One of the first questions friends have asked me when talking about traveling to Malaysia is the length of the flight. Yeah, it's a doozy. About 24 hours on an airplane. That doesn't include the layovers and transfers, either.
I don't remember exactly how much layover time we had four years ago, which probably means it wasn't much of an issue. (I do remember having some time to hang out in Los Angeles International Airport, where I watched the Pistons lose to the Celtics in the NBA playoffs. Wasn't that a long time ago, Pistons fans?) Transferring flights wasn't a problem either. We just got off the plane in Taiwan while it refueled and cleaned up (aired out).
Yeah, not so much this time.
The trip began with a 5 1/2-hour layover in Atlanta, an airport that charges for wi-fi. (I know; most of them do.) Food courts and newsstands are only so interesting, so if not for the wi-fi provided by Sojourner's Cafe, I probably would've gone nuts. However, that's not exactly free, either. You have to order some food and drinks when hunkering down at a table for a couple of hours.
From there, the trip really got started with a 14-hour flight to Seoul, South Korea and a 10-hour layover awaiting us. Thinking about that much time ahead, during which it feels like you're not really doing anything, plays with your mind a bit. At home, with 24 hours to kill, you could clean the house, watch TV, run errands, cook dinner, get some work done or whatever else you might find to occupy yourself before going to sleep.
But what about when you're trapped on a plane? And later, in an airport terminal? Sure, you brought books and magazines to read, music to listen to, movies or TV shows to watch. But can you really lose yourself in those distractions and not think about how much more time you have to get through?
Of course, there's also sleep. I looked to that as my anchor, the thing that would get me through this long passage. My ability to sleep on an airplane is always something I've relied on. Four-hour flight to Seattle? No problem; I'll snooze through most of it. Just give me a window and a pillow to lean my head on.
Four years ago, I slept through a big chunk of the flight from Los Angeles to Taiwan (much to the envy of others in our travel group). I even slept through caffeine withdrawal, though I do remember waking up in a clammy sweat with a dull headache at one point. But even when I'd look at the flight path on the monitor and see that we had, say, six hours to go, I just thought, "Okay, I'll go back to sleep" and off I went.
Oh, it all sounded so easy. But apparently, my body had other ideas.