Before the plane took off in Toronto I think it’s fair to say the journey began. I was on a Turkish Airways flight to Istanbul and I was lucky enough to have an empty seat between myself and a Turkish man by the name of Yusef. Bless! Yusef spoke about his travels to Canada and seeing Niagara Falls with his friend that was hosting him.
Moments into the conversation I turned around to find a different Turkish man with a peculiar moustache removing my overhead luggage from the bin. Initially puzzled as to what was going on, I realized he had removed my luggage to make room for his own. When I asked him what he was doing, I kid you not, he proceeded to tell me that his luggage took priority over mine because he was a man and I was a woman and I needed to find somewhere else to put it. Woman? Priority over mine? Please! I understand that we may have cultural differences but I was dumbfounded. Without giving it much thought, I went off on the guy. In front of his wife letting him know that his behaviour and what he had just said to me was unacceptable and he should be appalled. He turned bright red and his wife gave me a little smirk.
I’m not sure if this was the first time this guy had been told off but let me tell you that he wasn’t impressed with me. Yusef jumped in reasoning with the guy and helped to find a suitable storage solution for both of us. I couldn’t believe this took place and we hadn’t even taken off. After the exchange, something hit me. Natasha, you are not going to be in Canada anymore. You cannot run your mouth when you like just because you feel it’s your “right”. Traveling as a solo female, it’s in your best interest to keep your mouth shut purely out of your own safety.
I think it’s easy to take for granted the equality we have in Canada. Most days, it’s not even something I think about. Yes, there’s always room for improvement but as a whole, we’re pretty lucky. In that moment, I felt complete gratitude towards our country and my family. Being born into a family where I was always encouraged to stand up for myself, speak my mind, and when I had an opinion to objectively discuss it with others. Other women in the world aren’t all raised this way. It wasn’t the first time I’ve thought about this and part of the inspiration in starting Crown + Bliss is tied to just that: empowering women to be unapologetically feminine.
Thankfully I made it to Istanbul without any more confrontation…
I had a few hours to kill in the airport before my flight to Mumbai so I decided to grab dinner. I sat next to a British man named, Kevin. We started talking and he mentioned that he had been in the airport for over 24 hours because he missed his connecting flight to Cape Town. He was heading there to visit his young children. 45-minutes later I had heard Kevin’s entire life story – I think he was excited to talk to someone after being alone and stranded in the airport.
Kevin told me that his children live in South Africa with his ex-wife whom his parents still absolutely adore more than his new wife who had stayed back in London. Kevin was utterly in love with his now wife who he had met while still married to his first. He said he wasn’t comfortable being apart from her and that he was having separation anxiety. Unfortunately, his family wasn’t as accepting of wife 2.0 after he ended up in jail for a bit due to some domestic abuse allegations. Yes... All of this in a 45-minute conversation.
After bidding my farewell to my dear new bud, Kevin, I made my way to my gate to catch my flight to Mumbai. The flight was estimated to be eight hours long and then I needed to catch one final flight to Kochi – Southern India. Half way through the Istanbul to Mumbai flight, everything seemed to be O.K until we hit some pretty awful turbulence. The older Indian couple beside me were in good spirits making the experience a bit more tolerable - it may have helped that the husband was five beers deep.
Not long after this, most of the cabin was fast asleep but we were woken by a flight attendant coming onto the speaker asking if there was a doctor onboard. It turns out that an older man on the flight had stopped breathing and passed away. In that moment, between all the events that had occurred in the past 25 hours, and now being very much completely alone on the other side of the world, I started to question everything. What was I doing? Is this decision smart? Should I have just stayed in Toronto and went about the life that I was living? What type of individual actually goes through with this? What am I actually going to do now that I’m here?
A handful of hours and minor anxiety attacks later I arrived in Kochi. I was met at the airport by the husband of the family homestay I was staying with for my first night. As soon as I arrived at the home I said my hellos and thanked the family for their hospitality and politely excused myself for the night. The past 30 hours had officially gotten to my head and my body and reality smacked me right across the face.
This has happened. It’s done. You’re here now. Go to sleep. And when you wake up. You’re going to make the best of this experience. No excuses.
And that’s what I did.