Lesson one: Try and avoid a domestic connection to an international flight if at all humanly possible.
When I’d flown to London in 2012, I had stopped over in Singapore for two days to visit friends. When I had continued my journey, I had stopped over in Qatar for a few hours before continuing on to Heathrow.
This time around, my travel plan began with an 11.05am flight from Brisbane to Sydney. When I got up at 7.15am on the morning of arrival, I realised I was unsure as to whether I needed to be at the airport two or three hours prior to departure (considering it was still only a domestic flight). I got on the phone to my travel agent’s 24/7 help hotline, and after cutting into valuable preparation time by sitting on hold, I finally spoke to an operator and found out that although it was only a domestic connection, I still needed to be at the hour two hours prior to departure.
After having a quick shower, Greg and I were left with ten minutes to eat the cooked breakfast my Dad had prepared for us. I was almost too flustered to eat more than a few slices of bacon and the fried egg.
We arrived at the airport with plenty of time, and Greg said goodbye to me before I headed through to security. I thought I’d cried all the tears I had; the previous night I had broken down at the sound of the song ‘Living’ by Moby. I had avoided listening to that song all of the previous day as it had made me feel like I wanted to cry. It played on random whilst sitting out on my Dad’s deck drinking a glass of wine the the previous night, and I had broken down.
Greg held me as I quietly cried, whispering to me that he loved me. I made a conscious effort to remember exactly how his embrace felt. It was only a few weeks, he gently reassured me. I was going to have a great time. He kissed me, and then had to make a run for it so as not to be charged an extortionate rate for parking. We let each other go, and I continued on to the security check wiping away my tears.
Having only been able to eat a few mouthfuls for my breakfast that morning, by the time we landed at Sydney Airport, I was starving. After transferring by bus to the international airport and passing through security once again, I went on the hunt for something to eat. All the casual dining options were outrageously expensive, so I had to settle for McDonalds. Sitting at a table at the far end of the table, after having walked to laps of the terminal, I was finally able to relax. I took out my phone and checked Facebook, composing a heartfelt departure message. Moments after pressing ‘post’, a woman came walking down the way, hollering “Anyone flying to Abu Dhabi?” at the top of her lungs. Not me, I thought. My flight to the capital of the UAE wasn’t due to depart until 4.30. It must have been a different flight. Nevertheless, my intuition got the better of me, and I got her attention.
“Name?” she barked.
“You need to run to the gate, they are fully boarded and ready to depart.”
Forgetting my bottle of water, I picked up my bag and sprinted through the terminal. I’d forgotten that Sydney was an hour ahead in time to Brisbane. I’ve missed it, I thought. I’m not even out of Australia and I’ve stuffed up my trip.
I made it to the plane, greeted by a chirpy English flight attendant, who commented humorously on the ancient nature of my MacBook as I frantically searched my bag for my boarding pass. I found my seat, too exhausted and breathless to notice any looks of distaste from guests who had managed to board the flight on time.
I was thankful for my aisle seat; I would be able to get up and down to go to the bathroom and stretch my legs at my will. However I wasn’t quick enought to recline my seat before the passenger in front reclined theirs, and the one behind crossed their legs so that their tibula was pressed against the back of my seat.
After take-off the inflight entertainment began, and I eagerly selected ‘TV Shows’ hoping they would have Season Two of Outlander available. I was sorely disapointed. Of the dismal selection of TV series the airline offered, they only had one episode of each. I wasn’t much more impressed by the movies on offer. Luckily I had some blogs to write.
We touched down in Abu Dhabi just short of midnight local time, and I headed straight for the gate. I had learned my lesson in Sydney. I had packed my carry-on luggage to acomodate for a decent refreshment in Abu Dhabi, minus a towel for a shower. Visiting the bathroom, I brushed my hair and cleansed, toned and moisturised my face. I had packed a change of clothes, but had already changed into half of it on the previous flight due to the freezing temperature on the plane. I thenfound a seat in the departure lounge f my gate, and before too long was boarding the last stretch to Dublin.
The flight from Abu Dhabi to Dublin was much more comfortabel. My seat was by the window in the very last row at the very back of the plane, with only one seat next to me. I was even hopeful, as I watched the rest of the passengers find their seats, that I would be lucky enough to have both seats to myself. It was too good to be true, and I had a neighbour for the journey. Oh well. It turned out he was an Irishman who lived in Bondi Junction in Sydney. A small world, huh?
Seeing as there was no-one behind us, I was able to recline my seat significantly. I was keen to swallow my sleeping tablet and get some sleep. It was a while before the cabin crew came past handing out snack packs and drinks, but once I had a cup of water, I had my Temazipam. I had found some relaxing meditation music by Deepak Chopra in the inflight entertainment on the previous flight, and located it again. I reclined my seat and pulled down my eye covering down.
The Temazipam gave me a solid two hours before I woke up wide awake. I used the time to catch up on my reading of ‘Not Waving But Drowning: The Troubled Life And Times Of A Frontline RUC Officer’ by Edmund Gregory, which told the true story of the author’s childhood struggle against poverty and his subsequent drive to become a policeman in the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Belfast, serving in Belfast’s riot squads during the Troubles, plus several other departments during his career before a forced retirement due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My books were to be set in the Republic of Ireland, but I was interested in reading about the author’s personal emotional experiences, and felt that his character traits were very similar to my own police officer character. I never read that much in one sitting usually, but I had two more books I wanted to get through for research purposes, so I was keen to get this one done and move on to the next one.
The Temazipam hadn’t knocked me out quite as forcefully as I’d hoped, but I took naps whenever I started to feel drowsy, popping on my headphones and being lulled back to sleep by the meditation music.
As we made our descent into Dublin, my stomach began to flutter, and all of a sudden I was aware of an anticipation of feeling the aircraft touch the ground. When we felt the wheels touch the tarmac with a sharp thud, I realised had done it. I had made it back to Ireland. I had achieved my goal.
It was two degrees celsius outside and still dark when we arrived at Dublin International Airport. We had arrived early, but this advantage seemed for nothing when the aircraft was forced to wait on the tarmac for the gate to open. My Irish neighbour scoffed in disgust, and I would learn from my AirBnb host later on that it was not due to a delay in a previous aircraft departing the gate, but for someone to show up to open the gate at all.
Finally, just as it seemed that the newly awoken toddler across the aisle could not bare another moment of confinement, we were able to disembark. The baggage carousel was crowded out with people keen to get to their bag first, but upon spotting my bright yellow case, I eyed out a small gap in the crowd and shouldered my way in. No way was I waiting for it to come around again!
I spent probably twenty minutes or more in the bathroom freshening up and changing into a warmer set of clothes, including skinny jeans, boots and a scarf. I bought myself a ‘Chai Steamer’, aka a chai latte. The girlw ho served me asked me if I had smaller change than a tweny euro note, and I replied that unfortunately I didn’t, as I had just landed. She tooka few minutes to locate some coins, informing me that my change would be mostly in coins. I was okay with that, I needed some anyway.
I remembered I needed to pump up my mobile phone, so I found a seating area with free wall plugs. It was now I realised I had the wrong adaptor, a UK one instead of Europe. After searching two stores in the terminal, I realized it was going to be impossible to find an Australia-Europe adaptor, and could not find a UK-Europe option either. It was times like this that usually threw me into an internal panic, but I was determined to resolve this situation calmly. I found a universal pack of five adaptors which included an option for UK-Europe for twenty two euros, so decided to buy that. At least wherever I traveled in the world in the future, I would have an adaptor, so I saw it as a worthy invenstment.
Finding a free wall socket in the airport terminal, I was certain my new charging setup was a fire hazard. I plugged my Australian iphone wall charger into the UK adaptor, and teh UK adaptor into my new Europe adaptor. The UK adaptor didn’t sit tight in the Europe one, so I used my suitcase to press against them to hold them in. it was quite a set-up, but it worked. With my phone charging quite quickly, I contacted my AirBnB host through the phone app. I was already running later than expected, and had to wait around at the airport until my phone was charged.
When finally my phone was charged to one hundred per cent, I headed out to catch a bus into the city. Two staff members at the bus stop asked the waiting passengers lookign at the timetables if we needed any help. The area I needed to get to seemed to baffle the man who was helping me, so I opened my AirbnB messages and read out the exact address to him. I needed to get to Parnell Street, which was off O’Connell Street in the middle of the city. The man who helped me patted me on the back and gave me the exact bus numbers I needed. I thanked him graciously, warmed by the Irish hospitality. Soon after my bus pulled up and I asked the driver if he went to Parnell Street.
“I don’t go to Parnell Street, I go to O’Connell Street,” he replied sharply.
“That will do,” I replied.
I quickly translated and fished the coins out of my purse, dropping them into the ticket slot.
“Is that enough?”
“You’ve got two twenty in there, you need two tirty,” he barked.
“Alright, alright,” I said defensively. I was surprised by the driver’s impatience; he was doing runs to the airport and back, so it was to be expected that most people were probably not from Ireland, and perhaps a little more patience would be helpful. While I fished out the remainder the driver proceeded to yell out at a man behind me he assumed was taking a picture of him. I I dropped the rest of the money into the slot and took my ticket from the machine, finding a seat at the front of the bus. In the space of a few minutes I had experienced the extremes of Irish hospitality. It would swing back again when an elderly lady sat down next to me and commented on the obviousness of travelers on the bus due to the collection of suitcases.
“It’s nice to get away,” she said.
My confidence in Irish hospitality was restored.
Once in O’Connell Street I phoned one of my AirBnb hosts to let him know I was on his way. I told him where I was and he directed me to the location of their building. Once I arrived, Tim showed me to the flat and everything I needed to know. I went about settlling into the room, hardly able to string my thoughts together. To help make it easier for myself, I wrote a simple list of tasks and numbered them for priority: 1. Get a glass of water, 2. Have a shower, and 3. Figure out what I was going to have for dinner. My anxiety flared up in the face of asking for a cup for my water, and where I might be able to buy a charger for my Samsung tablet. As expected Tim showed me where the cups were, and also leant me his spare charger. With items 1 and 2 ticked off my list, I tucked up in bed and wrote down some resemblance of a meal plan before putting it aside and falling asleep for several hours.
I woke up around 6pm, and could have easily dropped right back off to sleep, but forced myself up to go and get something for dinner. There was an Aldi supermarket located just down the street from the flat, and as I shop at Aldi at home, I found this to be a fantastic and familiar convenience. Rugging up again, I popped my head into the living room and found that Katelyn, my other AirBnB host and Tim’s wife, had arrived home, and I greeted her before heading out. At Aldi I was delighted to find that they offered baskets for shopping; at home you have to take a trolley in. However there were no bags to purchase at the till as there were at home, so I had to pack the few items I had into my bag and carry the rest.
Upon arriving back at the block of flats, I was challenged by the keycode on the door that led into the hallway from the elevator. After a few failed attempts to key in the right number, I took out my phone to call Tim or Katelyn, having it die right there in my hand. The lights in the hall were sensored, so came on and off, which was irritating as I tried to figure out what to do. I could just wait and hope that someone showed up on the same floor. Or I could just go back to the intercom outside the building’s entrance and buzz Katelyn and Tim from there. At that moment I heard someone coming up the stairs, and hoped that they would keep coming, which they did. I tried to look casual as I slipped in behind them through the door. Angels are sent to us when we need them most!
I arrived home and went about heating up my dinner, a microwavable cottage pie. Katelyn was on the couch working on a crochet watching Californication, and as I ate my dinner we had a good chat and got to know each other a little. I was surprised when Katelyn told me she was from Boston; she could have fooled me with her accent, but after listening to her speak a little more the American became more apparent in her accent.
After finishing my dinner I retired to my bedroom to finish writing up my blog draft. As tired as I was, I wanted to keep up to date with it. Once it was on paper, I brushed my teeth and took a Temazepam, curling up in bed with my table to continue reading Not Waving But Drowning. I barely made it thorugh a page before I was dozing off.