the obligatory few tears hugging my parents goodbye, I headed to my gate for my first leg to Los Angeles. When I boarded the plane, I realized I forgot to fill my ziplock bag with ice for my salad. A bit of a buzz kill, as I’m not particularly fond of warm salad or flirting with salmonella. But not a big deal, I was still cool as a cucumber.  I strolled through the tunnel, into the plane and a gust of glacial air blasted my face. I’m an inherently cold person, but the chilly shock was potent enough to cause commotion amongst my fellow passengers.

The woman sitting two rows to the right of me asked if the flight attendant could turn up the heat. The flight attendant acknowledged that it was “very very very freezing” in here, and assured her that they’d fix it once we took off.

We departed and the temperature remained unchanged. I wondered whether the airlines were smuggling some sort of perishable drugs or polar bears in the back of the plane, but then I remembered we were headed to LA, where the temperature sat in the high 90s.  In recent years, I’ve found a strong correlation between American facilities air conditioning and the external weather. In particular, the hotter the temperature outside, the more places feel the need to blast the air conditioning to ungodly low degrees. It’s as if the logic behind this philosophy is that the two entirely, separate located temperatures will balance each other out. I’ve yet to find substantial proof to this theory.

I observed the humans around me. One woman couldn’t stop shaking her legs. Another young girl was wearing a blanket and some arm warmers. I couldn’t help but crack a smile at the people all bundled up on our airplane ice age.  I disliked the coldness as well, but I found comfort knowing that this bitter draft was blanketing my salad at a premium temperature for my supper.  We may all contract hypothermia, but don’t worry everyone my salad is ok!

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I tried to shut my eyes to fall asleep, but my hands went numb and wouldn’t stop tingling. My attempt to nap turned into my mind wandering about the fascinating fact that I was headed back to Australia for my second season with the Western Sydney Wanderers.

Often we do things a second time because we enjoy them and feel secure with the familiarity.  We are creatures of habit attracted to things that make us feel sunny inside.  Once we find something we like, we attempt to follow the same steps to recreate that desired sensation. If I find a killer-vibed coffee shop, I’m no doubt returning for another iced Americano splashed with almond milk.

This is definitely a component of the Why-I’m-Returning-To-Australia equation. I loved frolicking in the the warm blue waters, conversing with the carefree people, sipping on flat whites, and the overall soccer experience.

But another reason we repeat an action is for it to serve as a barometer of improvement. One day we run a mile as fast we can. A few weeks later, we retest and compare times.  These results inevitably elicit an inquiry of our personal growth.  For me, this is the main reason for my return. I want to compare the past Australia me with the Australia 2.0 me.

Last trip, I almost missed my flight, I lost my all-time favorite sweatshirt,  I spent a week in the hospital (Full story here) , and consequently didn’t get to perform on the field the way I wanted. Of course, I experienced unreal situations playing at the pristine Suncorp stadium, camping with friends on an isolated beach,  and descending caves filled with sparkling crystal.  But as is the trend in my life, I learned more from the setbacks.

Over the year, I’ve grown to embrace and appreciate uncomfortable situations. I am eager to utilize the insights I’ve gained and do Australia better than last time.

I want to appreciate all of the wonders of my past experience, but not confuse this with complacency and what some call “sloppy seconds”.  I want to challenge myself and return an all-around better player and human.

Before I had a chance to take my motivational rant to Martin Luther King level, the flight attendant’s voice shook me from my daydream.

I attempted to push my belongings under the seat below me for landing. My frozen fingers proved it to be a substantially more difficult task than necessary, but I managed.

Surprisingly, we all exited the plane hypothermia-free. The instant I got off the plane, I quadruple checked with the airport assistant to make sure I was headed to the correct gate. I navigated my way through the terminals without missing a turn.

Two hours to spare until my next flight. Take that past Australia Kendall. I made my way to the food court to enjoy my much anticipated dinner. I took out the components of my meal, and poured the dressing onto my perfectly chilled salad. Each bite sent Marvin Gaye vibrations throughout my entire body. As if the meal couldn’t get any better, I pulled out the dessert I packed; a Prasad (one of my favorite Portland cafes) oat-nut muffin. A final farewell to Portland and it’s fine cuisine.

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This day was going smoother than I’d ever envisioned. As I popped up enthusiastically to throw my trash away, the tip of my shoe caught the floor, rocketing me forward. Mid-stumble,  I was 98% confident that in .42 seconds I’d be face planted onto the cement floor. But instead, I channeled my forward momentum into a jog and slam-dunked my container into the trash can.

 Australia 2.0. Let’s do this.