I’ve grown accustomed to long layovers and even longer flights—it’s something I have just come to accept since I travel as much as I do. In transit, I’ll usually catch up on movies or a good book. I’ll get some work done. I’ll try to nap. I’ll begin writing blog posts and occasionally finish them.
But I recently had the flight pattern that I firmly believe was a test of my moral stability. I think I passed. Maybe.
I was supposed to revisit Pakistan at the end of September, but my office and I decided a trip to Cambodia and then Vietnam would better suit our resources this semester. However, we made this decision under three weeks before my departure. Since I had to switch my destination to a completely different part of the world relatively last minute, I basically took would I could get for flights that weren’t going to swallow my office’s budget whole.
The result? I flew out of Nashville to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and then to Newark, New Jersey (because that makes total sense) and then to Athens, Greece and then to Dubai, UAE (with a nine-hour layover there), and then to Bangkok, Thailand, and then finally to Cambodia. The transit time? 48 hours. Two. Very. Long. Days. But you can rest assured I made the most of them. How? I documented all the major events throughout the process for your reading pleasure. Allow me to give you a play-by-play of a journey to the literal other side of the world.
Hour 0- My coworker Toni, along with her husband and son, pick me up from my house. I begin a timer on my phone.
Hour 1- I arrive at the airport. I go to check in, and the counter worker is mortified by my flight pattern. “Your bags should be at your final destination. Hopefully.”
Hour 1.5- After security check-in, I purchase one of the most American things possible: an order of chicken nugs from Wendy’s.
Hour 2- I look at my boarding pass to see my gate and notice that I have been upgraded to first class on my first connection. I must have done something right for someone somewhere—that, or the flight check-in guy took pity on me after seeing my ridiculous flight pattern.
Hour 3- “Flyin’ first class… up in the sky. Poppin’ champagne. Livin’ my life… in the fast lane. And I won’t change… for the glamorous.”
Hour 4.5- Touchdown in Ft. Lauderdale. I look at the marshes out of my window and wonder how many gators and dead bodies are in them.
Hour 5.5 – A guy is talking much too loudly at the gate about how he just smoked a lot before getting to the airport. Not cigarettes.
Hour 6- I find my seat on my next plane—of course it’s the middle seat next to high guy. Right before the flight takes off, he discovers that he has misplaced his headphones. He nervously begins looking underneath him, in his seat pouch, and in his pockets while loudly saying obscenities.
Hour 6.5- No sooner than the fasten-seatbelt sign goes off after getting in the air, he asks the woman in our row and me to get up so he can look through his bag and continue to say obscenities. He gets back in his seat and punches the tray table in anger.
Hour 7- He is still worried about his headphones and continues to wiggle in his seat and curse. He then makes the woman and me get up again and proceeds to take his phone flashlight and look under the seats around him without permission of those occupying the seats.
Hour 7.5- People are uncomfortable and a flight attendant tells him to get back in his seat. He finally does so after explaining he has lost his headphones.
Hour 8- He orders four mini bottles of rum and two Pepsis from the bar cart. He then asks to get up again. A man lets out a sigh behind us.
Hour 8.5- He discovers his headphones are in his carry-on bag. “I found them!” he literally shouts. He then sits down and begins listening to rap music, some of which he raps along loudly.
Hour 9- Touchdown in Newark THANK GOD.
Hour 9.5- I power-walk through the terminal to get away from headphone man. I get distracted by New York pizza. It is good, but probably would be better if it hadn’t been sitting out a while.
Hour 10- I have to switch airlines to Emirates for my international flights; therefore, I have to leave the terminal, take a monorail to another terminal, and go through security again. I see a group of middle-aged women going to Greece. Oh my goodness, they’re wearing matching t-shirts that say “This is to celebrate the divorce.”
Hour 11- I ask the Emirates worker at my gate an insignificant question. She asks to see my boarding pass. “You’re on quite the long journey,” she says. “Yeah, I’m really wishing I had a window or aisle seat on this flight so I could sleep.” “I can take care of that.” “Wow thank you SO much,” I say as if that weren’t my plan all along.
Hour 12.5- I get on the plane to realize that the lady has not only given me a window seat with no one next to me, but it’s in the extra leg room row. I’m thinking it’s karma thanking me for dealing with headphone guy.
Hour 13- I begin watching The Hustle. 10/10.
Hour 14- Dinner is served. Emirates does well in terms of airplane food. BBQ chicken, mashed potatoes, beans, crackers with Wisconsin cheddar, and chocolate mousse.
Hour 15- Melatonin taken. Seat reclined. Eye mask on. Neck pillow adjusted. Earplugs in. Annnnnd sleep.
Hour 19- I am awoken with breakfast. I’d rather sleep though.
Hour 21.5- Quick touchdown in Athens, Greece that’s complete with a spiritual iced coffee. Also, remind me to go to Greece sometime, because based on the airport… I’m a fan.
Hour 24- With takeoff from Athens, I’m at the halfway point of the transit. I’m in a seat with no one next to me again. Thank you, kind Emirates worker.
Hour 26- A family has a baby sitting near me . It has a dirty diaper and it’s stinking up the entire airplane.
Hour 28- Arrival in Dubai with an extremely long bus ride from the plane to the gate because the airport here is HUGE.
Hour 29- Can confirm this airport is nuts. Picture an Arabic mall on Times Square.
Hour 29.5- Commence the rejuvenation process. Face-cleaning wipes. Dry shampoo. Toothbrush. Deodorant. Ahhh. Fresh.
Hour 30- After walking the main strip of the terminal, I decide on a Nutella & banana crepe, which is possibly one of the best decisions of my life.
Hour 31- I find a quiet gate and nap on a bench for about an hour.
Hour 33- Costa Coffee is life. I have a large latte and I’m binge watching Stranger Things on my phone.
Hour 36- Me to the gate worker: “Is this a window seat?” “It is.” “Oh good. I was hoping it wasn’t a middle. I’m traveling for 48 hours and wanted to get some sleep.” “Goodness. Let me make sure no one is sitting beside you then.” “Oh thank you so much. You’re a hero.”
Hour 37- Takeoff, followed by an instant nap and then watching Shazam.
Hour 44- Touchdown in Bangkok. I’m on the same plane that’s going to Cambodia, so I’m not required to get off.
Hour 46.5- Final touchdown in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Now for an hour taxi ride to a welcoming hotel.
48 hours and four minutes after leaving my home, I walk into my hotel room. And although that was two days of my life I will never get back, I am numb, but excited to be in a place unlike anywhere I’ve been before.
That transit took me my farthest distance I have ever traveled—9,000 miles away from home. Twelve time zones ahead from mine. And although in the process of getting there I often wanted to create a scene much like the man yearning to find his headphones, I managed to stay calm, and I learned that I am even more capable of perseverance than I thought.
Clichéd as it may be, I adopted a philosophy a long time ago that I think applies to that trip. It’s not always the destination that matters; it’s sometimes the journey. That one was just a heck of a journey.