Inevitabilities of international travel

When you are me you are likely to travel internationally two ways  – in economy  (goes without saying) – with children or without.  I should mention the ‘with children’ category can be broken down further into sub-categories ‘with children and husband’ or ‘with children no other adult’ – but those stories are for another time.

There were the days when international for me did mean business class lounges and turning left when you got on the plane, but that’s when I was working and the other end of the trip usually posed 15 hour days and travel to and from the airports under the cover of darkness (not that I don’t miss it, just a tiny little bit – not least because it falls under the ‘without children’ category).

Last week I traveled to Australia for the first time from Durban (and return) under category two – without children.  It was a very long trip, including three flights each way and lengthy transit stops in Singapore both times (17 hours and 8 hours respectively) but that’s what you get when you book a next day ticket using the ‘airlines I would travel on versus possible cost considerations’ method. The length of time it took to get there and back gave me an opportunity to reflect on some of the things I thought might be exciting about traveling without children, but as usual its not always quite what you think it will be.

Below are some of my observations – collected over the course of the six flights.

–       The best and worst of each country’s citizens will be on display at all times, but you will likely only notice / remember the bad, weird and wacky ones. In particular your own countrymen and those of the countries you have lived in before – which is lucky because it is likely you will refer to them in years to come as a way to validate your generalisations about people from ‘that’ country.  It is of course also possible to easily spot appalling behaviour from citizens from a country you have never lived in – but you usually have to be able to sneak a look at their passport to confirm.

–       There appears to be an alarming trend in wearing travel neck cushions as a fashion accessory in airports

–       You will be seated near a baby / small child and it will cry – but for mothers traveling without their own children, this sound will fade into background noise and if you do notice it – you will only reflect with relief that it is not your own

–       The plane will always be full (this is more common post GFC when airlines have cut flights – fair enough). If the plane is not full – any spare seats will NOT be next to you.  If the plane is relatively empty (rare but does happen still) you will still have someone seated beside you and they will not understand the etiquette – that they should be the one to get up and go SOMEWHERE ELSE as soon as the seatbelt sign goes off, if not before – as you can’t as you are trapped in your row by them!! (In the end I just climbed out over him and went to claim four seats and slept from Adelaide to Singapore on the way home – but COME ON – he should have known)

–       The person beside you will slurp their drink, which may be a cultural way of them showing enjoyment – but it will still annoy the hell out of you. Possibly not as much as the other bodily functions they may also unleash while still sitting within 10 cms of you.


–       The person sitting beside you will have spent an hour before the flight in the smoking lounge and will carry that aroma with them for the duration of the flight.


–       The person sitting beside you will fall asleep and lean on you with some part of their body for the rest of the trip.

–       This one more as an FYI to the check in chick in Johannesburg who issued my Singapore to Adelaide boarding pass – 62K on a Singapore Airlines airbus is the back row of the plane – window seat, NOT a forward aisle seat as she struggled to make me believe at the time.

–       It has been my experience on the airlines I have traveled in and out of Africa on (Cathay and Singapore) that they do not put their newest and prettiest planes on this route. An example of this was the size of the tv on the Joburg – Singapore flight being less than a quarter of the size of the economy class tv I had for the Singapore – Adelaide flight.  I would add at this point – if you want to fly economy (or don’t have a choice) Singapore Airlines is the way to go – the new planes are da bomb.  Huge tv screens, on demand everything, ipod / iphone charger ports, in seat international power sockets (particularly fabulous for parents traveling with electronic equipment requiring charging – don’t despair – it will NEVER run out of batteries)

–       Magazines seem to cost about six times their actual price at airports and are generally the only thing you want to buy – or can concentrate long enough on so you are suckered, and they have so many of them – its like being dazzled by the choice, you just can’t stop at one.

–       If you spend long enough at airports you will run into someone you know – I ended up seeing three people I knew in my first stretch in Singapore airport, fair enough if was a Friday afternoon and everyone was going home for the weekend – but just sayin.

–       You will sit directly behind the person that immediately reclines their seat to the full extent immediately after take off and behind you will be the tallest person in economy so you don’t feel you can just whack your own seat back equally to make up for the space you no longer have. Result is tight squeeze and bad angle on tv screen so that you have to move your neck around to weird angles to view.

–       When you travel alone – the luxury of watching full television shows or movies in one sitting is available. It is likely you will use this opportunity to watch something that will make you cry and everyone walking past will look at you strangely as you sob with your headphones on.

–       Australia is a big country – just because you sight land on the flight info thingy – hold the excitement, there is usually a long way to go until you will actually be landing (like hours)

–       If you are truly tired you will be able to sleep easily in the airport transit hotels not thinking at all about how they are hired out in six hour lots and wondering who the cleaning staff are.

–       There will always be people who undo their seatbelt and open the overhead lockers during landing – that’s just the way it is.

Who’s got something else to add?  I know there must be at least six hundred other things I haven’t included – and maybe next week after my next trip by myself I will have some more.


6 responses to “Inevitabilities of international travel

  1. Lol, you have figured the laws of the Universe about travelling 🙂

  2. HAH! Here’s another one
    After take off and as soon as the seatbelt sign goes off, everybody is in the rush to the nearest toilet. All of a sudden, everybody had the urge to pee (or number 2).
    And then there’s also the other part of the trip, landing. After the captain announced that the plane is landing in half an hour, there’s a rush to go to the toilet yet again. The long hour flight, they didn’t think of heading there BEFORE? Or couldn’t they just wait to land?

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  4. Can I just say all of that aside, I’m SO HAPPY to be flying to the US by myself this month instead of with a child? SO SO SO SO SO HAPPY.

    Too frequently it’s me, the baby and no other adult. In January on the way home it will be me, the then 3 year old (can’t she just turn 2 again…not ready for the “three” year old) and a 2 1/2 month old. Yeah, that’s going to be a fun 30 hours.

    • It’s tough going traveling with kids alone – especially with one that you can’t leave outside the bathroom when you need to take the other in, those aircraft bathrooms are barely built for one person let alone one and two halves. Hope your little ones travel well when the time comes.

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