Day 25: Ulaanbaatar to Home (August 18)

As I sit in my living room nearly a year from returning from the trip it feels a bit strange to write the final blog post of this trip. I kept telling myself I'd write this sooner, but the truth is I struggled to find the motivation. When I woke up on the final day of this trip I wasn’t sure what the day was going to look like. After the family conflict, the on the 16th things didn’t really improve and everyone was still in a pretty sour mood.  The very early morning didn’t help anything.  It was around 3am in the morning when we got loaded in the van and brought to the airport in Ulaanbaatar.  My one brother, of course, was heading off on his own adventure from Ulaanbaatar so he kept sleeping in. I don’t think I thought about it at the time, but this was likely the last time I’d ever been in Mongolia. While I enjoyed the time there it wasn’t my favourite place in the world and with there being so many other places I want to see there just isn’t enough time to go back.

Once at the airport in Ulaanbaatar, we said our goodbye to our guide and driver and waited for our flight. I don’t remember much about the wait or flight at this point, but I know I was eager to get back to Beijing and figure out if it was going to be possible to get a flight home today.  Once we made it to the airport Kim and I set off to figure things out about an early flight and Jamie did the same.

The night before Kim, Jamie, and I had all made the decision that if we were able we were going to get flights home. We let Dave know about our plans and asked if he wanted to do the same. He was reluctant to spend the extra $200 to change our flight which was understandable since the idea of doing so was pretty painful. We also still had the hotel in Beijing for two nights which were going to be wasted by us leaving earlier.  At this point, Dave went off on his own and Jamie went back to the hotel in Beijing to get some luggage he had left there before we went to Mongolia. After being bounced back and forth between a few different parts of the airport Kim and I eventually after success changing out flights. The one downside though was that it was too late for me to change my meals to vegan options so I’d be stuck without any meals on the 12 and half hour flight. Knowing I’d be hungry Kim and I went to get a bit of food and try to spend the last little bit of our Chinese money. I can’t remember what we ate, but I’m pretty sure it was some unexciting and overpriced fries.

A couple of hours we boarded our packed flight home. All I could think about while on the plane ride was how excited I was to surprise Shantel by getting home a few days earlier and how much I was excited to get rest and relax in the comfort on my home for a few days before returning to work. Unfortunately, this flight Kim and I didn’t have the luxury of an empty seat between us and we were sitting in the middle and window seat. It wasn’t so bad, but was definitely much less comfortable than the flight there. I can’t recall which movies I watched, but I did watch several of them to help pass the time more quickly. I think perhaps the highlight of the flight though was my amazing flight attendant Jo. She went completely above and behind to ensure my flight went well. When I told her I wasn’t able to get my vegan meal since we changed our flight she even went as far as getting food from first class for me so that I could have a few meals to eat on the flight. I can’t remember how many times I thanked her for it and I’m not really sure what I would have done otherwise because I definitely didn’t bring enough food onto the flight. I told myself I was going to write the airline and give praise, but regrettably, I never got around to doing so.

After the long flight Kim and collected our luggage and made our way back to her car. From here we had a very tired drive back to Hamilton and then London for her.

When I got home Shantel was out doing something which worked out perfectly as it gave me some time to get cleaned up and rested before she got home. To say she was surprised and excited couldn’t do justice to how she felt to see me. The feeling of excitement was definitely mutual.

Overall reflecting on the trip it really wasn’t what I expected it to be and while that’s fine in some ways it was disappointing in others. I was really excited to get to spend so much time with my siblings and it was both frustrating and sad for it to end with some drama. I fear it will taint some of the memories of the trip. Nonetheless, it was insightful and an experience I won’t ever forget. Traveling with my siblings isn’t something I’d rule out again, but there are certainly some things I’d do differently next time.

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