There is a love hate relationship that goes along with long haul flights. As expats, we have all had to experience them in some way, shape or form; some of us more so than others. If I hear one more of you Canadians complain about the jet lag you experienced when you moved to London, I will have to send you back to your maple drenched, cheese topped, moose run country.
I am writing this from the homeland, Australia. I have come back for a holiday (never knew ‘home’ could be classed as a holiday; but that’s another story, for another day) to spend a few weeks making sure I absorb enough vitamin D to ensure I survive England; keep my bogan Aussie twang intact; and reignite my passionate hatred for Fosters and warm ale (honestly, why would people do that to themselves?). My success though, has been reliant on my ability to endure a very, very long flight. I have realised that there are a lot of emotions you go through when you embark on such a journey. Here is my log of the emotional turmoil you experience during such a flight;
Booking the Flights
Excitement is first and foremost; it starts at the centre of your gut when you see those glorious words ‘flight booked’ (or better yet, ‘flight paid in full’). You start planning on where you’re going, who you’ll be going to see, and most importantly what catastrophic mistakes you are going to make (and run away from); Like, how many exes you will be sleeping with.
Then comes the dreaded packing. No one likes packing. If you meet someone and they say they like packing, throw a suitcase at them, giving you time to run for your life. They are pure evil and you need to get to safety.
Most likely though, you are like me in that you plan to pack, you probably write out a list with highlighters and underlines, but inevitably you end up leaving it until 1am the night before you leave. Which means that you end up packing 17 pairs of socks, no underwear and 2 suits for a 10-day holiday at the beach. You’re also optimistic, so you pack your gym gear (You haven’t gone to the gym in 6 months, but you will definitely go while you’re on holiday).
The day has finally arrived and your paranoia rears its ugly head. You double and triple check your passports; over prepare on water bottles that won’t make it through security and trick your friend into helping you lug your luggage to the airport. If you are me, you end up at the airport 5 and a half hours early which you spend at the airport bar throwing away ALL of your hard earned holiday savings paying an exorbitant amount of money for a pint; if you think London pub prices are bad, go have a pint at Heathrow.
Time to board
The boarding process is a joke. Years of aviation advancements; you can even get WiFi on a plane now and they still board 300+ people though one door. You finally get to your row and realise that you have to straddle a complete stranger to get to your window seat. They’re cute though, so you let that pass.
2 hours in
Hunger has started setting in. Two wines in and optimism starts convincing you that maybe this time the airplane food is going to be a Jamie Oliver inspired, flavour explosion of delicious-ness. What you end up getting is searing disappointment as you look down at something that resembles a frozen microwave meal. It may have even been reheated more than once. Got to wash it down with yet another wine.
“Can you just leave the bottle with me?”
Unfortunately, the answer is always no.
8 hours in
Three movies down. None of which are movies that you would have seen if you weren’t on this flight. The tiny screen that shakes every time the person in front of you breathes is beginning to hurt your eyes, but perseverance is the mother of time killing. You have read the inflight magazine 4 times over and you are seriously considering buying a £60 stuffed bear the ‘in-flight shop’.
10 hours in
GET ME OFF THIS PLANE. You still haven’t fallen asleep. You can’t feel you ass anymore and you’ve just realised why it’s called ‘cabin fever’. You’ve lost your mind. You reminisce about the times that you ran through fields with the wind blowing through your hair. Instead your legs are stuck in a 90-degree angle and the only wind you’re getting is coming from the guy sitting next to you.
14 hours in
LAYOVER. Finally. The relief that comes over you when you step outside that plane is something out of a dream. You think about all the amazing things you can do at the airport: eat real food, stretch, have a shop and maybe even a cigarette; bliss. But your fate is already sealed and the Airport Gods have another plan. The next gate is 63; you are currently at gate 3. The original assumption of an easy walk over, maybe stopping for a bite to eat, is quickly thwarted when you have another quick look at the departures board: flight leaves in 35 minutes. Shit. You start walking, the walk turns into a light jog, which then turns into a sprint when you realise the gate is literally on the very end of the airport. You get to your gate in time. Success! You look up at the board again ‘Delayed’. You collapse in a heap, hyperventilating and sweating buckets. But hey, at least you got to stretch.
20 hours in
It’s the last leg and you can feel the end in sight. You flick through the on board entertainment for something to keep you occupied for the final few hours but realise that you have watched every decent movie twice over already. So you decide that watching the Hunger Games for the third time is your best option. You can make it through the rest of this flight.
May the odds be forever in your favour.
Arriving somewhere has never felt like such a sweet victory. Ideas of being stuck on the plane for all eternity now seems like a distant memory. The earth feels so good under your feet. You are excited to see all the people waiting for you on the other side of the arrivals gate. But then you see the border security line…
Arrival + 2 hours later
Finally the doors that open up to freedom. Who needs to conquer Everest when you have journeys like these? As you walk through the doors you expect a round of applause to erupt as you see the sea of people all waiting for someone. Nothing. You look amongst the eager faces of the crowd looking for your loved ones … Oh wait. You wanted to surprise everyone so nobody knows of the great feats you have just accomplished. Nobody knows to come bursting through the crowd and eagerly scream your name.
‘I’m an idiot.’ You whisper to yourself as you make your way to the train station for a three hour train ride.
Jet lag is a bit like a hangover, feeling great can sometimes actually be a symptom. You think things like ‘I feel great, I have finally outsmarted jet lag!’ and then you fall asleep at your friend’s house for 18 hours and wake up at 3am ready to climb a mountain.
No one outsmarts jet lag.
But as the foggy haze passes, your adventure can finally begin.
Before you have to get back on a plane and do it all over again.
The idea of staying where you are becomes all that much more inviting.