I am currently at an altitude of 34,997 feet, or 11km, over the Pacific Ocean.
On the flight map Mexico looms just in the distance and soon we will pass over it -that’s a trajectory of the globe I’ve never crossed before.In 3 hours and 33 minutes we will land in Houston. I know very little about Houston and have no expectations besides Texan cliches of drawling accents and a cowboy neon Marlboro man sign, which is Vegas anyway. I’d like some Texan BBQ. Yeah, ribs. Everyone brings up space when I mention that I’m passing through. I just know that it’s where Beyoncé is from.
In flight music got way more diverse in the past 18 months since I last travelled long haul. I forgot to download any music to my iPad, from which I write this, and need to write to music otherwise the hum of the flight is just too ominous, too much of a startling reminder that we are suspended in a tin can in the sky. But they have a Classic Indie playlist that’s frankly 100% my gig – Joy Division, John Peel session Smiths, My Bloody Valentine, the Stone Roses. Upbeat gloom, or happy sad songs. That’s what I’m into. And their romantic pessimism, so many words of solitude are perfect for a solo 14 hour flight. Right now, on this earth I am utterly alone. Answerable to nobody or nothing, accountable only to myself, and if I choose, void of meaningful conversation for possibly days. Thankfully I don’t mind the inside of my head.
My journey started with one of my most nightmarish situations. Little makes me more anxious or stressed than being late, or feeling like I’m late, for a flight. So when my first flight to Auckland, got delayed 40 minutes, then 50, an hour then 1 hour 15, due to atrocious freak weather across NZ, it made what was already a tight turnaround between connecting flights impossible. As in, they started boarding 10 minutes before we even landed. And it’s a good 25 minutes between terminals and through customs. So instead of my traditional and ritualistic start-of-holiday gin and tonic, or pint, at the airport, I was stress eating BK creamy mayo cheeseburgers.
Not exactly the glamorous image I’m wanting to portray as I commence this travel journal, but we gotta be real, because that’s life, and well, that’s travel. You can plan for all the exotic cocktails and life-changing art galleries that you want, but sometimes you’re just feeling stressed and shit and you find yourself huddling over a tray of Burger King trying to fill a void in your stomach that’s otherwise just a wrecked jumble of nerves and fear.
Anyway, long story short, I was very late for this flight to Houston – missing it would have really cocked up everything and all of my corresponding bookings over the next 24 hours – but thankfully numbers were on my side, and around thirty other passengers were also either on my same first flight, or coming from other parts of NZ, also delayed – so they held the flight another half hour and I made it. I’ve never been so happy to sit down onto a 14 hour flight. And never drunk a gin and tonic so fast, when it blessed me with it’s presence shortly after take-off.
I got an upgrade on this flight. I mean, not a mythical ‘free upgrade’, I put in a successful bid on the Air NZ OneUp scheme – but here I am now, livin’ it up in Premium Economy. I was worried before I arrived that it was an extravagant and needless purchase that I shouldn’t have done – but nope, I don’t regret a thing. Though I do worry it’s spoiled me as this is something I could get very accustomed to. I know it’s not business class, but holy shit. Having well and truly done my fair share of long haul economy travel (a rite of passage for NZ’ers considering it takes a minimum of 10 hours to get anywhere vaguely exciting or new – when Brits and Americans complain about trans-Atlantic travel, well they have no idea) this is my first time in anything different and my internal monologue is PLAY IT COOL, LOU PLAY IT COOL. I want to smirk and grin and grab at everything. My knees don’t touch the seat in front of me, and I can stretch out my legs as far as I can and they touch only air! The gins are triple pours. I had three. And a sparkling wine on arrival. And a nice red to get me off to sleep. The pillows are proper pillows that are plump and cotton and actually are nice to hug snuggle into like some cute, chubby, and quiet phantom lover-travel-companion. And I got a little amenity pouch with the expected parties – flight socks, eye mask, ear plugs – but I got very lush, very big tube of lip balm and well anytime in life that free, top notch beauty products come your way, you know you’re truly #blessed.
There’s a family seated in the row in front. The two girls, who must be 11 and 13 are sat directly in front of me and I cant help but feel seething resentment at their utter privilege of being so young and experiencing this level of flight comfort. Do they even know what economy is like and how it is to be jet lagged and hung over and have someone’s foot on your elbow for 13 hours? As a Chch East-side girl who has worked hard and waited a very long time to be in such comfort, this nasty, usually well hidden, underclass bitterness and resentment comes through and suddenly this flight could be a Pulp song, this could be an inflight Common People. I hear Jarvis hissing his sarcastic observations about posh girls flicking their pony tails everywhere, taking hundreds of selfies on their matching iPads, and abusing the free snacks. The chorus goes something like ‘PLEASE STOP FLICKING YOUR HAIR BACK OVER MY SCREEN YOU DIDN’T EVEN PAY TO BE HERE NOW SIT STILL OR GO TO SLEEP, PRINCESS’.
Anyway so silver linings and despite a shaky start I am here, I am happy, I am grateful and I feel very, very, free. This has been a long time coming. Personally important.
You see, right now, maybe at this very second, a wedding is taking place in a whole other continent that I was meant to be at, instead of here, now. But that plan fell through for me, when a person, very sadly, fell through, and so, in the aftermath, I took that saved airfare and booked the first thing that appealed, that was on sale, that was anywhere except for the continent where that wedding was taking place (it’s important to really reduce any risk of running into someone and having an awkward interaction, so best just to avoid whole entire continents, eh). So five minutes later, my journey was re-written.
The moral of the story here is that when things go pear-shaped, you just gotta make new plans by yourself, don’t rely on other people to make life experiences for or with you. Otherwise, what do you do? You’ll do nothing and go nowhere. Some people seem so shocked and tell me I’m brave when I tell them I’m travelling alone. I think that’s sexist and very infuriating. What choice do I have? I love travel. And I am very comfortable in my own company. More so than with other people. I’m not going to settle and enter some half-arsed relationship just so I can have someone to book a holiday with.
Film 1: Beauty and the Beast
I never got to see this in the cinema, wasn’t in the mood for facing at the time due to the above mentioned situation. So I was very excited for this one. Plus Beauty and the beast was MY Disney film growing up. It was beautiful and much better than I thought it’d be. My Mother had already told me it was great, and she was right (hi Mother xxx). I cried three times. I think the gin helped with that. It was a bit embarrassing as the guy sat next to me was watching some Jamie Foxx action film, and I’m there gasping into my luxury pillow. But it’ll never be as bad as the ill-fated time I decided to watch Marley and Me on a flight, resulting in uncontrollable sobbing for the last three hours of the flight. Never again will I watch a dog film on a plane. Or any dog film ever. There’s enough suffering in the world without adding this sadness into my life.
Film 2: Table 19
I’ve never heard of this, and it’s a 2017 film, so is it really new or has it just not got a release in NZ? Because it has a great cast and was pretty good – Anna Kendrick, Lisa Kudrow, Steven Merchant and Becky-Ann-Baker. Typical indie, kooky character, ensemble, but perfect for a flight.
Film 3: The Devil Wears Prada
Been meaning to re watch for a while and I love everything about it except for Anne Hathaway and her dumb boyfriend – it’s such a shame they have to be in it, like, at all – can’t it just be Meryl, Stanley and Emily for two hours? I only watched half then gave up when the boyfriend birthday hissy fit started. Ugh. What a man-baby.
Film 4: Hidden Figures
Swoon! What an utter delight that was. And the space component felt fitting as we embark on Houston. That’s about all I have to say about that. Oh, except I was a little shocked to find an aged Kevin Costner kinda hot? What’s with that?
Well I think that’s all my scribbling for now. Yup such quality, meaningful, content for me to really cherish when I’m 100. I just got a cup of earl grey. The lights are fading up with that red glow that they do to mimic a sunrise (it’s blindingly bright out, I just wrecked the illusion by lifting my shutter). Besides the surreal red glow just makes me think we’re on Space Mountain, or an Alien ship. We’ll be over Mexico by now. And they’ve just started handing out hot towels. Look at me, I’m truly like Beyoncé!
We get into Houston around 1pm which will be a weird time difference and I haven’t really slept much. It’s also going to be very hot. Which will be a shock as it was sleeting when I left home. Almost, almost, so very almost there!
See you there, kitties.
P.S. Wow this clocks in at 2,000 words of garble. My 100 Days goal is 250 words a day. I guess you’re gonna get a lot of this whilst I’m away. I have no one to talk to, so I guess you become my companion for my every thought trail and observation. So sorry, in advance if you were hoping for Michael Palin type content here. But otherwise, hi – thanks for being my travel buddy! And you know what – I can guarantee that we won’t argue one single time on this trip, which basically makes us soul mates.