As my Boomeresque Facebook friends know, ever since we returned from New Mexico in October, I’ve been mostly consumed by planning our trip to Southeast Asia and Hawaii. Some 32 years ago, I had the dumb luck good fortune to marry someone who gets to travel to warm interesting places as part of his job. Steve (a/k/a Mr. Excitement) is now old senior enough to be able to send younger more junior faculty to meetings at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota —in February, while he covers meetings in Hawaii — in February. Last February, when he was performing this crucial task, the head of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center asked if he would consider doing a three month sabbatical there. We He thought about it for a fraction of a nanosecond during which he probably thought (but was too polite to say), “Yay. Saved from spending another February in Philadelphia with Mrs. Excitement and her Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).” This is how we came to find ourselves fleeing leaving 6 degree (-14 degrees C) Philly on a Tuesday morning. (We won’t even mention the wind chill—because our teeth were chattering too much to mention anything).
For this first installment of
Mr. Dr. and Mrs. Excitement’s Wonderful Adventure, I’ll share some observations and insights I’ve acquired thus far:
1) Trip planning is labor and time intensive, but if you fancy yourself a travel blogger, whining about the process will only trigger derisive comments from your true love along the lines of, “And you call yourself a travel blogger?”
2) Notifying your credit card company in detail about your international travel plans does not mean your credit card won’t be suspended by a fraud alert at 2:00 a.m. when you are in the middle of trying to book flights #9 and #10 of your itinerary.
3) Just because you can squeeze fit it into your suitcase, doesn’t mean you should.
4) Reserving aisle and window seats in hopes that no one will be seated between you constitutes magical thinking and means you probably deserve to have a slightly odoriferous Canadian sitting between you. (BTW, some of my best friends are Canadian! Eh.) In his defense (or defence, if you’re Canadian), the odor might have been caused by his having had to sprint to make his connection at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) due to the late departure of his flight from Toronto because someone forgot to fuel the plane. Reportedly, the pilot was not amused.
5) Asking for hot tea when you’re flying over the Rocky Mountains against the jet stream is not smart.
5a) Asking for hot tea when you’re flying over the Rocky Mountains against the jet stream and you have your lap top open on your tray table is a guaranteed “what was I thinking?” moment.
6) Pulling an “all nighter” before leaving on your trip does not mean you will be able to sleep during your six hour flight to San Francisco.
7) San Francisco International Airport (SFO) does not have helpful signage for international travelers and public address announcements are mostly inaudible.
8) The food in the pre-security International Terminal at SFO is largely inedible — except for white rice. The white rice is fine.
9) When Philippine Airlines puts up a sign that check in for your 9:25 p.m. flight will start at 5:00 p.m., they mean you can line up at 5:00 p.m., but flight check in will start at 5:30 p.m.
10) When Philippine Airlines sends you an itinerary showing that your flight from San Francisco to Manila will stop in Guam and you will change planes from a Boeing 747 to an Airbus 340, what they mean is that your plane will stop in Honolulu and you will stay on the plane for an hour while it is refueled.
11) When the itinerary says that your trip time from San Francisco to Bangkok is 23 hours and 10 minutes, you will wonder what possessed you to add a flight from Philly to San Francisco and from Bangkok to Chang Mai as part of the same “travel day(s)”—daze(?).
12) The Pacific Ocean is really big. Seriously, it makes flying across the Atlantic seem like a puddle jump.
13) Lots of things break on an aging Philippine Airlines 747 which, judging from the signs in Arabic in the lavatory, enjoyed a prior life in the employ of a Middle Eastern airline (or sheik).
14) After an all nighter, followed by an all dayer, you will be able to sleep for 10 hours in a trans-Pacific 747 business class seat (even if it doesn’t recline flat—as long as you can put your feet up on the ledge under the window). Being able to sleep for 10 hours is vital on a 16 hour flight where the aircraft’s advertised personal entertainment systems are not functioning, seriously stressing out the lovely lead flight attendant (purser). (This poor lady was having a truly bad trip, having spent the trip in bound from Manila to SFO “talking down” a passenger who decided that he wanted to commit “suicide by airplane” — by opening a door and jumping out).
15) The International Date Line is a freaky thing and especially discombobulating when you cross it during a ten hour flight in the middle of the night – or is it day? – or is it tomorrow?
16) The business class Philippines Airlines lounge in Manila does not have reliable wifi, so you will not be checking your work email. (What part of v-a-c-a-t-i-o-n doesn’t Mr. Excitement understand? As for your vital travel blogger social media responsibilities — Girl, when are you going to learn how to pre-schedule your tweets and Facebook posts?)
17) Lunch on your Philippines Airlines flight from Manila to Bangkok was really good. Your personal entertainment system — not so much.
18) It’s best to have some paper reading material when all electronic devices must be turned off and you are on a flight with Mr. Excitement who is engrossed in a heavy tome he has been lugging across continents and oceans (the fifth volume of Game of Thrones) or you will have the following conversation:
Mrs. Excitement: I can’t read now. We’ll just have to converse.
Mr. Excitement: Then I guess you’re in trouble.
19) Bangkok International Airport is ENORMOUS and in January is full of Russians coming or going to Thai beach resorts. They wear heavy gold jewelry and cut in line. Speaking of lines, the one for Thai passport control was about 45 minutes long, but they stamp a 30 day visa in your passport for free — contrary to everything you’ve heard and read.
20) In Bangkok International Airport, Ronald MacDonald appears to be a Buddhist.
21) On a 55 minute flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai on Thai International Airlines — they give you a snack box and a hot and cold beverage — for “free” and your Thai pilot speaks better English than you do.
22) Going on a month long trip to Southeast Asia followed by 3 months living in Hawaii, during the coldest winter in decades in your home town is a good thing, but it doesn’t mean you won’t worry about your 89 year old mother and miss your dog.
What was your longest trip? How did you get there?