Get To The Back Of The Bus

In the next four weeks I’ll be taking two very different flights. The first flight is the fantasy flight, the dream that is had when the dinner table needs to be set, something is burning on the stove, and you’re removing the backpacks from the dining table (again) after a pre-teen homework melt down. G and I are going to Paris, just the two of us. I KNOW!!! I’m using air miles and I’ve upgraded so I get to sit up the front – I never get to sit up the front. Women who travel with four children NEVER get to sit up the front.

The second flight is the reality flight. I’ll be flying home solo with the kids. The solo bit doesn’t worry me, my guys are great travellers and they love the fact that on airplanes you’re allowed to sit in front of a screen for hours while people feed you food. They also get to watch inappropriate movies (if I don’t catch them) and suffer through the embarrassment of the motherly side eye while they cheekily ask for another can of pop. It will take us over 24 hours to get home. We’ll fly out of Qatar in the middle of the night, go to Hong Kong where we’ll sit around looking sleep deprived and greasy for around five hours or more; we’ll then fly to Adelaide arriving at 5am covered in crumbs, and smelling of stale fart. We will have the look of a labrador who’s just been picked up by its owner after surgery at the vet – dazed and confused but just so happy to be home. That moment when you walk free of the airport and see the sky of your homeland, there is nothing like that moment.

I’m not a fan of flying. Yes, I possibly should have thought about that before I had four children in four different countries. An expat who has a fear of flying is akin to an apiarist who’s allergic to bees. I’m pretty much on edge throughout the entire process. I hear every bump, every change in engine pattern, and I spend an insane amount of time thinking we’re about to die and then berating myself about the power of positive thought while willing the plane to stay in the sky. I despair those long stretches of ocean as I’m inexplicably sure our survival rate is higher over land.

Plane travel has changed dramatically over the past 15 years that we’ve been making our way from one side of the world to the other. I remember the pre 911 days before shoes were taken off and you needed to allow an extra hour just to get through security. I remember the days when airline staff offered to hold your baby while you made a trip to the bathroom. I remember the days when loyalty was rewarded and upgrades were made. There used to be more space on a plane, the blankets were bigger, and the seats went back further. None of this would probably worry me was I not paying thousands of dollars for the privilege of boarding an aircraft that holds the same demeanour as a greyhound bus. I know, I sound spoilt. I should be grateful that we get to fly home, but I feel the need to question the bang for our buck when a trip to an aircraft toilet at the end of a long haul flight has you attempting to mummify your mouth and nose with your 50cm by 50cm aircraft blanket before entering the cubicle.

If you’ve never had a chance to sit up the front of the plane I would strongly advise against it. It will ruin you. All that champagne, the pampering, the comfortable sleep and the edible food. All of the luxury will only add insult to your next economy flight. When you’re elbow is dislodged by a whack in the back of the shoulder from the carry cart, and the air-staff have woken you by hitting you over the head with your luke warm burrito sandwich what exactly are those things? You’ll realise the fantasy is over. You’re at the back of the bus, and you’ve paid more for the privilege than you did your first car. There’s only one way to get through it. Just remember that first breath when you finally get out of the airport. The sight of the sky that immediately says welcome home. It’ll be worth it, as soon as you can get out of those clothes.

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