"You must travel a lot." The Turkish Airline check-in attendant at LAX was ensuring that we had the necessary visas for our flight to Shiraz, Iran, and was looking for our Iranian visa. But it was taking her longer than expected, as she had to thumb through various other visas such as Cambodia, Bolivia, and Madagascar, to name a few. Just for this trip alone, we had to get visas in advance for not only Iran, but also Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkey. Thankfully no visas were necessary for Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, the other two planned countries.

Frankly, we weren't sure we'd ever make it to this moment, chatting with the check-in attendant. Back in January of 2017, we were debating where to go, and comparing and contrasting planned itineraries to Central Asia and also to Central Europe (Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava, Salzburg, Venice, Florence, Rome). The cost was comparable, the time of year was comparable, but the sights were not. They were just too different from one another. So we sat down in front of a computer and just pulled up on Google Images the various places for each trip that showed up in the draft itinerary - Strahov Monastery, Charles River Bridge, all the way through to Appian Way for the Europe trip, and Shiraz's Pink mosque all the way through to the walled city of Khiva and the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan for Asia. This took a couple hours, and a couple cocktails, and when it was done we both decided that the Asia trip was more appealing to us.

Then we checked BBC News. While we were viewing Google Images, several countries, including Iran, had announced reciprocal travel bans to the one that 45 had announced. So, as of that moment, our Asia trip was scrubbed just minutes after we decided we wanted to go. For the Europe trip, there was no rush to book anything, as hotels were plentiful and we could book everything ourselves. So we just waited to see how things progressed. Eventually, sanity prevailed - at least from the Iranian side - and the travel ban was lifted. We decided to give it a shot and hope for the best (oh, and also book good travel insurance).

As the months went by, almost on a weekly basis something would happen (usually a tweet from 45) that would make us wary that we'd get the chance to take the trip. We remained cautiously optimistic, and a few months ago we sent our passports away to get the necessary visas. Only when we got them back in early September did we really think the trip might happen. But we have both been caught up so much with selling our Vista home, and buying/remodeling a place near downtown San Diego - not to mention work - that this trip was far in the recesses of our daily thoughts. We didn't begin packing until just a few days ago, and that was only because Justin's planned work trip last weekend to Orlando got cancelled because of Hurricane Irma. In short, while this trip was planned long ago, for all intents and purposes it snuck up on us, and we haven't really been looking forward to it.

Until today. Once everything was packed, and we were checking traffic to LAX, all of a sudden it was just like all of our other trips - lots of excitement, and lots of dread of driving up the 405 on a Friday afternoon/evening. Today it wasn't so bad. Our flight was at 6:25pm, and we arrived at the parking garage around 3:30. The drive over to the terminal was a bit different, as the bus was allowed only on the lower (arrival) level, so when we got to the terminal, we had to find the elevator up to the departure level. We were surprised to see that the check-in line was so long so early before the flight (probably about 50 people), but we were able to use the Gold status line (all those flights to/from Hilo add up), and didn't have much of a wait. The nice lady, after commenting on our travel habit, got our bags checked, our tickets from LAX-IST and IST-SYZ printed out, and we were on our way.

Since we were flying Star Alliance this trip, we were able to use the lounge, which appeared to be far nicer than we remember. It could be that the last time we used it (flying to Tokyo last year), that was in a different terminal, so it wasn't even the same lounge. Either way, the lounge today had a make-your-own cocktail bar, and several bottles of wine, so Justin got a rum and diet and Crystal got some Pinot Noir. We toasted, sipped, and finally - after months of (first world problem) worry - exhaled. Similar to when we flew to Papeete last year, we were in the gates on the far north side of the terminal, where they bus you way out west to a separate boarding gate. We were lucky enough to squeeze onto the first bus just before the doors shut, meaning we were also the first to get off the bus when it got to the remote gate. Since nearly everyone else on the first bus was in business class, when we got on the plane and turned right, we were basically the only ones in the back area of the plane for about 5 minutes, until the next buses started arriving.


MIR, the company we booked through, made a great first impression. As we continued to walk back to 51J and 51K, we wondered if we'd be the very last row. We were not; instead we were third from the back. But, there was a special perk to being third from the back - while the first 50 rows have three seats on each of the sides, the last 3 rows have only two. So not only did we not have a third person sitting beside us, we had the added benefit of having a third seat in front of us, so we could just put all of the crap we didn't need under that seat, and in that seat-back. Justin took his customary sleeping pill right after boarding, and Crystal needed no such help. We were awake for dinner and drinks, but otherwise the rest of our day was spent sleeping.

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