Saturday, 15 July 2017

Surviving Long Haul Journeys

     I've done my fair share of long haul journeys during my travels over the last few years, be it 8-10 hours of driving across Central America, a 12-13 hour train journey across Europe, or a 24, or even 36 hour flight halfway around the world. They are definitely not journeys I look forward, nor ones I enjoy, but they are often a necessary part of travelling, especially when on a budget. Long journeys do have some benefits though; you can forget about your problems or obligations for a while, and just relax, since you can't do anything about them while on the road. So, these are some of my suggestions for how to make long haul journeys a little easier, whatever means of transport it involves.

"Surviving Long Haul" text on background of airplane with gate attached on airport runway beside terminal building


- Get comfy
You're going to be in this vehicle or whatever for a long time, so find a way to get as comfortable as possible. Wear comfortable clothes - for me, this is normally a loose fitting top with leggings, and a hoodie in case I get cold. The hoodie also doubles up as a pillow, as I'm not a fan of those neck pillows - though if they work for you, definitely get one! I like to be able to kick off my shoes easily too, partly because of foot swelling on flights, and partly because I like to fold my legs up under me - it's comfy for me, ok! I also skip makeup, and often take out my contact lenses in case I sleep, which dries them out horribly.

- Be prepared
Know your itinerary, know what time your flight or train or bus is, know where you're going, and be organised. There's nothing worse than frantically scrambling to get the station or airport on time, so make sure you know your plan and have it all written down - times, flight numbers, booking references, whatever! - and arrive in plenty of time, so you have a more relaxed journey.

- Charge your devices
Whether it's a laptop, phone, tablet or e-reader, you're bound to be using some form of technology to occupy yourself for at least some of the journey, and you don't want that dying on you halfway through! Charge everything fully in advance, and bring your chargers with you. Top up their batteries at any chance - in the airport, on the train - and bring a portable charger for long journeys when you know you won't have access to a power point. Make the most of plane entertainment systems too if you have one on your flight, as a few films can pass the time more quickly, and this won't drain your device at the same time. Also, remember you may not have wifi access while travelling, so download any films, music or books you want. Don't forget your headphones too! Everyone hates the person who plays their music or film out loud, so just don't.

- Grab a book
Technology is great for distraction, but it's always a good idea to have some old-school forms of entertainment in case your battery dies or there's no wifi or some other 21st century problem strikes. A good book can often keep you occupied for longer than say a film or a phone game, as it can take hours to read it from start to finish. I used to take puzzle books when I was younger too, less so now that we have phone apps, and a pack of cards is good when travelling with others.

- Have a chat
This is easier when travelling with others of course, and most strangers will prefer to be left alone on long journeys, rather than being sucked into a conversation. But talking can pass the time quite quickly, and if you're travelling with people you don't know so well - like when I've done Intrepid trips - then they will have their own wealth of new stories to potentially share with you. I'm typically more of a plug-in to my music and do my own thing person, but I have noticed that talking can pass time more quickly if I start to get bored of that.

- Sleep
Chances are, a long journey is going to disrupt your sleep pattern somehow, especially if you're changing time zones, so catch as much rest as possible. I sometimes try to sleep in line with the time zone I'll be arriving in, but you'll probably be jet lagged no matter what, so grab any time you can. A lot of people will invest in eye masks and noise cancelling headphones to help with this - I've never bothered, but I don't often sleep well when travelling anyway, since I'm often on my own and worry about my belongings or missing my stop etc.

- Move around
Obviously this isn't always possible, but take any opportunities you can. Get out of buses and cars whenever you make a rest stop, even if you don't need the bathroom. Walk up and down the train carriage or airplane. Wander around airports on stopovers. You'll get very stiff and sore if you sit around for too long (plus deep vein thrombosis is a possible concern), and the activity will help brighten your mood when you're getting grumpy.

- Stay hydrated
Drink plenty of water when travelling, even if it means bathroom breaks. The air in planes can be very dry, as can other forms of transport if the air conditioning is on, and it will make you pretty thirsty. Avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol too (I always have some when it's free on the plane, but don't go overboard), as these will dehydrate you too, and play havoc with your sleep.

- Pack some toiletries
If you're travelling for hours and hours, you'll start to feel a bit gross, so it's nice to have the option to freshen up throughout, rather than feeling completely disgusting by the end. I take out my contact lenses for long journeys, and bring a toothbrush and toothpaste, roll-on deodorant, and some moisturiser (that dry air again!) to keep me feeling human! It can also be a good idea to bring some clean underwear for really long haul journeys, and change during your stopover or shortly after arriving (saves you digging through checked luggage for it).

- Observe and explore
The journey can be half the fun sometimes, so make the most of what it allows you to explore and learn about. If you're on your way to a new destination, do some research while on your way, online or with a guide book. If you have a long stopover, see if there's enough time to leave the airport and explore the city you happen to be in. If you're travelling over land, watch the scenery go by from the windows, and explore what you can during any rest stops. People watching can be a fun way to pass the time too, and chances are, the lives of the people in the country you're visiting will look at least a little different to your own.


Any more suggestions to add to the list? How do you cope with long haul journeys?

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