Getting out of Montreal proved relatively easy despite what was going on at the time.
I booked a flight home using my British Airways miles on American Airlines flights. The route was Montreal-New York-Cleveland. It was clear that most flights to/from New York were going to be canceled. I found a small text link on American’s website saying that if your flight was passing through a list of airports the following day they’d allow you to make changes at no cost. I was able to change my flight to go via Chicago instead, avoiding the winter weather completely.
I went to the airport very early as I had to take public transport there and things can always go wrong in some way. Plus, you go through US immigration in the Montreal airport and I expected to have issues there considering I was in Iraq, Somalia, Lebanon, and Israel-Palestine recently.
I checked in on the machine and for some reason I had priority status on my boarding pass. I don’t know why considering it was an awards ticket and I never fly American. It meant I could check my bag for free, which was nice. I dropped my bag off and went through security, then on to US Immigration. I had to go to a computer screen and fill out the information. They had the wrong flight in the system since I had changed my flights, but otherwise you just get a simple print out and take it to the immigration officer. He asked why I was in Canada and I told him I gave a speech at Ivey Business School and saw friends. No big deal. They don’t stamp anymore, but I specifically asked him to stamp my passport.
I ended up getting through immigration exactly three hours before my flight so I had some time to kill. I had time to kill when starting this journey and recorded this video at the Cleveland airport.
This time it was less dramatic. I didn’t feel sad, but I didn’t feel terribly happy either. I had accepted that I was going home, though I preferred my life on the road. In some ways I had failed by not finding a way to make my journey financially sustainable. But traveling for 2.5 years and experiencing so much could never be considered failure.
I caught my flight to Chicago, waited for my connection, and then caught my flight to Cleveland.
I asked my parents to meet me in the airport in Cleveland as I had something special planned. I came down the stairs to the baggage claim area and my parents were waiting near a different set of stairs they thought I’d come down. My dad saw me first and told my mom as I approached. I’ll never forget how she lit up. She looked at me so happily and said “Oh, you just look so great!” I suppose she’d be permitted to think I’d look terrible considering all the diarrhea I’ve had since I last saw her.
The day I arrived home was a special day – February 13th. 40 years earlier my dad arrived in the same airport as an immigrant from Pakistan. His mission was to start a new life in the U.S. while financially supporting his eight younger brothers and sisters and parents back home.
I arrived 40 years later to the day in the same airport. Though I have far less responsibility than my dad had, my mission is the same. I need to start a new life, get financially sustainable, and use my life to help other people. Though symbolic, I hope his success rubs off on me somehow through this date we have in common.
And with that, by returning to Cleveland, The Happy Nomad Tour came to an end. More to come about this, but these two pictures summarize everything I need to say about that. The end.. and thank you all for joining me and supporting me.