7 Flights & a Camel {how I got to Maui from Jordan}

If there was a prize given by Hawaii to the person who went through the greatest lengths to get to their state {not counting the Polynesians who actually rowed there}, I believe I’d be the hands-down winner.

Leah Jerash Jordan

Hawaii is arguably one of the most remote civilized places in the world. It’s about half way between the mainland of the USA and Asia, but it certainly doesn’t warrant seven flights to get there. Despite my gluttony for airline miles, my path was not premeditated. Let me explain.

In March I received an invitation by the Jordan Tourism Board of North America to tour the country from April 25-May 5/6. I was beyond ecstatic; Jordan was a place that I’d coveted, but never thought I’d actually get to. I gladly accepted. Since I’d be flying Royal Jordanian, I had three choices of departure cities:  Montreal, Detroit, or New York. If I flew out of Montreal or Detroit I would get an extra day in Jordan. That was a no-brainer in my mind. I chose Detroit.

Jordan Landscape

Fast-forward one week and I received an email from the Maui Tourism Board inviting me to their island. The dates? May 6-12. There was no way in hell that I was going to turn down a trip to Maui, a place that I’d longed to visit for years, just because my route to get there would be less than ideal. Had I chosen New York as my departure city for Jordan, I would have gotten to fly home to Houston, repack my bags for Maui, and even sleep in my own bed. That wasn’t the case, thus began my pilgrimage to Maui.

Desert Sunrise

So, exactly what did I do to get to Maui?

  • Houston to Detroit: It’s no secret that Bush Intercontinental is my favorite place on earth. I begin the majority of my adventures there and it welcomes me home. Let me go on the record by saying that I’ve become a little spoiled in flying United. I don’t pay to check bags. I have access to their lounge. I am among the first to board. I get free upgrades to Premium Economy. For the most part I feel pretty special when flying United, thus this leg was a breeze.
  • Detroit to Montreal: The layover in Detroit was a lot longer than planned…about two hours longer. Since I was flying Royal Jordanian, which is a One World carrier and not Star Alliance like United, I had zero access to a lounge. Yeah, I know. First world problems. In the terminal I sat waiting for my plane to arrive. Meanwhile, I passed the time by counting wheelchairs and strollers in my vicinity. There were a lot. In fact more than I have ever seen outside of a rest home and a mall on any given Tuesday morning. With chaos around me, I found a spot on the floor, slipped on my Bose noise-canceling headphones, and plugged in my iPhone. Deep in thought, a stroller being pushed by a four-year old rammed me in the back. This was a precursor to the 14-hour flight to Amman, although the actual flight to Montreal was very pleasant.

Jordan Bagpipe

  • Montreal to Amman: The stop in Montreal filled the plane to capacity. I’m pretty sure that the ratio of children to adults was 4:1. No joke. That was nothing that an Ambien and my trusty Bose Q15 headphones didn’t fix. I was out like a light and woke up in Jordan. After a quick money exchange from dollars to dinars, I was reminded of international banking lesson #1: Don’t exchange money at the airport. The only excuse I could come up with was that I was still in an Ambien cloud.
  • Private Bus: I cruised up and down the Jordanian coast in style on a luxurious bus. Everything was perfect until a five-year old with an arm like Nolan Ryan hurled a rock from the side of the road and busted out one of the windows. That’s no joke. Luckily there was another bus filled with Mexican journalists following us and were able to fall in with them.
  • By Foot: I took a nine-mile, five-hour hike through the desert mountains. Yes, that really happened.

Leah Desert Hike

  • 4X4 Pick-up Truck: Riding in the back of a pick-up is something I hadn’t done in years. Exploring the expansive Wadi Rum desert with the wind blowing through my hair was awesome. Of course, I was cleaning sand out of places that I didn’t know sand could go.

  • Camel: Anyone that tells you that riding a camel is fun is crazy or out to kill you. I didn’t just ride any camel; I rode the Hercules of camels. For over an hour I was totally uncomfortable due to its lumbering walking motion. I felt like I needed a neck brace. The jarring of my back from the trotting was awful. I won’t even get into the words that came out of my mouth when my camel went rogue and started sprinting through Wadi Rum. Never again.

Camel Wadi Rum

  • Yacht: Cruising around the Red Sea on a private yacht was one of the cushiest and most enjoyable parts of my journey to Maui. Even jumping off the top deck given my fear of heights was fun.

Leah Red Sea

  • Amman to Montreal:  To say that my departure from Jordan was unpleasant would be an understatement. The only thing I can guess is that Royal Jordanian flagged me. While getting my boarding pass, I was informed that a copy of my passport was required. When asked why, I was told that it was US policy. Yeah, right. I was stopped at security, frisked, and asked to turn on my computer. Before being allowed to sit at my departure gate everyone was required to go through extra screening. The bottle of water I just purchased was thrown away, as was my hand sanitizer and tiny nail clippers. Really? And just to add insult to injury, I was frisked one more time. I suppose I’m lucky traveling with an American passport given the fact that others need services like visum usa-ESTA to help them get into the USA. Despite the shenanigans at the airport, my flight was fine.

Camels Jordan

  • Montreal to Detroit:  For some reason Canada makes passengers deplane even though the flight is continuing on to the USA. That means that I had to take all my junk off, sit in a holding tank, and then board again. Although, it wasn’t that easy for me. My name was called over the speaker and I had to go through an extra screening. Yes, the antics from Jordan followed me to Canada. I suffered through it with a little bit of attitude and got back on the plane for the hour flight to Detroit.

Desert Road

  • Detroit to LA: Thank goodness for Global Entry. I collected my luggage and zipped through customs only to be told that I had to board a bus to get to the Delta terminal. No big deal. Again missing United, I forked over $25 to check my bag and had to remove some items from my over 50 pound suitcase. The flight to LA is a long one, especially after the number of miles I’d already flown. The plane was packed and somehow I managed to get the aisle seat next to one of the largest couples I’ve ever seen. The armrest could not be lowered and I literately had 2/3 of my seat. I was leaning into the aisle where the beverage cart and people making their way to the bathroom would smack me. The only positive I took was that the woman seated next to me kept me warm on the otherwise cold flight. Lemons. Lemonade.
  • LA to Maui: Finally, there was light at the end of the tunnel. I had five hours of flying left before I would reach my tropical paradise. Again, the plane was packed and blissful newlyweds surrounded me. Seriously, there were six couples that were married two days before. They all wanted to talk about their weddings and what they were going to do on the island. I wanted to sleep. On went the Bose Q15s and down went a glass of wine and a Benadryl. About 30 minutes before landing I woke up. It was dark. I was groggy and grumpy.

Petra Jordan

After twelve days, seven flights totaling nearly 10,500 miles, countless hours on a bus that was attacked by a rock-wielding toddler, a nine-mile hike through a desolate desert, a trip through Wadi Rum in a 4X4 that was akin to the Baja 1000, riding a run-a-way camel, cruising in a yacht, and being groped more times than I care to remember by airport security, I finally landed in Maui.

Was it worth it?

Leah Desert Hike Jordan

Ab-so-freakin-lutely.

Maui Beach

I’ll return to return to Maui, albeit on United with perhaps only two flights. And when I arrive, I’ll expect a sash, crown, and a golden pineapple in recognition of my lengthy journey. After all, a parade with hula girls, ukulele players, and a float stocked with lava flows would be a bit over-the-top, don’t you think?

Leah Walker

Leah's a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. She documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. Leah freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, The Daily Basics, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's thrilled to call Paris home after being awarded the coveted three-year Compétences & Talents visa from France, though her talents don't extend to speaking French. Yet.

37 Comments

  1. I love flying United for all of those reasons as well! And my trip to Israel through security was definitely no picnic, but being in Israel was amazing. The things we do for travel!

  2. What an epic journey!!!!! I’m glad it was worth it in the end.

    I hope you complained to Delta about not having your seat entirely to your self and not being able to lower the armrest. I thought US airlines had a policy that “customers of size” had to purchase two seat? Seriously, I’d be complaining about that one! Seats are small enough as it is without having to lose part of yours to another passenger.

    1. I didn’t complain, although I asked for a change of seats. All they had open were middle seats and I didn’t want to make anyone as uncomfortable as I was. There’s nothing worse than thinking you have a middle seat open only to have someone plop down next to you. I suffered in silence.

  3. That is one crazy journey. It is amazing that you made all your flights. How bad was the jet lag?

    1. Yeah, I didn’t even think about how lucky I was to make all of my flights and for my bag to arrive.

  4. Some of what happened in the Amman airport happens in many other airports abroad (outside of Europe) – I travel expecting that I cannot buy water near the gate, for example; or that there would be pre-boarding checks. The thing about your passport – absolutely not! I have never heard or encountered that one before. Royal Jordanian did botch a few things in my experience and that’s a “never again” for me. Emirates they ain’t! The whole trip sounds like quite the adventure – who said getting there was half the fun?? Look forward to reading more about Jordan and Maui!

    1. Had it not been midnight, I might not have taken the perceived harassment as badly. I knew I had a long journey ahead and it just rubbed me the wrong way, especially when I couldn’t get a real answer from anyone.

  5. What a journey, to say the least. I can’t imagine how grumpy I would be dealing with all those experiences on some of those flights, not to mention the jet lag. The Texas Rangers fan in me was delighted to see the Nolan Ryan reference.

  6. You look GORGEOUS and I am loving following your journeys lately. I apologize that I don’t stop to comment often enough! I love those little animal figurines. Are you coming to Austin on your travels any time soon, ’cause I still want to meet you in person, my friend!

    1. You’re so sweet to me, Kristin. Thank you! No need to apologize. Life is busy on my end, too. You will be one of the first people I contact when I go to Austin. I promise!

  7. sorry to hear about your troubles in the amman airport, although we caaaant say we’re terribly surprised. you do look VERY suspicious.

  8. Wow, I thought my personal record of 5 flights and an ATV ride was bad. I think the parade with the hula girls would be totally appropriate.

  9. Wow – this is the most amazing thing ever!!! What an experience – and that beach looks stunning!

  10. Woowee Leah! I though I was the master at road-about courses to get to a place! That is intense, and I’m sure extremely exhausting, but you made it and I’m sure the trouble was worth it. You do deserve an award =P

    1. Well, Ryan, it’s a dubious honor that I’d rather not have. However, since I did it, I really want that golden pineapple.

  11. So glad it was worth it in the end and the scenery in Jordan looks amazing! I’ve definitely been convinced not to ever go on a camel ride – I know a couple of people who got injured after them and after hearing about your bumpy experience, I think I’ll be giving that particular activity a miss!

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