And We Have Take Off…

Hello all, this has been a busy week for Flirting With Travel.  Both contributors flew to Las Vegas for a family emergency. I have made it back to Japan, but tomorrow am jetting off for a long weekend in Taiwan. This is a very exciting experience for me, because I love traveling with new people and seeing how it goes. Some moments you love, other moments, you plot their death, but it’s the joys of travel.  My newest road-mate is a fellow traveler, and now a fellow flirt. Born in Australia and now living in Japan, he is giving a unique perspective of his first journey to the good old US of A. Enjoy!


I have wanted to go to America my whole life. I remember saying to my first boyfriend that as soon as I could, I was moving to LA. Funnily enough, it took me until the age of 32, when most of my friends in Tokyo had moved back to the US to force my hand and get me over there.

 So, I booked my ticket to San Francisco. Not to, as you might think, see the Golden Gate bridge, or even to see the Harvey Milk statue, and visit the gay mecca. Instead, I went because my writing partner Paul Leeming, had recently moved there, and we were going to do some… wait for it….


 Bet you never saw that one coming. However my first trip to the states wash’t going to be all about work. I wanted to see the sights too. My plans were simple. See the Golden Gate bridge, go to Yosemite, and go to this In and Out burger joint I’d heard so much about. The one thing that I was afraid of was guns.

 My trip to America started before I even left home. Over at Narita Airport I discovered that a slight mistake had been made with my ESTA (permission to enter the country). A “5” was written as an “S”. The only way to get one of these delightful things is to have a credit card. So, while I had waited in line for over an hour to find out this information, I had to get a new ESTA helter skelter, using a credit card that I didn’t have. Thankfully, Paul being the night owl that he is, was up, and thanks to the power of the internet I was on my way. Racing through customs like I was on one of those reality TV game shows. Out of breath, I arrived on the plane, to be greeted by the oldest cabin crew I have ever seen in my life. I guess that these old dears are still the same babes from the “coffee, tea, or me?” Pan Am era, but I was really afraid that one of them was going to break a hip while the were pushing the dinner tray. That said, these broads were the nicest, warmest cabin crew I’ve ever had. This made up for the fact that my UNITED flight was the bumpiest flight I’ve ever been on. Gosh, I spent the entire time think that the plane was about to fall apart.

 I comforted myself by watching as many foreign films as I could. I watched “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (excellent film – I laughed out loud and cried on the plane), and new episodes of “Absolutely Fabulous”, as well as the Japanese film “Thermae Romae” featuring the incredibly handsome Abe Hiroshi near nude for the entire film. Unfortunately, while the film had it’s moments, it wasn’t that great.

 I found myself talking to Americans like they were all armed and dangerous. I never got too close, and never talked to one for longer than I had to. At least at first.

 That said, my way of dealing with dangerous animals, perhaps from my years of teaching English in Japan, means that I am extra courteous and nice as pie… while backing away slowly. It netted be some pretty nice perks, the best of which was the First Class blanket. I never even knew those things existed. I has just politely asked for an extra blanket (as the air conditioning was set to freezer), and apparently I was so nice (as apposed to loud and obnoxiously complaining), that she gave me this blanket (that she shouldn’t have). So soft and warm, that for a moment I could feel like a one-percenter!

 We touched done onto Seattle International Airport. While technically we were early, all the other planes were late, so we had to fly around until there was a spare spot to “park” the plane. This meant that we were so late, that I once again found myself bolting for my connecting flight, only to find once I’d got there that my connecting flight had been delayed for “maybe two hours, maybe longer”. So, I did what any

self-respecting tourist would do… I had a Starbucks coffee in Seattle and sat down with my laptop and started writing.

 America… the trash and the treasure. Dogs and Cats, ne’er the twain shall meet.

 (End of part one) 

Hamish Downie is a film producer based in Tokyo, to hear more from him check out at 


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