Travel is exhausting now matter how you do it. Whether you fly, drive, or ride, somehow you are exhausted at the end of the day.
International travel, though, is on a whole different level. As we approach another trip over the ocean, I’ve been thinking back over all of the travel with have done in the last four years. We have been across the ocean 8 times; our shortest travel time was about 35 hours and our longest was 54 (depending on length of layovers and our final destination). So, in all of my travel experience, here are the 11 stages of international travel:
1. Excitement Traveling to another country is always an adventure. There the excitement for what’s on the other side, the excitement of exploring another country and another culture and, let’s face it, the excitement of catching up on all of the movies you’ve missed on the in-flight entertainment.
2. Boredom Maybe it’s just me, but about 4-5 hours into the first leg, after I’ve watched the 2 movies I was really interested in, I get bored and antsy. Nathan will tell you that I am not a good traveller, though I have gotten better over the years. He can sit in his seat for 15 hours straight; I, on the other hand, get up to walk around after about 4 hours. I will go to the bathroom just for a change of scenery.
3. Resigned After the initial wave of boredom, I have to just resign to my fate. There’s no getting off the plane. I’m on it for the long haul.
4. Excitement This stage of excitement is not quite like the first. This one comes with the first meal. I know, it’s airplane food. It’s nothing to write home about. But eating is something different to do besides staring mindlessly at the screen in front of you.
5. Repeat Repeat stages 2 and 3, ad nausea.
6. Walk-about Finally the first leg is done, you’ve made it to your first layover! (usually Japan for us) So, you walk all over the airport BECAUSE YOU CAN. You eat at McDonalds because it’s the only non-Asian food option.
7. Repeat…again Now you’re back on the plane and you repeat stages 1-5. Excitement, boredom, resigned, etc.
8. SLEEP! Once we reach our second layover, we’ve usually been traveling for 24 hours or more. And I don’t sleep on planes very well, so I’m exhausted. Singapore (our second stop) has a great transit hotel. It’s painful at first to pay $60 for 6 hours in a hotel, but let me tell you, it is worth every single penny. Sleep and a shower does wonders for the weary traveller.
9. Repeat…once again Rested, the next half of the trip seems doable…for about 2 hours. But then you have to repeat stages 2-5…again.
10. Total Surrender For me, there always comes a point on our very last 7-hour leg, the one from Jakarta to Papua, the one that is always over night and always full of stops (same plane, but you stop at least 3 times so you can’t sleep), that I can no longer remember life outside of airplanes and airports. I surrender to a life of uncomfortable, interrupted sleep and airplane food.
11. Relief Finally, we arrive at our destination. It’s 6:00 am in Papua, but our bodies have no idea what’s happening. Papua is 16 hours ahead of Phoenix (that’s usually where we depart from). I haven’t slept much more than the 5 hours I got in the Singapore hotel (and that was at least 12 hours ago). So, while there is a feeling relief to be at your final destination, now we face the challenge of staying awake all day to help get over jet lag. The last time we did this trip, I nearly passed out in the MAF Sentani office because of sheer exhaustion. Waking up every 3 hours with a newborn is nothing compared to jet lag (in my experience…but jet lag goes away sooner than the newborn starts sleeping through the night so maybe it’s not a fair comparison).
International travel: it’s not for sissies.
And now we get to do it with an infant! It’s going to be a whole different experience!