Sunday, 26 January 2014

Things you should do before leaving home

Because I'm in Japan for over 3 months already I want to skip ahead a bit and actually write about my time and experiences after arriving here. But before I do, let me sum up some more things.

As mentioned before, I spent a great summer in Berlin and eventually everything I planned worked out pretty well. However, sometimes it's the little things that can keep you busy. Like buying a big suitcase for my trip. Before I was only travelling with a large backpack but this time I had to bring a lot more stuff and also my sword. I paid for an extra piece of luggage for my flight too (more about that surprise later). I got a good deal on some big suitcase at Groupon but there were so many problems with the delivery that I was almost out to buy the expensive ones in the stores, just to be safe. When it finally arrived, it felt like it was too small but it was in fact the size I ordered.

Being the "better safe than sorry" person I packed up my stuff in a test run some weeks before my flight and realized I had too much stuff and not enough space to put everything. Carrying my sword was also a big problem for it was not only too big but also not allowed to be taken inside the cabin (of course). I had to buy another bag that I could use for my sword and some clothing. So I bought a golf bag from eBay. Yeah, a bag for golf clubs. It turned out quite handy and everything I wanted to carry was fitting in perfectly.

They see me rolling, they hating.
Weight was also to be considered. I booked an extra piece of luggage with Air Berlin, having a total of two bags with 23kg each. Air Berlin and Etihad Airways were teaming up on this flight, so my route was Berlin-Frankurt-Abu Dhabi-Tokyo. Little did I know that my extra piece of luggage was only valid for the flight from Berlin to Frankfurt. But more about that later.

In case you are interested, after packing up my personal belongings from my flat, I ended up with around 15 cardboard boxes. My life in boxes. It was a strange feeling. Reducing everything to minimum is very freeing though. I was able to store them in my dad's garage and could safe some costs. I just hope all the paintings and photos I own will survive.

I usually don't give people advice on what to do or what not do, but here's a list on things I did and recommend people to do when leaving home for a while.

  • Meet your friends, meet your family, your loved ones, meet those you'd regret not being able to meet for a while. If they can't come to you, go to them.
  • Say good-bye to them. Hug. Touch. Smile. Kiss. More than once.
  • Go to your favorite places, eat your favorite food, do your favorite things. More than once.
  • Throw away stuff you never used and never needed.
  • Throw away stuff you only keep because of the bitter-sweet memories. 
  • Just throw away a lot of stuff. Freedom is guaranteed.
  • Order the stuff you want to keep. Make a list of what you have so you'll find it again or your parents when you need it.
  • Tie up loose ends. Finish unfinished stuff. For example; I got my tattoo colored and finally finished. Checking off things from a list is one of my favorite things to do (see below).
  • Don't be afraid. Don't regret. Don't hate. Whatever feelings you have inside you, you'll take them with you. Fear, anger, despair are bad travel companions.
  • Get all the documents you'd need neatly organized and put them together. I even took my birth certificate with me. Who knows, maybe someone in Japan doesn't believe I'm actually born already.
  • Plan ahead, make appointments for after your arrival, don't wait until you actually arrive, just keep moving.
  • Reserve time for actively doing nothing. There will be moments when you need that sort of buffer and it feels quite relaxing at worst. 

After I handed over my flat to the new people I stayed at my dad's house, a little outside of Berlin. I could still use my car until the very last day, so I was able to run all errands, get all stuff done that needed to be done. The day of departure arrived. I was relaxed, I slept well during the night and got everything prepared perfectly. From my past travel experience I knew that having lots of luggage, with the stress of travel, I can get easily agitated and literally break out in sweat if things go crazy.

Boy, did they go crazy...after arriving early with my dad at the airport I was checking in my luggage, straight through to Tokyo I thought. Then the guy at the counter told me "Oh sorry, but your total luggage weight is too high. The additional luggage you booked in advance is only valid from Berlin to Frankfurt." Since Etihad was the airline from Frankfurt to Tokyo, they had a different luggage fee system and different prices. Great I thought, now this is getting complicated. I went to the Air Berlin ticket counter, already pissed off like hell and talked to a lady who wasn't really the best in customer service. She told me, since the luggage fee systems were different, that I had a total overweight of 13kg which would result in a total additional fee of

!!!!!    849€   !!!!!

That was more than I could even pay straight away, more than my budget would allow me to waste for such a thing. And the lady didn't even care about my argument that the Air Berlin telephone customer service guy promised me that my additional luggage is valid for the whole way to Tokyo. No way to prove that of course, but when in doubt, the customer is king I believed. The ticket counter lady didn't believe in that and simply left me with the option to either pay up or unpack my bags. 

I was mad, desperate and already sweating like a polar bear in the desert. But I couldn't help it, I had to unpack stuff and give them to my dad to be sent to me later. In the end, I still had 35kg instead of 30kg. But the guys at check-in were a lot cooler and understanding than that bitch and they checked in my luggage with a smile and a wink.

Hahaaa, but it wasn't over yet. Because my sword bag was too large, I had to carry it to oversize luggage check-in myself. Oh, by the way, my flight was supposed to fly in 20 minutes or so. I ran of course. I made it but again, it got complicated. Because it was a sword, they wanted to me to unpack everything so they could see the blade. I neatly wrapped and secured my sword in it's bag, so it would survive the long trip. All effort would nothing. I unwrapped everything double-time and showed them that this is not a weapon but a sporting device. Worrying about my flight, I wrapped it up quickly again after the two ladies gave their OK and I rushed back to my departure gate. For the first time in my life my name was announced at the airport and I was the last one to board the flight.

Someone I managed to stay positive in all this. I thought: if this is the worst (and it felt like the worst case scenario) that would happen during my time in Japan, I will be super fine actually.

Always stay positive. Expect the unexpected.
And check your luggage...

The Arabian desert