As I sit here and write this, I am waiting for a friend who is in an appointment. I’ve been waiting for three hours and I’m in need of a snooze. I don’t mind the wait— I’ve become good at it.
I’m reminded of all the hours I’ve waited for a connecting flight. Sometimes for seven or eight hours. I was on a layover at Vancouver Airport for about that long, and I was exhausted. With the time change I had not slept during the long flight to Vancouver and with so long to wait, I had to sleep. I can sleep just about anywhere when I’m tired— ferries, trains, waiting rooms, even in hospital, and that’s a huge achievement! But I am always worried that when I’m sleeping at an airport, someone will take my stuff. It’s hard to sleep with your hand tightly gripping your carry on luggage.
I was so exhausted at Vancouver Airport that I lay across a row of seats, and slept. The sun was shining through the huge terminal windows, and it was toasty warm. I slept for thirty minutes at a time, waking every so often to make sure my belongings were still with me. The short snoozes were blissful.
I remember being just as exhausted in Hong Kong, and I slept the whole ferry ride from Victoria Harbour, sitting upright. If I’m that tired, I sleep!
I think that as I spent so many years travelling as a child, I learnt to sleep just about anywhere. Some of my earliest memories are of me in transit, and I even took my first steps on a ship in the Pacific Ocean. I have many memories of planes and ships from my early childhood.
Most of us have seen people sleeping on the ground at airport terminals and this is nothing new, but I know more people who need to be at home in their own bed to sleep properly. I don’t sleep particularly well on ferries and trains, but when you’re thoroughly exhausted and have no bed in sight, you take what you can get— a nanna nap in the upright position.
I normally find that on the first leg of a long haul flight, I get very little sleep— I listen to audiobooks, music playlists, and watch inflight documentaries. But once I arrive at the airport and find my connecting terminal, I need to sleep. I snooze at the airport and then pretty much the entire rest of the trip, regardless of how many connecting flights I need to take. Generally the thrill of another trip has worn off and all I want to do is sleep until I get there, and sometimes even in the transfer to my accommodation.
I think that part of enjoying travel is learning to sleep, or at least rest well in transit. From Australia, everywhere is a long flight, so it makes sense to train yourself to sleep. I suffer severe motion sickness so I have to take travel meds for it, and I make sure I always choose the tablets which have a slight sedative. Even if you can’t sleep, you can rest and relax, as opposed to having travel meds which keep you wired on a twelve hour overnight flight— please don’t be that person! I also make sure I take my travel neck pillow, which is revolutionary; you can sleep anywhere upright with those babies! And I take a shawl or a wrap as it’s always freezing on a flight. My other trick is a beanie. I won’t fly without a beanie— I cannot tell you how warm your whole body stays on a flight when you have a beanie on. It’s also comforting and blocks out some noise. After a documentary, a few chapters of an audiobook and a feed, I listen to some chilled classical music, kick my shoes off, pull on my beanie and wrap myself in a shawl. Even thinking about it now makes me want to sleep …