I recently had to take a last minute international flight and I was stressed. I’d be without my husband and, although I’d flown dozens of times without him before we got married, I had really gotten used to his comforting presence amidst the stresses of travel. I was facing down my first 15-hour-straight flight and I wouldn’t have his arm to kinda sleep on. I just can’t sleep on planes. Yes, I’ve tried all the variations of the neck pillow and been able to lie down on three seats at once. Yes, I’ve tried melatonin. Yes, I’ve tried whatever else you’re thinking. Can’t sleep. Alas.
I downloaded an entire season of a show to watch. I downloaded 40 hours worth of audiobooks, 13 hours of Adventures in Odyssey, and about 10 hours of music. I had 10 books downloaded on my Kindle, a fully charged computer, and things to study and work on for work. I was ready!
Funny enough, I used very little of these things. And I would also say that I had my best plane ride ever. Frustrating things still happened (they took my expensive water that I bought in the airport, how else am I supposed to stay hydrated?!) but I was still at peace when I arrived. I even got over a 10 hour different jet lag in about two days.
Because of COVID, I know we’re not all going on long trips right now (and this one was an emergency trip anyways). Still, I share the following hoping that it helps make the stresses of travel just a little bit easier on someone 🙂
Make a Friend
I am as introverted as they come, and I love solitude. But after a young woman asked me to watch her luggage as she used the restroom while we were both in line in NBO, we struck up a conversation and chatted until we took off and then grabbed coffee together on our layover. Having someone to talk to, laugh with, and just make small talk with was enjoyable and helped curb my inner complainer about all things flying. She was a joy.
Have a Sleep Plan
I tried to sleep the first flight (5 hours) and maybe managed a cumulative 2-3 hours of sleep. It wasn’t a lot, but I decided after that first flight, I wasn’t going to sleep again. So I did everything to keep myself awake. I drank coffee on my layover (I ingest caffeine maybe once every 1.5 – 2 years, so it affects me deeply!), never laid down, and focused on keeping my mind busy. If you want to sleep, awesome, do it. But it really helped me not agonize over it once I made the decision that I would just work towards staying awake to start adapting to where I was going.
Read a Good Book
I generally don’t read novels, but I allowed myself this one because I wanted to be engrossed in the book. And obsessed I was! Little Fires Everywhere lived up to the hype and kept me captivated for a few hours straight. I really enjoyed it!
Avoid Things That Drain You
Usually on flights, I’ll try to sleep and I’ll watch countless movies. For me, trying to sleep just makes me more tried, cranky, and hurts my back so I just chose to avoid it this time.
Regarding movies, a few weeks prior to my trip, I had decided to stop consuming media unless it was Jesus-centric, programming-focused, or sewing-instructive (maybe I should write about that, too… :). So that took out my main flying activity. What should I do? WOULD I SURVIVE?!?!?
I survived and thrived. Without movies to constantly elate and depress my system, I was pretty even keel the whole time. I had my creativity and emotional energies in tact to work on some writing projects, and even used the WiFi to video call my husband and a friend.
After starting the 15 hour flight, I got up every 1.5-2 hours and went to the bathroom. I was drinking a lot of water and had a pretty empty stomach (alas those small meals), so it was needed. But I also did some leg stretches. Sitting too long really hurts my back (and your back, too!) so this intentionality really helped. I would just set a timer on my watch for 1.5 hours and then reset it every time I sat back down
By the time we landed, I could tell my brain was really tired, and I was hungry, but I felt refreshed. Refreshed after no good sleep over 36 hours? Yeah. I felt great. It was wild.
I’m not even dreading the travel on the way back. I’m just looking for a great book to focus on. I hope your next travel, whenever and wherever it is, is made a little better than it was last time. 🙂