Long Haul Flights – How to stay sane and entertained

I both love and loathe long haul flights. I loathe them because I just want to get to my destination. And I love them because it’s a chance to unwind, relax and prepare mentally and emotionally for my adventure ahead. Especially if the days leading up to departure have been busy. With technology these days, there are endless ways to keep both sane and entertained on long haul flights. Here are my personal favourites;

I rarely go anywhere without my iPod and it’s vast collection of music. I have a very eclectic taste in artists and what I listen to does depend on my mood. Music makes me feel excited and happy, but also nostalgic, hyper or melancholy. And although I listen to whatever my mood fancies, I’ve actually created a playlist titled “travel” with songs that make me feel adventurous and care-free, with the likes of Avicii and Jess Glynn. There are certain songs that remind me of a certain place and time, often bringing on good feelings and memories. It’s these good feelings that make me feel extra excited about my adventures ahead.

I just love a good book! And most books I choose I can’t put down. I do love turning the pages of a traditional book and getting to the end, but you can store so many more books online. So I’ve succumbed to kindle on my iPad. For hours at a time, I’m immersed in a fictional world full of interesting characters and plot lines. Weirdly, I love crime novels. I spend endless hours reading about abduction, murders, crime scenes and police investigations. This isn’t always the best genre to read when you’re about to arrive to an unknown destination, but it certainly keeps me the most entertained!

In flight entertainment is so varied these days, I find it can both inform and entertain. I remember watching DreamGirls on a flight from London to Sydney, documentaries about Iceland on route to Reykjavik, and old favourite television programmes like Without a Trace (yes, another crime related theme). On an Emirates flight from Sydney to Athens, I was so engrossed in repeated episodes of Without a Trace, I was annoyed I had to get off the plane, especially as I was half way through an episode.

A writer at heart, I spend my time on-board penning (or typing) up my latest thoughts. Whether it’s in my travel journal, or creating a blog piece, I’m definitely my most creative, reflective, and feel most inspired when I’m travelling and discovering new places. I’m looking forward to sharing my adventures in South America during this trip, so watch this space!

I used to prefer a seat next to the aisle, mainly to have the freedom to get up and go to the toilet without feeling guilty about waking all the people next to me. But now I prefer the window seat. I love photographing the world beyond the window, including the various cloud formations, amazing colours during sunrise or sunset, and of the earth below from 30,000 plus feet high. I love the picture below, taken using my iPhone when on route to Iceland in March of this year.

My pending long haul flight to Ecuador means I could spend time revising my Spanish phrases that I learned in my Spanish for Travelling class. Opening up the language phrase book of the country you’re on route to is a great way to pass time, polish up on language skills and to improve confidence for your vacation. Listening to my language podcasts also helps pass time in a productive way.

I’m a terrible sleeper on long haul flights. I envy those people who can just nod off to sleep and not wake up until the plane descends. If I could sleep, it would be a great way to get through a long haul flight. I also hate night time flights because I’m far too excited and busy with the in-flight entertainment to consider sleeping. So this pending 22.30pm departure to Ecuador is going to be challenging. But fingers crossed my new British designed new J-Pillow will be the solution.

My lonely planet guide book comes in good use during the flight (although I’m not carrying one with me on this trip). I read it to consolidate on prior research, and to remind me of those important practical tips on  safety and how to get to and from the airport. The in-flight magazine often has great information on destinations as well.

I personally feel technology and social media these days has actually reduced our ability to talk to the people around us. I can’t help but notice how many people have their eyes focused on their personal mobile device these days rather than looking around them. My personal pet hate is observing a group of people in a restaurant, all sat around the table on their mobile phones, not talking to each other. But striking up conversation with the people sitting around you would be a great way to pass the time on a long haul flight. On a trip from Sydney to New York City many years ago, I chatted with two boys who just finished touring Australia. I eventually met up with them again in New York and New Jersey, and they spent time showing me around their local neighbourhoods.

I’m sure everyone has their own ways to keep sane and entertained on long haul flights. I would love to hear what other people do, so feel free to share and comment on what works for each of you!

Learning a foreign language

  I did it! I’ve survived ten weeks in my Spanish for Travelling class. I pushed myself well past my comfort zone and learned a foreign language. 

I’ve never been great at learning languages. I can’t speak or understand a word of my ethnic language of Chinese. I studied French at high school for a year, (a very long time ago), and again one Summer when I was living and studying at university in the United States, (again, a very long time ago). I know enough basic French to at least order food and ask for directions, and I can speak basic conversational Dutch.

But of all the languages I’ve never wanted to learn, it’s Spanish. Not even the remote chance of meeting Penelope Cruz would motivate me to learn Spanish. Why? Because it makes no sense to me whatsoever. Spanish words and pronunciations have no resemblance to English. How on earth am I going to remember these words, let alone pronounce them?! But with a pending two month stint in South America starting in four weeks, I wanted some basic knowledge of the main language. 

I remember my first class, ten weeks ago. It was the most stressed I’ve felt in a long time. As the teacher gave us a worksheet to test our basic knowledge, I stared at the words that may as well have been written in Egyptian hieroglyphics. It didn’t help me feel any better that the girls at my table seem to recognise the words and understood what to do. I left my first class like my head was about to implode from information overload. 

Ten weeks on and I’m proud to say I now know more than I did when i first started. And although I’m not convinced I know enough to get me by as a tourist for two months, the most important thing I have gained is confidence to at least communicate on a basic level.

Afterall, one of the joys of travelling is to not only push yourself past your comfort zone, but to fully immerse yourself in the culture of the country. And there’s no better way to do that then learn the language! Como te llamas?