This is a recollection of my first solo backpacking trip.
The rain of the previous night had made for a clear Saturday morning and I was at the airport in Padang, Indonesia where I would board my flight back to Kuala Lumpur.
My baggage cleared and passport stamped, the airport security waved me through.
I sat alone, quietly waiting in the departure lounge for a while before my flight number was called and I made my way to the gate.
I handed my passport to the gate attendant and they thumbed it open. Their gaze scanned the page, then flicked up to meet mine. They looked back down at my passport and held one hand up to pause.
" Boarding not allowed. "
" Airport tax not paid. "
Airport tax? What airport tax?
" 150,000 rupiah. "
You've got to be kidding me. I have no money!
They unflinchingly stared back.
" No pay, no leave. "
I'm in big trouble.
I forced myself to process the situation calmly and logically. I only had about 15 minutes to act before the plane took off.
I quickly listed out my options
- Push my way past the gate attendant and force my way on the plane.
- Figure out a way to get the money and pay the tax.
I decided to go with my second option. I turned back and randomly started approaching other passengers waiting for their flights in the departure lounge.
" Excuse me, do you have any change to spare? "
People reacted swiftly. Purses opened, wallets pulled out, handing me whatever rupiahs they had, wishing me well and a safe flight back.
In less than 5 minutes, I had more than enough. I ran back to the checkout counter, paid the damn tax, got my airport stub, and ran back to the departing gate to smoothly board my flight this time round.
Never in my life would I have ever thought I would have to humble myself so deeply, but the situation opened my eyes to give me a fresh perspective.
When I relate this experience to others, they respond "That was so daring of you! I definitely wouldn't have known what to do or even bring myself to receive money from others!"
Yes you would. You definitely would have reacted exactly the same way if you had been in the same situation. Would you have rather swallowed your pride, or missed your flight?
The first lesson I learnt is - you never know what you are capable of, until you have no other choice.
The second lesson I learnt was that there is so much good in the world.
People are more than willing to be kind and do what they can to help when you are in need, but you have make the initiative and take the first step towards them.