Every time I attempt to convince someone from back home to come visit me in South Africa (or anywhere else I’ve been the past year and a half), the issue of long, arduous flight times is brought up- and then used as a key reason excuse not to travel. It’s consistently a deterrent for all people, and not just in my circle.
Flight times exceeding a couple hours are enough to scare anybody off. “What will I do in such a small space for SO long?” you ask yourself a thousand times while trying to decide whether or not to book the flight to your dream destination. “Probably lose my mind,” your inner cynic responds- and I can totally relate.
My longest flight to date has been from Cape Town back to California- 9 hours flight from Cape Town to Dubai, 1 hour layover, 16 hours to San Francisco. That. Was. Rough. But, hey! I got through it, and if I can, anybody can.
Before beginning this nomadic journey, I had never flown out of the United States. My first flight path out (16 hours total airtime to Spain) was a warm up for later travel days that would exceed a day, maybe two or three. I forced myself to learn the ways of the cool, calm and collected travelers. One does not make it around the world, with an inability to be on some LONG flights so I gave myself a crash course.
1. Binge watch. Amost all international airlines have individual screens on the back of each chair to enable you to choose in-flight entertainment and its a LIFE SAVER. On my last emirates flight (16 hours) I watched all of season 1 of the new show Billions. I purposely will hold off on the latest movie releases before an upcoming trip so that I’ve got fresh material waiting for me aboard.
2. Primp and prep. I may have backpacked around the world for a year, but I am a former beauty exec after all! I bring a (very full) bag of skincare on my flights. Face masks (sheet masks are ideal), eye cream, face serum and moisturizer. I even bring teeth whitening strips. With that many hours up in the air, why not?
3. Exercise. Not even kidding, on my last long flight I committed to doing 25 squats and calf raises every time I went to the bathroom. I was sore the next day, and a teensy bit firmer. 😉
4. Read. This is perhaps the healthiest thing I can do while up in the air because it calms me. Reading a good book transports my mind from the tiny cramped window seat to a land far far away, keeping my mind off how many hours are left. A few months back, on my flight to Bali from Bangkok I read an entire book start to finish. When I got off the plane I was energized and feeling positively optimistic (versus the usual bogged down exhaustion that comes at the end of a long flight). Perhaps it was just the fact I was landing in Bali…but I think the sense of accomplishment that came with reading an entire book had something to do with my big grin that day too.
5. Write. For me, writing is the only way to REALLY sort my thoughts. Many times I try to communicate verbally and can’t. It’s one of my major weaknesses in life. Writing thoughts and ideas down in my journal helps me not only sort my mind out, it helps me remember all the amazing experiences later when I reference back. Writing or journaling is an absolute must when you’re traveling. You’ll want to remember every moment and writing them down enables just that. What better time to write than during a flight over an ocean somewhere across the world?
6. Meditate. No, I am not joking. I heard once during a Deepak Chopra interview: “You can meditate anytime, anywhere.” I thought to myself: “Bull shit!” But then I tried it myself, in a few less-than-ideal settings, ie., a middle airplane seat. It was difficult at first to fight off all the angst ridden thoughts in that uncomfortable seat, but I eventually was able to calm my mind, and therefore the rest of me too.
7. Make new friends. I have met some of the coolest people while flying! There’s something magical about making friends at airports or on planes. For me, connecting to a fellow traveler is a link to another part of the world and a window into someone’s soul. People tend to be more open, honest and vulnerable while traveling, allowing for some of life’s deepest conversations and greatest friendships.
8. Sleep. Okay, so this is a tough one. Sleeping on a plane can be about as difficult for some people as walking a tight rope- one false move and the whole thing is ruined- but it’s a necessary evil. I recommend a window seat for sleeping so you can lean into the wall. As you all know I travel with my special pillow, which helps me rest my head up against the window. So bring yourself something to make yourself comfy and rest up! There’s exploring to do when you land- and THAT is ultimately what makes the whole thing worth it.