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Surviving Long Trips 

Sometimes getting to where you want to go is not much fun. A 24-hour plus plane ride from Australia to Europe makes me never want to get on a plane ever again. However, unless I want to live stationary in one part of the world (I don’t) then dealing with long trips by plane, car, bus, or train is part of the deal when being a traveller.  

In some cases, it’s possible to take a different form of transport. You can catch a bus instead of a train, or a ferry instead of a bus. However, in many circumstances, you probably can’t trade plane rides for something else – unless you fancy a long cross country (or international) bus ride, or you want to cargo ferry across the ocean, which could be an adventure of its own.  

Part of my dislike of planes comes from the fact that I am unable to sleep on them – which makes long flights unbearable as it adds a “fun” layer of exhaustion onto everything else. If you are lucky enough to be able to sleep on planes, that is the best way of passing the time and ensures you are not completely dead when you arrive at your destination. If you change your watch or phone to the time zone you are going to and try to sleep in line with that – you might also mitigate some of the effects of jetlag.   

If you’re as unsuccessful at sleeping as me, then a lot of flights especially international ones, have entertainment systems. Either on screen, or ones to download onto your phone or tablet. That might be something to look into before you fly, to ensure you have the app downloaded if you are flying a company where you need to. An eight-hour plane ride gets a lot more fun when you marathon every Marvel film you can find. (Though perhaps steering clear of Infinity War, unless you fancy spending your flight sobbing.) I also find that tv shows seem to make the time move faster than movies – perhaps because each episode doesn’t last as long, so it’s easier to move through them. While you’re checking to see if your plane has an in-flight app, download some games apps. I find games that don’t involve much thinking though still some strategy are best – things like 1010 or 2048.  

It’s not a new fact that hydration is essential, and especially so when you’re thousands of kilometres up in the air. Drinking enough water is going to help you feel a little better. Though if you do not have an aisle seat, you might have to be wary of aggravating the person who does when you continuously clamber over them because you’ve drunk too much. 

Try to avoid looking at the clock, or the sky map. There is nothing more frustrating than thinking a long time has passed and realising only twenty minutes has gone by, and you still have at least half a dozen hours in the sky. 

I know many people who say they enjoy flights. It is an uninterrupted block of time which they get to themselves; to catch up on movies, to read, to do puzzle books. And that is true. It is a block of time without phones ringing, without chores to be done, without the distractions of the internet (not in all cases, and I would like internet on flights to be a more common encounter) to spend time on your smaller hobbies. However, do the things you want to do in the beginning section of the flight, the longer the flight goes the less likely you are to want to do anything but stare mindlessly at your eight-hour Marvel marathon.  

Trains and buses are similar to flights in that you do not have control over the vehicle. However, I find I like them a lot more than flights. I have done a 12-hour train ride from Belgrade, Serbia to Podgorica, Montenegro, and decided it was one of the highlights of my whole three-month Europe trip. A 12-hour flight, on the other hand, makes me groan even at the thought. One of the pros of busses and trains is that you are on the ground; instead of staring into the abyss of clouds, you get to watch the world fly past.   

I think for this reason, I considered my bus and train trips part of my adventure, rather than just a means to get from one place to another. Driving past castles, or deep blue rivers, and even in one case up and then down a snowy mountain made for part of the excitement. I did want to get out of the bus at the snowy mountain, despite it being the middle of nowhere. 

If (unlike me) you can sleep in transport, then overnight bus and train trips are an excellent way to get from one place to another while you sleep, saving on both time and accommodation money. Even shorter trips can be a good time to nap to rest after the adventures of running around foreign cities. 

Car rides give you the most amount of flexibility. At least if you are the one in control of the car – if not, then it’s a bit more like a bus. Except you are probably trying not to murder your family, that you are stuck in an enclosed space with. However, car trips you are in control of can be a lot of fun.  

There’s nothing to say when driving from A to B that you need to go directly there. It’s more exciting not to do that. A little research into the area can reveal spots not too far off the route to turn a monotonous drive into an adventure of hopping from place to place. The other pro of stopping is that it gives you a break. Long trips are more comfortable to manage if you can stop and rest, stretch your legs, and not have to be always watching the road. 

The con to driving is that driving is tiring. While it gains you more flexibility, you can’t doze as you make the journey; you have to be constantly paying attention. If travelling with friends, it’s easier and enjoyable to keep occupied – talking and singing along; you can also swap drivers so you get a nap. Singing along to music is also a great way to spend the time when driving alone too – and there’s no one around to tell you that you sound like a dying cat.  

Long trips can be exhausting and unpleasant, but they do not have to be. At the very least, there are ways to make them a little more enjoyable.  

Lucy Moloney

The author Lucy Moloney

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