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Delays, stress and ten-hour transits: the Salty Souls guide to surviving your long-haul flight

You know what’s fun? Not long haul flights.

Before we get started, let me just say I know how blatantly that comment displays an inherent privelege and feverish arrogance and I am lucky to have the agency and socioeconomic status and financial means (ish) to travel internationally. I acknowledge that. And I acknowledge that on the scale of 1-100 of bad things humans have to endure ‘taking a long flight’ hovers at about minus four million.

But man. That doesn’t make sitting in a 48-hour rotisserie of other peoples sweat and breath and germs and anxiety particularly pleasant. Yet we do it, time and time again, year after year. You know how mums slowly forget the pain of the birth of their firstborn child until they’re on the hospital bed a few years later trying to push out their second and its like: “oh yeah. Didn’t I say I was never going through this nightmare again?’ International travel is like that. It’s only when you’re 24 hours into your flight and your ass has gone numb and you’ve forgotten how it feels to stand upright or lay horizontally that you’re like ‘oh yeah. I remember now.’
For everyone who has a flight coming up, is currently mid-transit, let me just say: I hear you. I feel for you. So I have lovingly prepared this list of things you can to do make your transit slightly less terrible.

1. Be half-grateful

Yeah, I know. I just had a big whinge about how terrible it all is. And it is. But we are not pigeons so I believe there is room in how human brains for two conflicting ideas:
  1. flights suck AND
  2. flights are incredible
I am so grateful there is a mode of transport in this world that can get me anywhere in the world in mere days. DAYS. Think about our sisters 150 years ago who had to get on a boat and travel for MONTHS whenever the urge to travel starting scratching at their restless feet. This is what I tell myself, usually when I see the ol’ flight schedule go from ‘on-time’ to ‘delayed’ or ‘cancelled’ and I sit there and tell myself ‘don’tcrydon’tcrydon’tcry.’ Flight sucks. Flight is incredible. Both true.

2. Interact with people (yes, really)

Recently I had to do a 21 hour layover in China, and by “had to”, I mean, it was cheap, and I am also cheap, so I took it. I arrived bleary-eyed at 3:00am in the morning the preceding 21 hours were a blur of trying not to get overwhelmed that I was COMPLETELY ALONE in a country in which I didn’t speak the language and there was NO SOCIAL MEDIA or creature comforts that remind you who you are.
But in the morning, I went to get snacks at a little mart down the road from my hotel. There was a family there behind the counter, smiley dad and smiley mum and smiley child who kept excitedly running and grabbing random groceries and throwing them on my pile while the parents tried to calm him down, and, man, it was such a pure moment it sent a bolt of joy right through my heart. It’s easy when you’re in transit, especially when you’re alone, to go into your bubble of solitude and ignore the sea of people around. But seriously, a shared laugh with a stranger in an airport at the water fountain, or a conversation with the person in the seat next to you, could be just that final buzz you needed to get through the last leg of your three-flight journey.

3. Move, move, move.

Mate, move. The day before your flight, move so much you wear yourself out. Surf. Run. Dance. Do a stupid amount of squats. Appreciate the feeling of actually having legs, then, once you have entered past the gates of hell (bag drop and check in) keep moving. If you have hours to kill, put a Podcast in your ears and walk laps of the entire departure gate. Do it. Trust me. 

4. Make space for the transition

Someone smarter and with more patience than me once said to me ‘transition is a journey in itself’ and that is never truer than in that weird 2-3 day transit where you are suspended in nowheresville. It’s actually a perfect opportunity to detach from where you are leaving and prepare for where you are going next. Use that time to journal, reflect, be in your own company, catch up and check in with yourself, and just revel in the fact you have no responsibility by now beyond being at your numbered gate on time. Bonus points for staying off social media.

Seriously, there is nothing like watching the outside world go on without you to give you anxiety and restlessness. You already have to disconnect from social media for the flights, so why not commit and disconnect for the whole transit? Give into being a resident of the weird anonymous ecosystem that is airport departure gates for a little while. Just float. Reality awaits you on the other side anyway.

5. Recognize when the stress is not your stress

Between delayed flights, peak times, misplaced luggage and long lines at security-check, airports can be quite stressful places. But don’t let yourself just become stressed by default, because everyone else is. Ask yourself, is this stress really my own? Or am I just embodying it?

6. Eat food

I know every article will tell you ‘don’t eat a heavy meal before a flight’ but I say eat everything. Eat all the things. Sometimes, there is literally nothing else to do, and going through the motion of lining up, ordering food, and handing a cashier money puts a well needed dent in long, monotonous layovers of being purposeless and doing nothing. Eat all that sugary stuff you usually deny yourself and don’t feel guilty about it and when you’re on the plane and your food baby is distending so far over your jeans your seat neighbour asks you how many months pregnant you are, own it. Or eat healthy and feel good. Anything goes in Nowheresville.
And that, my friends, are some extremely valid tried-and-tested ways to make long-haul flights fractionally more bearable.
What’s your method for surviving long-haul flights?
 Feature image via Pinterest

About the Author:

Australian-born Caitlin grew up in the ocean. She's had sand in her undies and salt in her veins since day 1. She's a feminist, empath, traveller, writer, Scorpio and professional feeler of feelings and noticer of the world and people around her. She gets fired up about equality and women's empowerment and is always down to learn more. You can follow her heart-driven messages and sometimes angry rants on Instagram: @caitlincreeper and FB: facebook.com/caitlinecreeper/

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