Sunday Seven – Seven Ways to Pass the Time Before Take-Off

I have a confession to make.

I kind of love airports. 

To clarify, I don’t love waiting in long lines full of passive-aggressive (or just plain aggressive) people. I don’t particularly enjoy being frisked by security. And I always feel nervous watching my bag float off down the ramp, mentally crossing my fingers that I will meet up with it again. But once all those things are cleared, I get excited about my upcoming trip.

For many people, though, the airport is a place where dreams go to die, where you’re stuck waiting forever, your spirit slowly crushed. It doesn’t need to be this way! There’s lots of things you can do to pass the time before take-off – here are seven of my favourites.

7. Stretch
As I mentioned in a previous post about the new yoga space at the San Francisco airport, I often get weird looks when I stretch before flights. Laugh all you want, strangers; it’s really important to get your body comfortable before a flight, particularly if it’s a long one. In addition to stretching for about 15-20 minutes, I like to do lunges (frankly, I like to do lunges anywhere), shoulder rolls and calf raises to prepare my limbs. Don’t forget to stretch during your flight too – check out Quantas for some great inflight health tips. If stretching’s not your thing, just walk briskly around the terminal – you might find something neat!

6. Charge Your Electronics
In Kuala Lumpur I had four hours to kill before my connecting flight, so I found a quiet corner with three leather massage chairs and promptly unplugged all of them except for one. Then I plugged in my camera and laptop chargers and hopped onto the third chair and relaxed while my electronics refreshed themselves.

5. Catch Up on Emails
Many airports now thankfully offer free WiFi, so why not take the time to catch up on some emails and send a few hellos home if you’ve got the time? It’s also a great time to back up any files (from your camera or otherwise) while you’re waiting for your various electronics to charge.

4. Check out the Amenities
Airports nowadays are more than just waiting areas for takeoff, so check out how much time you have to kill and find some fun. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport has its very own library, which highlights Dutch architecture, visual arts, design, fashion and history. Hong Kong International Airport has a nine-hole, USGA-approved golf course adjacent to the airport, complete with a Thai restaurant, putting greens and a club house.

But the most…interesting…amenity I’ve come across has to the Fish Valet service operated by the Fairmont Vancouver Hotel. If you’ve spent your vacation in British Columbia fishing and want to bring your prized catch home, Fairmont will store your fish in a 575 cubic foot departures-level fish freezer, and will transfer it directly to your flight home.

3. Hit the Duty Free

Didn’t have time on your travels to pick up a gift for someone you should have? Perhaps you want to splurge on some fancy perfume or cologne? Or maybe you just want a giant bottle of booze to take home. Whatever you’re looking for, the duty free is a fun way to pass the time and pick up something you likely don’t need, but really want anyway. A Toblerone bar the size of a baseball bat? Sure!

2. Make Up Useless Games

For some weird reason, I like to look at the arrival and departure boards and see which flight is coming or going the furthest distance from that particular airport. This game lasted FOREVER when I was in Honolulu, and I even got strangers involved who had initially mistaken my staring at the board as a sign I was lost. No, m’am, I’m just playing a really dumb game. Oh, you’d like to play too? NEAT!

Eventually I get bored of that game, so then I try to find a city I haven’t heard of before, and then totter off to find WiFi to look up where it is and learn something about it.

I am fully aware of the nerdiness of this game.

1. Nap
When all else fails, particularly if you’re at a small airport or there aren’t many fun distractions, find a good, quiet row of seats (or perhaps a sleeping pod if you’re at Heathrow or Vancouver) and take a nap. Nothing passes the time like spooning with your luggage.

How do you like to pass the time before a flight? Leave a comment below!

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Death of My Youth

Or, Tops (and a few Flops) of 16 Weeks of Travel

I’ve been asked what my favourite place was from my trip, and it’s a hard question to answer because there are so many! So when I started giving this question some more thought, I started to ugly cry a bit over it, because the realization that the trip was over also led to a more disturbing thought – my youth was also over!

But then I remembered that I look like I’m about 10 years younger than I actually am, so I still have my fake-youth to hang on to and exploit. And hopefully I’ll travel again someday (soon) and continue to put off the responsibilities that society (and by that, I mean women’s magazines which are clearly authoritative on the subject) tells me that I should be hankering for. Suck it, society, I’m not ready to fully abandon my youth just yet!

So yes, back to that question – I can’t pinpoint one specific place as my favourite. I pretty openly bashed Australia but the truth is, I had some great experiences. And while I was horribly ill in Laos, I still loved the country. So every place holds special memories for me that are somewhat hard to explain, but they were all pieces in my mad-dash puzzle that spread across three continents in four months.

And so, in no particular order, here are some of those pieces:

Continue reading “Death of My Youth”

If You Hear the Bell, Run Like Hell

Welcome to Amsterdam, land of bikes.

Amongst other things, of course, that Amsterdam is known for.

I’ve spent the last three days trying to figure my way around. It got off to a bumpy start after I got off at the wrong train station (no train announcements in English led to a confused me jumping off a stop early). Things got worse when I discovered that streets go in every direction here and many don’t have signs that are easily visible (grid systems, people, grid systems are the way to go when designing a city!). Streets that run parallel to canals are often named the same thing on either side. And don’t forget to watch out for all the cyclists! Confusing huh?

Yes.

So it took me awhile to find my hostel, which was up two sets of very narrow stairs that I got stuck in and nearly fell backwards down. But I had arrived.

It’s interesting to note that even though I’ve been travelling for four months, this is the first time I’ve been on my own in a country where English is not spoken readily. My handy European translation book that I picked up conveniently forgot about the Dutch, so I’ve been getting by with timid smiles and lots of hand gestures. I shall be quite good at charades by the time I’m done this trip, I think.

I spent my first day in Amsterdam wandering and trying to get the navigation down, and in doing so unintentionally ended up in the Red Light District which is a convenient five minute walk from my hostel. Well, they’re certainly not prudish around these parts, now are they?

Right smack in the middle of the District there is a former church, which was a pretty hilarious thing to see in such an area. It’s now a gallery (with a good exhibition of photo journalism on right now, FYI), but the history of how the “Old Church” and the District itself came to get here is quite an interesting story. Basically, I think it went down like this:

  • Amsterdam was based on trade. Sailors came in on ships with goods and had a few days in town. Rather than having randy sailors tearing through the town looking for women to hook up with, the townspeople decided to centralize the “business”, therefore creating the District. Always savvy, those Dutch.
  • These sailors, often married, were religious and had morals. They couldn’t frequent these “businesses” without clearing their consciences afterwards. Also savvy – the church. Sailors could visit the prostitutes and then pop next door to the church for forgiveness the next day.
  • But what about those sailors that would be shipping out the next morning? Why, the church had a solution for this too – forgiveness in advance! Sailors could purchase forgiveness for sins they had yet to commit.
I have obviously taken some liberties here. And the church is actually old, built in the 1300s.
Besides the legalization of prostitution (and looking the other way with marijuana), Amsterdam is pretty ingenious on many fronts. Throughout history they’ve stayed neutral in conflicts, recognizing the business opportunities available in war. Cycling really is the primary form of transportation – I’ve seen few cars, and most seem to prefer hopping on the back of a friend’s bike over taking a tram. Houses are built with a slight lean to ensure that when moving objects or goods in or out, they don’t smash the brickwork on the way.

So, is there anything that the Dutch don’t do right?

Well yes, the food.

If you like mashed potatoes, ribs, or bratwurst, you’re set. Otherwise…good luck. I have had a few good salads here, but they’ve been hard to find. I decided to try the local delicacy – frites – with mayonnaise, not ketchup, so that I would look like a local and therefore blend in. Nevermind the fact that I am clearly not Dutch. Regardless, this is what I got:

THIS IS NORMAL. WHO NEEDS THIS MUCH MAYONNAISE? Did the woman look at me and think “this gal, she probably could use more mayonnaise in her life” (all in Dutch, of course).

I struggled to scrape off as much of it as I could, but eventually had to abandon ship when it began to leak through the paper. I swore I would never eat frites again.

And then promptly had them with dinner. They came with the meal! Sorry cholesterol levels.