The Joy of Travelling

Everyone’s excited to ‘return to normal’. Whatever every individual’s version of that will be moving forward (personally, we’re keeping to ourselves for some weeks to come for various reasons), the lockdown this year and having difficulty travelling gave me cause to look through some past trips. As much as I like taking a holiday, I detest the travelling to get there and back.

One of my most memorable breaks was a winter holiday taken for a special occasion. But I’m not here to divulge the highlights today. That trip reminds me of the ‘joys’ of travelling. Seriously, give me a TARDIS or beaming capability. Well, okay, maybe not; I’m inclined like Star Trek’s Doctor McCoy that way. Heavy and extremely sneaky sedation may be required.

During this holiday we were going to have to get a connecting flight both ways and spend some time on a ship, some on land. The day had barely begun when I remembered why I hate airports. It’s not the flying. It’s the monotony. It’s the waiting. It’s the feeling of being ten years old and not understanding anything. Airports always strike me like this, probably because I choose to fly so seldom if I can, and every time the procedures seem to have changed. Self check in? Whose bright idea was that, and we’ve never used it, anyway. There’s always someone lending a helping hand and we tag on and I smile and stare in a somewhat bewildered fashion until said person takes pity on me. Note: this requires minimal acting — I really do feel rather lost. Not only do I feel ten years old, I may have shrunk down a few inches to complete the scenario.

The trip I’m speaking of, I felt relieved to jump in behind four other men to ask for assistance, as the woman ‘helping’ had trouble identifying our booking number. If she was clueless, we were even more so. In this new state-of-the-art mode of passing through security, they’d done away with tickets. I liked tickets. Tickets used to be easy. I can understand the passport scanning, but where’s my beloved ticket?

Received a comic double take from one of the security people at the airport when I replied no to whether there was any tablet or kindle in the items we’d placed in a tray to be scanned. I’m thinking the day will come when they will pull you over for NOT having electronics with you. I’m on holiday. I can’t be arsed. The number of people we saw sitting together, not talking, heads down, eyes glued to their phones… we’re just not like that when away. When I say we were entirely out of touch on holiday, I mean we were entirely out of touch. I don’t think anyone believes us. Yes, I had my phone. No, it can’t access the internet on the sim card I was using at the time. Besides, the screen is so small I wouldn’t be able to read email on it if I wanted. Yes, my phone is a novelty — people look at it and laugh or wonder what it actually does. Amazingly, I’m able to make a call on it; I’m able to text. I apparently can take a photograph, but the times I’ve found that capability by accident has sent me into a mild panic. I don’t want to take a photo by phone. I have a very good camera that I spent far too much on to want to take phone pictures.

Now note my mention of drinks; it’s important. We had a drink before we left and a light breakfast. We picked up a snack and drink and then sat around for I don’t know how long, maybe an hour and a half. The trip out otherwise went well until we got to Copenhagen. There we didn’t have long before departure, so by the time we got to the departure gate we’d not had much of a chance to do anything other than find a toilet. We then hear they’ve overbooked our flight by 7 spaces and they need 7 volunteers to leave the plane for 300 euros. We wait and wait and eventually they sort 7 people out. We think now that’s over with we’ll be on our way, but no. We’re still waiting.

We’re wondering what can take so long when we hear the cabin crew are on a semi-strike and they are waiting to see whether the last two cabin crew arrive. They do, but only one stays — the other goes on to a meeting. They try to get someone else… during which we wait, and when it becomes clear they can’t find a replacement, and they are one cabin crew short, they have to ask for another 17 (yes, 17!) volunteers to leave. This takes a while, as you can imagine. We cannot ‘volunteer’ — we have connections to make.

During this time we’re stuck by the boarding gate. There’s a toilet nearby, but not much else. Finally, enough people have left and we can board. So we queue… and we wait, and we wait, and wait, and wait to a point where my back is hurting and I’m thirsty. There’s complimentary tea and coffee on the flight, so all we want to do is get on board. Seems as they had to reallocate seats owing to removing passengers, the computers went into meltdown.

We finally get on the plane… and the next thing we know, one of the cabin crew starts counting. I knew what was wrong even before it came out of my husband’s mouth — we still had one passenger too many and sure enough there’s 151 on board, not 150. They have to ask for yet another volunteer or else the plane isn’t going anywhere. We at last get a drink about half an hour after takeoff, but we’re talking airline drinks and that’s not really more than a cupful. Never mind. Less than an hour later we’ve arrived at Bergen, collected our bags, and are making our way out to the transport to take us to the ship. We’re late, of course. Possibly an hour and a half or even two hours late, but the bus is waiting and we get to the terminal. There we queue and wait while they check us all in. They tag the cases and take them off us once more to be put in our cabins.

FINALLY we’re checked in and we head for the elevator. We get to the top and go walking, we believe, to board the ship… only to get stopped. There’s a safety film we have to watch before going on board and as it’s already started for some of the group… do you need to guess? We have to… oh wait for it to finish and then we can begin again. By now I’m willing to melt snow for a drink, but there’s no snow to be seen. I’ve had one cup of coffee, one bottle of soft drink, one small cup of tea, and it’s late afternoon. There’s nothing for it though but to wait! We’re in a secure area and not allowed to leave. We sit, we wait, we get in to watch the film. We can finally board the ship. We queue to do that… and suddenly there’s a problem. A cable has broken and they can’t let us over the gangway.

We’re invited to take a seat… while we wait. If you can imagine much gnashing of teeth and hair pulling about now, then you’d be wrong because I’m not left with enough energy. At this point I’m thinking if I don’t get to drink soon, I’m just going to die. Their 10 minutes becomes 20 and then 30. I think 40 minutes went by before we’re told we can finally get on board.

By the time we get to our cabin, by the time we can finally ‘drink’ we’d been on the go for a good 16 hours and travelling for at least 12. Shattered isn’t the word for it. We could have easily gone to America in that time.

As for the journey home, we can only say we were lucky. We heard Norwegian air had a pilot strike. We were flying SAS — Scandinavian airlines, and it turned out we were fine. Everything ran on time, but even then… connecting flights are the pits. The added time of getting off, going through some kind of check even if it’s straightforward, and then getting back on just makes for such a long trip. The staff at Kirkenes couldn’t have been kinder though — they took us directly to the airport even though they didn’t have to; didn’t have to take us anywhere, in fact, as the transfer back to the airport wasn’t anything to do with them. To them I offer my utmost thanks and sincere gratitude for taking such good care of us. Seriously, if I ever need to write about the pain of travelling, I have this and many other experiences on which to draw from.

All I can say is for those of you dying to go abroad when able, the best of luck and happy travelling!

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