Saturday, January 15, 2011

Come Fly With Me

International air travel is one of those things I love and loathe at the same time.

First of all the loathes:
I can't sleep properly on planes.  The food is touch and go, but you eat it anyway to pass the time. There is constant droning noise. Your seats are cramped and there are only so many new positions you can move into to get comfortable.

If you're on the aisle you can get out to go to the toilet easier, but you get climbed over by others and are in danger of having your elbows and knees knocked by food carts and other people if your limbs happen to stray out of the safety zone while you are sleeping (or trying to sleep.)

If you're in the window seat you get to lean against the wall, and can see out the window. But you are often trapped, or have to upset others every time you want to get out.

Wherever you sit, a few tips:
  • Bring travel sickness tablets - as one of the girls on our trip will testify, 7 hours seems a lifetime when you are ill the whole way.
  • Use a squishy neck pillow...
 The squishy neck pillow may not deflate to fit in luggage easily, but it has no plastic seams to scratch your neck and moulds into various shapes.

  • ....eye mask....
 Eye masks are a must as the plane schedule of light and dark may not fit your need for sleep. For example, it seems even if you board the plane at 1.30 in the morning they will still serve you a meal, and this means switching on the lights to eat lunch in the middle of the night...

  • ....And ear plugs. Some people don't like sticking squishy foam plugs in their ears, but I find it helps so much to just distance yourself from the noise. Because there is always noise. Wooshing toilets flushing. Babies crying (I feel sorry for the parents who can't just take the baby for a walk outside and so together we all just have to feel desperately trapped.) The constant droning hum of the engines, or air, or airconditioning, or whatever it is. While grasping for a tiny bit of elusive sleep, ear plugs can help just fade the noise into the back ground.

But I did say I also love air travel. It's perhaps strange kind of love, as some of the things to loathe also make it exciting and interesting and an adventure.

It's a strange kind of limbo you enter once you board the airplane, and spend often more than a whole day travelling through a kind of timeless, artificial space. When the pilot said "We'll be arriving at 7pm in the morning" that pretty much sums up how we feel about time.

The airport never closes, and is always bright and shiny. Things like pretty toilets, rate-our-toilet touch screens, photo booth walls and robotic leg massagers give you a funny kind of joy. And don't get me started on driverless skytrains and free charging booths for mobile phones! And it's a place where lying on the floor in the middle of a room in front of strangers is totally acceptable.

 And where dancing your 'national' dance with a funny little old Singaporean man (who may or may not have worked for the airport...and I lean toward the latter) playing the radio in his pocket while waiting in line to board at your gate is.....well, that's just as weird as it would be anywhere else.

But that's the beauty of international air travel. You are detached and floating in a different world, while bonded by sleep depravity, delirium, bad food and a common destination with hundreds of others who you'll never speak to and probably never see again.

What's not to love? :)

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