Tuesday, March 1, 2011
At least 10 times this year, I will sit in physical suspension. For at least 10 - 12 hours, I will be confined to a 2 feet by 2 feet space. I will be asked to sit still. Move little. I will face an atmosphere that has an air quality that is literally drier than a dessert. I will be uncomfortable. I will be subjected to infectious diseases. And asked to be paid literally thousands of dollars to do it.
Sounds crazy, huh?
I just returned from the second of those 10 experiences - my travel from China back to San Francisco.
This year, I will travel to Asia no less than 5 times. And each time, I have to endure a 10-12.5 hour (depending upon the direction) airplane trip. If you have not been on one of those trans-continental trips, it is something you have to experience. I have been doing it every year for the last 11 years - mutliple times ever year. But with my base now being in the USA, and having business in Asia, I will have trips to Asia averaging every 10 weeks this year.
I do my best to psyche myself up. In advance, I think of all of the things I can / want to get done on the trip. I have to think about the awake time vs sleep time on the flight. It depends upon what happens on the other end. Right now, for example, when I get travel to China, I leave at 1:18 on a non-stop flight to Shanghai that lasts 12 hours. I leave at 1pm on a Friday, and get there on Saturday at 7pm. I know that I need to sleep on the night of my arrival to reset my clock. And so, I make a point to stay awake the full 12 hours of the flight.
In some ways, it is bliss. I get caught up on emails. I get to watch movies or downloaded television shows that I have missed. I get to eat 3-4 times. I drink wine, feel a bit tipsy, and then get sober again. All in that time frame. I make myself drink water. Lots of it, so that I can beat the dehyradation that happens while you are in an airplane.
Usually, I get to fly on business class. Which is crazy, because the prices goes fro $1,700 per person to somewhere between $6,800 and $12,000 per person, depending upon the day I travel.
During the flight, to make things real, I go to the back of the plane. I am reminded of the Leonardo di Capria character in "Titanic." The lower in the decks you go - you begin to see what life in the "cattle classes" are like. On United, at the back of the plane, where people literally pay the lowest fairs, it is brutal. You can't even purchase those fares in the USA. The are reserved for sale in the Asia market. And the leg rooms is so little that if the person in front of you reclines, your legs touch the seat. Imagine that for 12 hours!
I often look around me at what other are doing. Few "prepare" for the experience like I do. On these transatlantic flights, I have a backpack with special supplies. I have a blanket. I have a special eye mask that you can put on and not touch your eyelids (important if you have ever tried one). I have ear plugs that can block half of the noise of loud crying babies, and southern Chinese citizens who insist on using their local cultural habits of being loud and playing majong for hours on the plane. I have extra batteries for the computer. And music.
I have perfected all that I can over the years.
But it still gives me mixed feelings everytime I travel. I can never predict it. But sometimes, the time flies. And other times, I find myself checking the clock every hour, saying, "when am I going to get home."
On the way there, I look forward to the adventure. It is the promise and the hope of sleeping in my own bed that keeps me focused on a goal on the return trip.