Getting where?

Menu Close

Tag: airport livin’

My (love?)-hate relationship with flying

Plane window

I mean, with that kind of view I guess it’s not ALL bad.

I don’t like flying. Or rather, I don’t like the idea of being in a plane that is no longer flying in a controlled, expected sort of fashion. I don’t imagine anyone does but I’m historically bad at chilling the fuck out about being on a plane that is functioning perfectly fine.

I’m getting better at it though. And to my great surprise, in the past week or so, I’ve been looking forward to the flying bit of getting to the US a week from today. (By the way, I’m headed to the US for a visit, woop!) Not because of the plane itself, but because of the enforced sitting without internet connection for a few hours. For no other option but to watch a movie or read a book or have a gin and tonic and stare out the window at nothing. (Hopefully without turbulence, because that ruins the ideal vision.)

I’ve been so busy, and my brain has been such a ball of chaos in the past few weeks (and always) that the enforced shutdown, albeit stranded hurtling through the air, sounds pretty good if I forget about the lack of control I have over the situation.

Also, and this is kind of weird, but aside from the fact that they designed the place with far too few toilets, I LOVE Heathrow Terminal 5, which is where I often connect. It’s not the best airport terminal ever or anything, but there are tons of good, affordable places to eat, and that counts for a disproportionate amount in my world. I can get a sushi box! Or noodles! Or a smoothie with a plastic giraffe swizzle stick! And a bunch of other things that make me happy to sit in the airport. I even spent the night on the seats of the Costa Coffee in arrivals last year without it ruining the place for me. I don’t know what it is, I just have a bizarre affection for the place.

T5 by night

Heathrow T5 arrivals, sometime in the wee hours in December 2013. Quiet, freezing, and not the most comfortable. But still kind of great.

Anyway. I doubt I’ll ever full-on enjoy flying – even without the actual being in the air bit, there’s never enough legroom or comfort (I’m a tall, fidgety lady with not nearly enough money for an upgrade). But I’m a lot less tense these days on takeoff and landing. And flying pretty much always means I’m going a place I want to go, so it’s plenty reason to suck it up, but I also think that maybe it’s that now I’ve been through enough lack-of-control situations in my life that clearly haven’t killed me, I just handle the fear better. It’s fear I know so well that we just chill out together for a while as I pick the in-flight entertainment that will most adequately distract me from it.

But man, I will never crack the whole keeping my skin from freaking out. And always, ALWAYS catching a cold. And playing tetris with my dinner. I get they’re trying to pack as much food onto that tray as possible. I APPRECIATE it. But surely there’s a better design solution for how all that shit fits together. You want something that’s not going to be an inevitable mess in that situation. And there is just NOWHERE SAFE to put my red wine.


I’m already looking at my film choices though, so, bring on the holiday!

EDIT: And then there’s always this to aspire to: What it’s like to fly the $23,000 Singapore Airlines Suites Class. Absolutely fucking bonkers. All I ask for is one go at a business class flatbed seat in my life. I really don’t think I could handle a whole room.

The need to sometimes be alone in the world

Fife Coastal Path

On the Fife Coastal Path. Photo © Duncan Blair

During my recent overlong travel day, I had quite a few moments when I thought how WONDERFUL it was going to be when I finally got into my flat and got reacquainted with my own bed and, perhaps, a pizza or other convenience comfort food. But with my ultimate travel goals on the brain, my longings for home automatically led to wondering what I’d do with those feelings on a much longer trip. One where a very long delay in an airport (or three) may not end in my own flat. Or my own room. Or even in accommodation, let alone a private space.

As travel delays go, my day in Helsinki airport wasn’t really all that bad. It was simple to put myself in a bubble most of the time, and there were plenty of comfortable places to sit and get lost in a podcast without disruption. But it’s not always like that, and even in that fairly good situation, I still wanted out. Most of it was just being tired, but that kind of fatigue makes you susceptible to feeling, physically, like crap. And also to emotions. The kinds of emotions you don’t really want to have a chat with in public.

Quietly getting through the day in full view of a strange public for hours on end seems to get me thinking about my life’s big issues. Past present and future, they’re all fair game. I can’t just shut it all off while I read a trash magazine or something. It’s one of the cruel tricks my brain plays on itself. I am bad at relaxing and I’m bad at being quiet between my ears. This has a way of building up, and it’s harder to manage when I have nowhere to be my bizarre, alone self. (YOU KNOW you have a bizarre, alone self too, so, don’t pretend I’m talking nonsense.)

When I have an end of the day or a destination in sight, I can usually keep this stuff in check with the promise of isolation on its way. But what about when I don’t have a definitive end? What about when I’m on a multi-month trip and may not even know where my next bed is because I’m being adventurous and not always planning that far in advance? What happens when I need to cry or nurse myself to health or just simply be AWAY FROM ALL OTHER HUMANS?

It’s hard enough to do the inner-self-maintenance required to be an outwardly positive or even just pleasant person without worrying about privacy. Sometimes the weight of certain kinds of loneliness, nostalgia, or your own particular madness is such that you need a place to implode without the world watching and wondering and occasionally trying to help. Because there’s no help for having to let yourself be a mess sometimes. You just have to purge that shit by letting it run through you.

So how do you make space for that when your home is on your back? How do you store it up without letting it ruin you? I mean, in my experience airport bathrooms can be good for this stuff in a pinch, but you can only feel so much better about life in a tiny cubicle with a hard, incomplete seat.

I think the simplest answer, as a wise fish once said, is just keep swimming. Easier said than done, particularly in the over-dry air of the most public of public spaces. But it’s the only option, really. The good thing is, at least I’ve found, the more experience you have with the swimming on, the better you get at being a courteous citizen of the sea and doing it without stirring up the shit around you in the water.

Pool in a hole in a giant rock

It may not look like much, but in my lifetime, this pool will be hard to beat.

Speaking of swimming, there is a somewhat positive flip-side to this. Needing to be alone isn’t always about purging the bad stuff, it can be about processing the really, really good stuff. I spent a blissful 15 minutes swimming in the dark in a pool cut into a giant rock looking at the stars in the spectacular African sky after one of the best days of my life in Zimbabwe. It was almost too much happiness to handle at once, and I managed to snag this tiny window of time away from everyone else on the trip to let the circuits in my brain calm down while I floated between the universe and a land that was so fantastic it may as well have been another world. (Why no one else wanted to go swimming at that point is beyond my comprehension. And I probably could have had longer than 15 minutes, but dinner was on and I was also a little worried about being alone in a place where it’s not rare for hungry cheetahs to roam around at night. (TIA, MF!) Sometimes life edits itself to perfection.)

Anyway, when I’m really struggling with a GET ME OUT OF HERE WHY ARE THERE SO MANY PEOPLE AND WHY WON’T THEY GO AWAY HOLY CRAP HOW ON EARTH AM I MEANT TO JUST KEEP FUCKING SWIMMING situation, I’m hoping that I’m at least building up some karma for one of these alone-time bonuses. Actual swimming or not. It’s nice to have an image to work with, and it makes the bad stuff worth enduring now and then.

So I’m figuring the challenge of having no fixed destination is probably all about adaptation. Ten years ago, 10 hours in an airport probably would have made me a lot crankier, but now I put myself on autopilot and just kinda let it wash over me. That definitely makes it easier to handle. Perhaps learning to give zero fucks is the real answer to this problem, and sometimes you just gotta be a wreck for all to see if there’s nowhere to hide it and no ideal pool to go nightswimming in.

But thinking about it certainly makes me value the fact that I do currently have a place to come home to, even if there’s no pizza waiting.

The (unexpected) neverending day

Heathrow sunset

Waheyyyy! Bonus post! Because what was supposed to have been an easy 6-7ish hour travel home day has entered its 17th hour, and is now unlikely to end til well past the 20th. At least I’m now finally back on home soil, albeit in London.

But before I go on, I just want to say that one of the few shitty things about travelling alone AND living alone is that when you do experience one of these longest-ever-days of brain killing delays, there is no one at the other end you can call and A: ask if there is any food at all in the house (there’s not), and B: beg to go get you the one thing you really wanna eat when you collapse just inside your doorway.


It has been a Long. Day.

I got up before 5am, got to the airport in Helsinki and went through security only to find my first flight to Oslo had just then been cancelled. So I went back out into the check-in area and joined an unmoving queue, which took an hour to move AT ALL and two more hours for me to get to a ticket agent. And I was in the front 10% of that queue, so god knows what the people at the end were thinking. It was HORRENDOUSLY managed. I will leave it at that though, because I have no energy left for an explanation.

Anyway, I was rebooked through London on a flight leaving at 4.30pm. Mind you, it was then about 9.30am. So, I got well-acquainted with Helsinki airport today. I ate lunch courtesy of my original airline (not bad) and drank a lot of overpriced coffee. I answered emails from my phone. I read a lot on my kindle. I stayed awake. Like a champ. I was actually rebooked on Finnair which hopefully means I’ll now get miles for my flights home as that’s part of my usual alliance, so, silver linings.

Now I’m in London, slightly delayed again, but with not quite enough time to eat proper dinner before I got on the flight. And I was so freakin’ tired I went out through immigration control instead of going straight through flight connections. WELL DONE ME. There was a friendly UKBA dude who helped me out and laughed along with me at my stupidity though, so that was cool. UKBA people aren’t usually so jolly.

I’m really hoping Virgin Little Red serve complimentary booze, because I need a drink now. And a pizza. Which I will likely order from the tram ride home. If I manage to get a tram. If I manage to ever get home. I can’t wait to see Edinburgh now.

A full barrage of Finland posts soon to come.