There is nothing more exciting than the anticipation of a trip to a new destination. That tingly feeling you get as you pack, the sudden stress when you can’t find things you need then the realisation you are going to have a memorable time away from the grind of everyday life. You carefully pack all your essential items and fastidiously research a rough itinerary or, in the case of those doing a tour, read and reread the brochures that convinced you so strongly to fork out cash for the experience of a lifetime.
Fast forward to the airport and, after taking the obligatory “look at me, I’m about to fly overseas and you’re not” picture in front of the departure gates (usually taken by your mum. Don’t deny it, you know you’ve done it at least once), you find a bar to sit at and drink over-priced beers while you wait impatiently for your flight to be called for boarding. This picture isn’t a memento, it is shameless showing off to every single one of your friends, family, acquaintances and their pets that you are going away and they are not; a massive middle finger salute to everyone you know.
It’s in that moment, not long after you have posted the picture to social media, slumped in an airport chair, waiting, that you realise you have a painful eternity to get through before your holiday actually starts. That excitement you felt in the days/hours/minutes beforehand slowly dissipates as you calculate the travel time to your destination and how long it’s going to take for you to recover.
This came crashing home to me on my most recent trip overseas.
I was beside myself with excitement. I could barely sleep the night we were due to leave. But in that sleeplessness I realised that the minutes were all going to add up. It started with a drive of over an hour to the airport at 3 a.m. in the morning and finished over 24 hours later staring at a wall in a New York hotel room.
We were our own worst enemy, admittedly, forced to wait for check in to open because we arrived at Melbourne airport too early. We neglected to pay attention to the fact that our first flight was domestic and as such, we did not need to be at the airport until much later. When the check in staff aren’t even at work yet, it’s a fair indication that a mistake may have been made somewhere along the line. The plus side is that we could kill time weighing things on the baggage scales located throughout the terminal. My daughter weighs approximately 10 kilograms, for example, which was roughly half the weight of my suitcase. I wasn’t sure if this was something to be proud of or not but I gave my partner a high five in celebration anyway. I think we weighed everything we had because we could, not because it was of vital importance.
While I waited for that first plane, I stopped and thought about the enormity of getting from Melbourne, Australia, to New York. Just getting there was going to mean spending time in four different airports (Melbourne, Sydney, Los Angeles and New York), flying on three different planes and spending over twenty hours in the air on a plane. If you add the time spent waiting, checking baggage, re-checking baggage, boarding each flight, collecting luggage and getting a car to our hotel, we had over 24 hours worth of travel time to look forward to. The longest of those flights was a fourteen hour mission from Sydney to Los Angeles. I had never experienced a flight that long before and was a little perplexed as to how I would kill the time for such an extended period of time.
By my estimations, there are five ways a person can kill time while in transit: Watching movies/T.V., reading a book, playing games, sleeping or getting drunk.
Each of these options has its pros and cons. Sleep for example, is fantastic. It leaves you refreshed and revitalised. Unless you are like me that is; I hate it. No matter how comfortable I get, I will be guaranteed to wake up with a puddle of drool on my chest, my head lurched forward, creating such pain in my neck that I can see the advantages for airlines to employ inflight chiropractors or physiotherapists.
Inflight entertainment is a solid option and has rarely failed me in the past. The problem with a fourteen hour flight, though, is that you can watch three movies and still only be halfway there- the inflight tracking of your trip progress mocking you by appearing to have barely moved. That’s when to look for the epic movies, the three hour, cinematic “masterpieces” like Titanic or The Revenant; basically anything with Leonardo Di Caprio in it. Concentration might be difficult, but feel safe in the knowledge that those films aren’t going to end quickly. Even if you find watching films about doomed romances, set on sinking ocean liners, as enjoyable as a forced lobotomy, it has the ability to put you to sleep quicker than a sleeping pill. I’ve never seen the end of Titanic on a flight. I usually wake up drooling on myself looking at the home menu of the inflight entertainment. I think that’s a win.
The temptation to wipe yourself out with alcohol is always strong. That little trolley rolling past with novelty size bottles of booze can become tempting. But being drunk in a confined space can cause more issues than solutions, although it may encourage sleep. Dehydration on a plane is an ever-present entity and a trolley load of free alcohol will only encourage that. Besides, getting up and down from your seat to go to the toilet for fourteen hours probably won’t endear you to your neighbours.
As excited as I was to be heading to America for the first time, I knew that I had a long time to spend in transit in order to get there. It’s not as though travel time is a dirty little secret that travel agents don’t tell you about, it’s just that in all the hype of going on holidays, you can forget about the long period of uncomfortableness it takes to get you there. No matter how many trips you have been on, time in airports and on planes doesn’t get any easier. It will always remain a non-negotiable of overseas travel. Regardless of how much you hate it, you will always have to deal with it.
Wayward Tip: Be prepared to have multiple forms of entertainment handy. If that means downloading an extra game on your phone or taking an external hard drive and laptop, so be it. No one said getting there was going to be easy. Just do whatever it takes to keep the boredom at bay.