Closing the Backpacking with a Toddler Saga…in Beijing

IMG_4384 We arrive at 1 am. I glance around for Jacob in customs… he’s not there. There’s free wifi, but you need a mobile to connect to it. Not knowing what else to do, I go to baggage claim to pick up the stroller. Ryder is exhausted, of course-it is almost 2 am. I shuttle back and forth between the baggage claim and the extra sized baggage area at the other end of the airport. Slowly trudging along with poor Ryder and his little monkey backpack, a computer bag, a diaper bag, a monster sized backpack, and my purse. No sign. The oversized baggage lady tells me I am in the right place, so I park myself there. It looks promising-there are at least five discarded, misplaced strollers lying next to me. Ryder empties out all of his toys.

Miraculously I am somehow starting to get messages on the iPad. “Flight delayed,” says the message from Jacob, “but I’ll be on soon. Probably won’t arrive until 3 or 4.” So he’s made the flight, and he still hasn’t arrived to Beijing. Surely that means he’s purchased a ticket? I message him back, Didn’t they ask you for your onward ticket? I forward him relevant info and the ticket. No response. I’ve waited at the oversized baggage for an hour. It’s 3 am. “It’s really slow,” the baggage lady promises, “but it’s coming.” And then her message abruptly changes: “I think you should go back to your gate.” We drag ourselves back. The place is empty. We go to the airport baggage center and file a missing baggage report. The man there is surprisingly friendly. He seems to take pity on an exhausted mom with a three year old and delivers about six bottles of water to us. We munch on Lifesavers from the helpdesk. He marches us back over to the oversized baggage with the leftover strollers and tells me to pick one-to keep. There’s only some cheap umbrella ones, not like my sturdy Jeep, but it’s better than nothing. He then marches us all the way to the taxi station and handpicks a driver for me. There’s supposed to be a free shuttle from our hotel but no one’s heard of it.

As if in a dream, I remember: Jacob. I tell the taxi driver I can’t come with him, walk back in the airport, and find a sign that announces flight from Manila: ARRIVED. So he’s here, I think. But what should I do? As if on key, the messages start pouring in, alarmingly. Kalli I can’t get in, they’re screaming at me, they’re going to deport me, I’m just going to stay relaxed no matter what.

I start to run. Every person I ask doesn’t speak English. One guy directs me to go upstairs to the second floor. I speed walk around with my loads of bags and good sport toddler. There’s no one up here. It’s dark. I’m finally in luck. One security lady doesn’t speak English, but the man standing next to her when I ask her does. “My husband’s in customs and he doesn’t have his papers! I do!” She understands, leads me back downstairs, lots more walking, up two flights of stairs without an elevator, she helps me to carry everything, hands Ryder a cake. She’s a savior and I’m too distracted to really thank her. She uses her pass to go though this and that locked door, and we’re finally in the passport stamp area again. “Hiller?!” shouts a Chinese man in uniform, and I confirm, and then I see Jacob, who’s visibly relieved to see us. The man is so suspiciously jolly to me, I feel like he’s trying to make up for his treatment of Jacob like an undercover spy earlier. Ryder crosses over to see his Dad on the other side of the line. I show him Jacob’s ticket. All’s well that ends well.

We continue from China after griffing (internationally surprising) some old friends, with a 14 hour stopover in the outlandishly expensive Moscow airport (though getting to eat Russian borsch IN RUSSIA was a rush), and end in Latvia on Tuesday. Then Friday we take a bus from the UNESCO World Heritage site capital of Latvia to the UNESCO World Heritage site capital of Estonia, Tallinn.

That’s 7 countries in 7 days for Ryder and I, and 11 countries in one month. He’s really quite an accommodating little toddler, and will you believe me if I tell you, he actually loves it. It was an amazing experience, I feel so lucky to get to experience that with my son, we had so much fun and he would say “Hooray” every time I told him it was time to go to a new country. He’s still asking to go to the airport even though I’ve told him we’re staying in Estonia for a while. But he was extra clingy to his Dadu for a while. I didn’t lose my mind, my child, a flight, or even my phone during the trip. I’d call it a success.


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Layover in Moscow!



Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 371 awesome articles for us.

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