A year ago, I had the opportunity to travel to the United Kingdom for work. It was a bit scary and exciting considering that it was my first international flight and it lasted for 31 hours! Thirty one hours! I was alone and people trusted me to survive for 31 hours to get to a place I’ve only heard of before. So here’s what happened..
Phase I: Energetic Lonewolf/Traveler
Started a noon flight from Cebu, Philippines. I was all giddy and excited and happy. I was religious with filming and capturing moments
from plane taxiing
to take off
to just clouds.
I was probably internally screaming the whole time with joy and the realization of sudden independence. Also, this lunch:
Weirdly enough, I actually like airplane food.
Phase II: How to spend 9 hours alone in a foreign airport
Answer: You don’t. If you can help it, please don’t spend this much time for a layover. It drove me crazy. Hour 1-3 was okay.. but after that, I was just touring the airport repeatedly. So I arrived in Hong Kong International Airport (woooo first country outside the Philippines) and went straight (not really) to the concierge and asked for directions. I have anxiety and I had to walk past them once to make sure they are the people who you’re supposed to ask about directions. I mean, yeah, I could’ve just read the signs and all that, there were plenty but the airport was big and the people I’ve flown with went to different places. I had no one to shadow and I panicked, so I decided to just ask for directions because my fear of wasting time going to places I’m not supposed to is bigger than my fear of talking to strangers. So I structured my question very carefully and muttered it twice just to make sure I don’t sound high-pitched or something and when I was ready to ask them, guess what? The words got jumbled and I didn’t pronounce things properly and I don’t know what happened after that but I think she understood me and gave me directions as to where to go for connected flights anyway. I wanted to ask her again but I was too panicky inside that my brain was just not processing what I’ve just heard. Thankfully, she did a hand gesture pointing to “that sign ahead”. So I thanked her and left and laughed-cried and tried to figure out which “sign ahead” she was referring to.. “that sign ahead” was more-than-one signs ahead. I was too scared to ask another person and I don’t know how I figured it out but I figured it out anyway.
I found the food court and remembered that I was starving. I probably spent 45 minutes trying to select which food I want and then finding a money exchange counter (which you can conveniently find anywhere in the airport, there’s one near the food court) and originally chose McDonald’s because.. familiarity. But then dozens of people also decided that because.. familiarity, and so the line was just too long for my rumbling stomach. I found Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen nearby which had a reasonable amount of customers so I thought they must be good, so I went and had this:
Phase III: WHERE THE BED AT
I had 6 hours left which was mostly spent on touring around the shops with things I can’t afford, walking around the airport and discovering more shops with things I can’t afford, finding an outlet to charge my phone, updating my family, filming planes, finding the best place to be alone to have a little nap (which I never had) and deciding again where to eat for dinner. 7 hours into my layover and I decided to eat at Starbucks, had my tuna wrap and water and fruit salad. No, I don’t drink coffee even though coffee would’ve probably helped me at that time. More walking around, going to toilets and lazy sitting (the kind where your bum’s falling off the chair), then it was finally time.
Phase IV: What’s worse than a 9-hour layover? A 12-hour flight with no leg room
I went on the plane and because I’m inexperienced with flights, I selected a window-side seat probably thinking I’d want to look out on a night flight and I don’t know, find a flying unicorn maybe. For long flights, board ahead of time online and select an aisle seat near-but-not-too-near the toilet. It’s not worth the sights you’ll see since it’ll be mostly clouds, really. Also, if you’re too near the toilet, you might feel a bit claustrophobic as people tend to stand by and line up near you to use it. So again, I went on the plane and saw someone already sitting on my designated seat. I asked her why she was there but she was old and she couldn’t speak much english, so the conversation was going nowhere and because I was too tired to argue, I let her be and had the middle seat. Another elderly woman sat beside me for the aisle seat. An hour into the flight, we had our dinner:
Looks so appetizing yummmmmsarcasmmmm
And I can’t believe I still had the energy to document that. But after I ate, it was basically an on-and-off journey to dreamland. I slept through different uncomfortable positions and the realization why the elder Chinese(?) woman stole my seat! She had the window to lay her head on! She looked more comfortable than me! I only had the tray! With my back and neck aching since I had to force-bend them. I finally woke up with no desire to sleep again at 3 in the morning GMT+1, an hour before we land, and captured this out-of-focus sunrise. It’s quite beautiful. The clouds look so comfortable compared to my airplane seat. We landed safely, and I was happy again to use my limbs for walking and filming-while-walking and got really excited knowing I was already in the UK.
Phase V: WHAT 7-HOUR LAYOVER? WHAT EVEN
Went past the immigration quite easily, nearly forgetting my passport with the immigration officer (hehe, I was tired and sleepy, okay?) and went through x-rays and escalators and whatnots. Found a safe-haven, put my face mask on, hoodie up, hugged my backpack and slept for about 3 hours. It was scary for other people, I suppose, they stared at me. I mean, I hid my person but I couldn’t care less, I’d rather put the face mask on than wake up with my drool all out in the open. I woke up and decided to have my breakfast in Starbucks, yet again, and discovered that UK have my smoothie-soulmate. It was love at first sip, you guys. So I had my tuna panini and mango smoothie and walked off to have my alone time for breakfast.
Another few hours of waiting and internally crying and I was off for Edinburgh.
Phase VI: I came out to have a good time but I’m feeling so attacked right now
Boarded the plane for Edinburgh, which was the worst ever. And I was seated next to this Canadian man from Halifax, Canada who kept talking to me when all I wanted was another alone time. I kind of know his life story after that 45 minute flight. Basically, he divorced his wife, he was on a business trip to Edinburgh, he was in his second marriage already but won’t have kids anymore because they old and they already have kids from their previous marriages and “what?! kids? at this age? what would they look like, aliens?” and that he likes Filipino work ethic and he hated Cathay Pacific which was my previous flight and he declared British Airways is his favorite and he said that while we were having turbulence, so just imagine my horrified look at him and him gently saying “well, that’s not what I meant” and me just holding on to my chair and him thanking the flight attendants and him shouting to them that I just had a 12 hour flight with Cathay Pacific while I silently want to throw up because roughest touchdown ever and waiting for my turn to just get off the plane and walk on solid land and thinking no more flying please and us parting ways near the baggage carousel.
Phase VII: Road Trip Yeah, Scotland Yeah, 17 degrees is cold for a tropical island girl
It was quite hot inside the plane, the sun was just screaming directly at me and I thought, “I thought it’s gonna be cold, why is it so hot, let me out, let me out, I wanna puke, THIS IS SPARTAAAA” and when I finally did, BAM! 17 degrees Celsius on my face. If you’re reading this and say “Eh, 17 is not cold!”, please consider that all my life, I only experienced 24 – 39 degrees Celsius. So it’s definitely cold for me. It wasn’t freezing but it was certainly cold. I was amused though. I was also amused with the right-hand drive and the left lane, right lane driving switcheroo. From where I’m from, we keep right, Bri’ish people keep left.
And so I went back to documenting stuff and all that, because Mr. Driver was too busy with his Sco’ish accent talking to people on the phone. And halfway through a journey we stopped. I thought they’ll kidnap me or something, but apparently, I’ll have to transfer vehicles because I-couldn’t-understand-their-accent-it-was-too-Scottish-I-don’t-know-the-reason. So I continued my journey to Dundee with a female driver who was friendlier and who took time to explain things to me, like which building is history and what I need to see around Scotland and all that and me listening intently because, again, Scottish accent. And we finally arrived in an apartment that didn’t look like an apartment. It looked like a museum, but then all buildings in the UK looks old and grand and museum-y anyways. So I arrived and had to speak to our landlady which kept telling me I have “very good English” and that she didn’t expect that (?). And the first thing I asked was the password to our WiFi. Haha And she left me alone and I had the worst stomachaches for two days along with jetlag. And tada, UK life for 2 months.
If you want to spare some more minutes after that very long rambly post (sorry!), you can watch my journey here (what? i read all that and you have a 9 minute visual version of it?! how dare) :