Travel, isn’t it the dream..? Yes, but also maybe the destination is the dream more than the getting there. I was on my very first terrifying flight at the tender age of 19 years old, I didn’t really know what to expect but had watched enough plane crash docuseries to fear every single sound and bump. I was seated next to wonderful people, my old schoolteacher no less, so I was taken care of. But ever since then I still feel that anxious potential doom before flying. Even so, I am ready to risk my life for that stretch of Grecian beach or colourful Moroccan souk.
This is how I see my travelling. I wake up before the city foxes have realised humans are asleep and the feast from garbage bins can commence, so that always leaves me and the fox with that awkward exchange of looks. Nonetheless, I have no choice, my anxious brain needs to know I will be at the airport in time even with a potential train breakdown or yellow weather warning. So if my flight is at 9:45am you know I will be there at 6am not a second later, and probably earlier than that. And even with the time to spare I am rushing, stressed and flustered, so don’t test me.
Right, so I have made it to the airport and with these new regulations you are pretty much forced to check in your baggage, carry on is only allowed to be a small one, although saying that, I see plenty of wheeled little bags being housed in the overhead compartment so whatever ticket they have managed to get I have no freaking idea. It isn’t offered to me, I know that. Rude!
Sorry I digress. When checking in the bag holding all your very important outfits making you look like you look a million dollars, I always feel like it’s a little bit of a lottery whether you and the bag will be reunited on the other side. I mean sure, attaching the barcode is easy enough, but then you just place your bag on the conveyor belt and off it goes, like, who scanned it? How does it know? What if the system is hacked and it goes the opposite direction? Blood pressure instantly through the roof.
But as always, I get through this moment and then I head towards the minefield also known as Security Control, why is it that you always feel kind of guilty of something and very much watched. Stern voices shouting out orders at the already shaking public taking off their shoes and always somehow forgetting to remove any liquids and electronics from their bags even though this has been the way of the world for quite some time.
And how hard can it really be to maybe prepare yourself accordingly before standing there fumbling with the little tray where all your belongings need to fit? My stressed self has already stripped down to the requested layer and is then left there holding all my items like the sad chair in your bedroom corner that has become ‘a hold it all’.
After watching my items scoot away on the conveyor belt towards the x-ray that will hopefully not show anything too embarrassing or something you had no idea found its way into your bag by either yourself or god forbid someone else (you should always pack your own bag), it is time to walk through the actual security arches. I always hate these because I have metal in various places and always kind of want to shout this information out just in case it beeps. It has beeped on occasion and not only do I feel like a criminal, it isn’t very nice to see the disgust on the face of the officer having to touch my Frankenleg with its screws and plate sticking out like a bunion. But nowadays it never beeps so, no one has to touch anything.
I have made it through the minefield and can surely breath now… yes but also no. Now I need to know the gate, even if I have half a day to go, I need to know so I can enjoy my overpriced Pret a Manger toastie. And as always the gate will only show up roughly 20 minutes before the flight. What can I possibly be stressing about? It’s not like the plane will silently and secretly land and take off with everyone except for me. Anyway at this point, after reminding me the gate is a no show for yet some time, I actually find a small moment of peace and that’s when my favourite sport comes in, people watching. What are they wearing, and where are they going? I mean that alone is a whole separate article.
Having walked around in the same circle for the remaining hours, not drinking a single drop of liquid, alcohol or other, as my nervous bladder would hold on to this until it is most inconvenient (most likely mid-flight) I finally see my gate, and the race continues, again I rush like the plane will leave without me. When in fact I know I will just reach another queue and that must be the stupidest one there is.
You come to the gate where you queue to then queue some more to access the actual plane. And having an assigned boarding group doesn’t matter, here it’s “kill or be killed “ well you get the idea. But let’s say we are on the plane. Isn’t it lovely how simple instructions are hard to follow? “Please take your seat so that the person behind you can move along and find theirs” oh but of course there’s someone having to arrange and rearrange the overhead compartment and discuss the ins and outs of it. And you’re just left standing there like a sardine smiling weirdly at the people already sitting down watching this show.
I’m a window seat kind of gal which is not in line with my fear of death by plane crash, I mean I know to count the seats when walking to my assigned number, remember that the nearest exit might be behind you. Which only really serves you well if you have an aisle seat so you can actually get out. But this is where I am, very strange, I like the view. And I like watching countries pass by. I suppose if you crash it doesn’t matter where you sit. No more talk about crashing! We are absolutely fine people. It is safer than driving a car remember.
On my Christmas flight home last year, I was weirdly sat in between this older couple, and before I even had a chance to wonder why they didn’t want to sit next to each other the wife told me the reason why. He snores she says, and she can’t stand it! Me not being shy said to her that I knew the exact elbow nudge needed in such instances. I ended up chatting to this woman the entire flight. So sometimes the dreaded middle seat isn’t the worst. Probably not ultimately if you’re tired and nod off all the while cosying up on your neighbour’s shoulder. Might not be completely wanted. And the arm rest, who owns it? If you’re the middle seat occupant, do you get one or both? Or none? I firmly believe you have custody of at least one surely.
After you’ve been in the air for a while and if you haven’t been seated next to a poor crying baby or annoying hen party you might have actually had a nice nap and will shortly start the descent, paradise is getting closer by the foot. I hate take offs and landings just the same so I am at this point yet again ready to say goodbye to life, and also for some reason I am worried the impact of the normally totally OK landing will chip a tooth, I mean it will cost more than the plane to repair so I kind of get it. We are on the ground, you’ve made it, and if you’re on a budget flight you can be sure they’ll applaud the pilot for doing his job with the help of auto pilot. Wish I could get applauds when I place an order at work.
Anyway, we are now about to witness another strange phenomenon. As soon as the wheels hit the ground you know someone is already unbuckled, you can hear the click, and then starts the avalanche of people doing the same so they can fly out of their seats to fumble with luggage and, you guessed it, queue again. The only time I might feel the need to fly out of my seat and join this ridiculousness is when I have 5 minutes to cover two terminals and a security check, to then pray I’ll reach the connecting flight. If this is not the case I sit and just watch this happening, I mean unless you have to rush to another flight or a chauffeur, we will all be allowed to get off the plane and enter the same airport. I promise.
Sometimes I am lucky enough to go to Essaouira, a small seaside Medina in Morocco. Their airport is smaller than the one in Umeå which I never thought possible. But this also means that the rush to get off that plane might be beneficial, as the queue to show that awful passport photo is long and slow. And if you are unlucky enough to not have been given one of the always too few landing forms on the plane you’ll also have to fill this out under pressure if you want to enter the country. Why they don’t have as many forms as there are seats is beyond me?!?
Anyway at least finding your bag, if it in fact came with you isn’t too hard in a small airport unlike Gatwick for instance. Why is it that you rush there, or I rush there, only to be waiting for this bag to show, which often seems to be the last one, or due to me being stubborn and not wearing my glasses, roll past me a few times before my pink luggage tag screams at me.
If I am returning to London from whatever destination I am more often than not faced with a train delay or even better, cancellation. We live in constant strike times. At least I know that I don’t have to catch the Express train and be robbed of twice the amount of money, but even so. My last flight I had to wait for a good hour and a bit and I was tired and annoyed. And that was for a train taking me halfway. Soo I still had a tube or two to catch.
But I know I will make it home and I always do, and that’s when the instant holiday blues hit you, all the struggles of the actual traveling is gone. “What is the meaning of life away from a beach?” “Why can’t I just own a nice little house in Greece?”. And that is why I think I take forever to unpack, maybe if I just leave it in the suitcase it somehow doesn’t have to be over, right? No, but nice try. And I do recommend to unpack as soon as possible especially if you managed that one last swim before the flight home. There’s nothing worse than holiday blues with a side of mouldy clothes and souvenirs.
And even after all of this, I would travel in a heartbeat, because the destination and the company is always worth all the hassle.