"If only, things went as planned regularly and conveniently. Fuck that shit it never happens, Murphy’s Law makes everything so much more interesting." - Me at the end of this blog.
My last week home, was exceptional, after a fun spontaneous and memorable 3 months on the East coast of Australia, I wanna say that I was well and truely ready to escape the grips of peer pressure and social overload. I spent that week at the beach, surfing, drinking coffee catching up with friends and dedicating much needed time to my solar electric vanlife project, I made some excellent headway and that felt good. In the grips of Friday night and early on Saturday morning after I arrived home from treetops tavern, an essential experience, beers with the workmates on a Friday arvo, where we won a meat tray and proceeded to cook it at Burleigh beach, I firmly closed my laptop and zipped it shut in my electronics bag with no intention of touching it again until I arrived in Canada. This begun the final day of adventures in my home, I woke early in the morning to go surfing, after four or so hours of sleep I was greeted by an incredible sunrise and a near flat ocean, not so great for the surfing plans. Not to worry though, when Richard Wills is around, who is one of my closest friends hunky boyfriend, and by that extension one of my friends. He supplied me with a loaner 7’6” pink mini mal to surf (see photo above) the 2ft rollers coming through the Burleigh Heads beach break. I had a riveting start to my day, so riveting I/we were late to a pre arranged Breakky with Grace at 8am (which is more like 8.30am Joel time), we ran dripping wet from the ocean to a smiling and exceptionally amused Grace sipping her flat white, looking at me with that look in her eyes, like “you two, aren’t allowed to be friends anymore”, sorry Grace! Won’t happen again we promise (I hope you blamed it all on me Rich). Breakfast was lovely and too short, the goodbyes were difficult, holding back my sadness, I had to keep the day rolling. I needed to go and visit an old workmate who lives off grid on Mount Tomewin on the border of NSW and QLD, inaccessible by a 2wd vehicle I had to borrow some wheels off my sisters boyfriend, his recently purchased huskvarna 450cc trail bike, I hadn’t ridden for a while so it took a bit to get comfortable on two wheels again. I made it 200 meters from the house stalling the machine at least 4 times, but after that, that was it, I swear I didn’t stall it again! I had it again, the sweeping feeling of elation came flooding back, riding motorcycles through the mountains in our incredible pocket of the world! Upon arrival at the picturesque mountain home of my mate, I was greeted by a familiar little Jack Russell Terrier called Max. I hadn’t visited the shanti shack for years. Last time I was up there It was a wild party night, that ended with myself going home in the back of a police truck. But that’s a story for another time. Another quick coffee and chat with Caleb I was off again! Back down the mountain with exceptional speed and grace! I must buy a motorcycle again some day. Time for lunch with the family, in two cars we drive from Tweed Heads to the dog and parrot in Robina close to the Rugby League stadium where mine and my brothers teams would duke it out. Lunch was good, spending the last hours with my grandparents, brother and sisters plus their partners is always fun. After lunch we got on the courtesy bus to watch the showdown between the Knights and Titans, it was a close match, however the Newcastle brutes where no match for the bleach blond surfers of the Gold Coast, one twin was happy the other not so much, #sorrynotsorry Jacob. After the football off to a vegan restaurant for a beer and some food with everyone (except my twin Jacob, I think he was upset my team beat his). We left the restaurant and made the drive up to Brisbane where I would depart for Vancouver the next day. I had one last person to see and catch up with before I was out, on our way we picked up Jonathan Chua, went to a pub for a few beers. We spoke about all the essential things, love, life , adventures and projects. Extremely tired after my fun filled day and already 11 pm, Jonathan decided it was time to go back to his place to continue the festivities with music, and video games. Oh and some herbal relaxants. Great idea, I thought, no worries deciding that the fact that I’ve got to get up at 6.30 to make my flight tomorrow was a minor nuance in tonight’s plans. In the early hours of Sunday morning I bid Jonathan a due, got an Uber to my sisters place and put myself to sleep, my head hit the pillow and I seem-ably immediately woke to my alarm, which I snoozed (who invented that button?!). Running late I jumped in the shower packed my bags brushed my hair and my teeth, woke my sister asking her to run me to the airport. This is where the final push of excitement began, where everything leading to this moment must only have occurred so that a series of unfortunate but essential events could try stop you from reaching your destination. Substantially but not impossibly late, I arrived at the check-in counter. I said “Hey there my names Joel Hayes I am flying to Vancouver today”, he said “tap tap tap, sir you don’t seem to be in our systems today, are you sure?” I said “I’m pretty sure, it’s the 20th of May yah?” he said “Yes it is, do you have a middle name?” I said “Oh my middle name! Yes it’s Gregory” he said “sir we have a problem you are booked in as Joel GregoryHayes not Joel Gregory Hayes” “🧐🤨” he continued “you are gonna have to change it in the booking system” “😂🤨” he continued to continue “I don’t have the authority to change your name from here” I said “ok I’ll see what I can do”. I get on the phone with my friend Cynthia who booked it all for me, she regrets to inform me that it will take over 24hrs to make the name change, I say no worries thanks anyways I’m gonna talk my way out of it over here. I said “She can’t do it, it takes too long over 48hrs can you talk your shift manager about it, please” he said “😤 ok” he said to his manager “hey manager I have this situation, is this ok?” manager said “Yes, that’s fine” I said “🙃” he said “ok, so that’s ok we can check you in” I said “perfect thank you”. Time moves closer to the departure of the flight half an hour until last check-in. But I’ve made it, I move to the check in counter and the lady goes through the motions, passport, name etc, she says “sir you don’t have a visa or travel authority on your passport” I said “yep I do it’s right here” I continued “I got a new passport this visa was issued to the old one but is fine to use, as the Canadian government has already told me” she said “no sir you can’t get on the flight without an ETA visa” I said “but I have a working visa” She said firmly “you need to apply for a new ETA visa ASAP to make this flight” I said “ok where do I get one?” she said “Online or flight centre”. Ok so I run to flight centre to get one and a gentleman helps me out he is working quickly to get it sorted. Before I know it he hits the apply button takes $50 off of my credit card and we are waiting for a response..... it comes back inconclusive. Needs review.... he says they might let me travel if it say this... we went back to the airline counter and my buddy from earlier was there again, with that look in his eyes! Not this fucking guy again! My newly appointed travel agent, weird I haven’t had to use a travel agency in ages, explains my situation to my old friend and then bails literally parting with these words “I’ve done all that I can for you”. Nice, I thought! I’m definitely fucked here. The guy behind the counter informs me that they can only wait 10 mins for my approval before closing the flight. He checks immediately on my ETA status and unsurprisingly it is still pending approval. He says he will call the ETA visa office to see if there is something they can do for me. Which I thought was absolutely the nicest thing he had said to me all day, this guy is coming around! My consistency in smiling and throwing positive vibes is finally paying off! He calls on hold for five minutes, gets answered the [angry] ETA guy informs us that my mate from flight center who bailed with confidence actually fucked up my name on my application and didn’t match my passport with my application.... and that’s why it's pending approval, dickhead! I paid him $50 to apply for that for me! I’m sure I could have done it myself, and properly. Anyways the ETA guy on the phone says to the Air Canada guy that it’s is fixed and should be approved in 10 mins, which was a problem cause we only had five until the flight was closed. But! He says we will wait anyway! Just in case! At this point in time we are in it together he’s invested he wants me on the flight I want me on the flight and the shift supervisor is standing off to the side with her cursor waiting to hit the close flight button, and walkie talkie her colleagues to shut it down. She asks “is he traveling today” my new buddy says “yes, we are gonna get him on the plane” I’m in the background just smiling and thinking this is intense, will I make it or will I not? I'm like a less interesting James Bond, I love it! It’s exciting! He swipes my passport repeatedly for the next 3 minutes and each time it comes up with a no go. Finally after what seemed like way longer than 5 minutes of swiping my passport, arrived the time where he says to me "I am gonna try one more time, if it doesn’t work we have to close the flight" I said "OK". The three of us standing there realize it’s a pipe dream and I’m not making this flight. He swipes, hits a fey keys on the keyboard. Looks up at me and says “sorry mate it’s not happening for you” to which I say “no worries thanks for your help anyways, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow”. Meanwhile instantaneously, the shift manager is tapping away at her keyboard and intermittently walkie talking, busy closing the flight. I get my bags I start walking away, I feel like I need a cigarette or something to keep the adrenaline pumping, oh well it's not the worst thing. I get 15 meters away and I hear Mr Hayes! I turn around like a child being pranked, It’s my buddy from behind the counter, stupid me, I thought, must have forgotten something. My mate says "Mr Hayes it’s approved you can fly!" I run back! I say "Are you serious!" he says "Yes!" I say "Your joking right!" he says "No, I never joke! Let’s do this!" Shift manager taps away at the keys! Hits the walkie talkie tells the people at the gate "we’ve got one more to add to the list! Don’t print them yet!" My mate says "come with me! I’ll take you to the gate!" We get through security faster than I’ve ever been through before at BNE and we turn up at the boarding gate halfway through boarding. I want to hug my new found friend, but a professional handshake does the job! He says safe travels and we bid each other a due! I get on the flight smiling! Then fly to Vancouver Canada, 14hrs. End of story. Cut it close this time!