Travelling always sounds so exotic, but the fact of the matter is that the actual travelling bit sucks.
Blows goats, no less.
First, you have to endure check-in. The airlines and brochures present you with an idyllic view of check in, of smiley gorgeous women on the counter, handsome travellers all with $10,000 watches and smiles to match.
or of wonderful machines that take all the pain away
The reality of check-in is usually more like this:
Which, frankly is my idea of hell.
Now to be fair, this process has improved substantially with technology – I checked in online a few hours before my flight, chose my seats for the whole trip and printed my own boarding cards (with Opera in the end, after a fight with Firefox), meaning actual check-in for me was a 2 minute affair, wandering past the line of economy class hopefuls and straight to the internet check-in bag drop. Not bad.
Next, there’s security. Actually, in Australia, you first have to be quizzed by immigration (would it not be emigration on the way out?) as to why you are leaving the Lucky Country at all. I mean, how very dare you! These guys are ok – the Aussies are a friendly bunch (listen up TSA in the US..) and it’s no big deal.
But then there’s the line for the x-rays and scanners. The experience here is totally dependent on location. Leaving Perth is a walk in the park – the international terminal only has 5 gates and security takes 3 minutes, but 9 times out of 10 leaves you hopping across the room post scan carrying your belt and shoes whilst trying to prevent your trousers from heading down around your knees by the mind power alone. Coming back though – Heathrow is a *nightmare* – security can take an hour. Or more if they are having a bad day. Dubai is also terrible – massive queues which most people think think they can ignore and just walk to the front. Yeah, that’s always fun. Not.
And then, once you’ve been ritually de-bagged and generally made to feel like a terrorist, you have to endure an enormous wait before boarding the plane. And airports are universally miserable places. Actually Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are ok, but even so, I’d rather invent a way to reclaim those 2 hours of my life.
Which brings me to boarding.
The staff patiently announce that boarding is open for parents with small children, gold club and first class passengers (who must be ushered away from the riff raff and into their upmarket cocoons as fast as possible) and anyone else ‘who needs more time with boarding’. This last bit is actually translated by a strange airborne wave effect in the confines of an airline gate to mean ‘everybody stand up and attempt board now even though you have been clearly told to wait’
Semingly intelligent businessmen put down their copy of the New York Times and shove toddlers out of the way to get to their seats first. The staff attempt to instil some order by boarding by seat row number, starting at the back of the plane first, but again, that seems to be lost in translation and basically ends up as ‘CHARGE!!’
So, once on the plane, smacking all the smug first and business class passengers about the head with your bags as you walk through the impossibly narrow aisles, frotting with the stewardesses (or stewards, depending on your preference), there’s the lottery of who’s sitting next to you. There’s always a gargantuan fat person in every departure lounge, and everyone is thinking the same thing. Please god, don’t let them be sat next to me. – I think the airlines employ these really fat people just to fuck with travellers heads.
And when you do get to your seat, there’s nowhere for your bags to go because everyone except you has ignored the ‘one piece of hand luggage’ rule and the entire plane’s overhead luggage capacity is full up before 1/2 the people have even made it through the door.
What is supposed to be this
ends up as this
Once you have stashed your bag at the opposite end of the plane, placing your valuables at the mercy of people who could well be a troupe of serial pickpockets on their way out for the summer season, the waiting starts. The hours and hours of being crammed into a small seat with the ignoramus in front of you reclining his seat an inch from your face the split second the fasten seatbelts sign is switched off after take off, the not being able to sleep, of endless edited movies, of that annoying moving map thing which shows you in perfect clarity exactly how much misery is still left.
And I’m not even going to write about the horrors of getting off the plane and collecting baggage once you land. I prefer to pretend that bit doesn’t exist. La-la-la-la. My fingers were in my ears then – you’ll have to imagine that bit.
Then, once you’ve had every ounce of energy, patience and tolerance and ability to extend human kindness extracted from you, you are free to begin the whole point of the journey, the destination.
And I’m here, in England, with my kids, and they are awesome and worth every second of the trip.