Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Long Road Home...

From the moment I booked this trip, I knew it was going to be a quick in and out, wham bam, thank you m'am kind of trip.  And I knew that jetlag would kick my ass for days to come.  And I was right.  With only 3 1/2 days on the ground, I spent over 2 days travelling to and from my destination.  Exhausting to say the least...worth it, but exhausting.

My flight into Minneapolis was smooth as silk.  I'm not overly superstitious but I found two pennies on the ground the morning of that flight so maybe that had something to do with it.  Not sure what black cat crossed my path on the flight back though, but somehow I knew I couldn't have good luck on both flights.

My 19 hr day (no exaggeration there - it started at 8AM in MN and ended at 10:30AM in Barcelona the NEXT DAY) began fine enough. Minneapolis airport is really nice and I took my time getting to my gate with a little more shopping on the way. The flight to Atlanta where I had my layover was non eventful - I had a nice guy who was travelling with his family sitting next to me and we chatted pretty much the whole way which made the 2+ hours fly by. It helped that the flight was smooth with no turbulence... foreshadowing perhaps????

Atlanta is huge but a really nice airport. My first order of business once I figured out where my terminal was for my long haul flight was to get some food in me knowing that I had a long day ahead still and only crappy airplane food in my future.  I had lunch at the bar in a nice restaurant, probably the nicest I've seen in an airport. While there I caught up with a friend on my US phone since we were just about in the same time zone - yes, I was one of those people chatting on my cell while in a restaurant. 

Even after spending time for lunch and catching up, I still got to my gate with still almost 2 hrs to kill. That's when the thunderstorm rolled in.  While in Minneapolis we were supposed to have a thunderstorm but I didn't see one. We don't really get them in BCN so I had been looking forward to it. Not so much as I was waiting to board my plane which then of course was delayed. Massive lightning strikes. In hindsight wish I had grabbed my camera to take some pics since being in an airport allowed for uninstructed views of the sky. But alas I was asleep on my feet and just not focused. There was a choir singing at the gate across from us. They sounded lovely but something about a church group singing at the gate creeped me out and felt like a bad omen to me. The flight was delayed boarding for about 45 mins due to the lightning. Then we sat at the gate another hour. Finally we took off. Exhausted I was hoping to sleep.

Unfortunately I think I was soooo tired that sleep wouldn't come. I also think it was the anxiety because no joke the first FOUR HOURS of my 8 1/2 hr flight was turbulence. Constant turbulence. It wasn't the worst turbulence that I've had but just a single bump is usually enough to have me white knuckling the seat. I did my best to close my eyes and just focus on trying to sleep, even counting sheep as ridiculous as that sounds. But the monotony kept me from having a panic attack when the turbulence didn't stop. In my head I know that no flight has crashed due to turbulence but I think when it gets bumpy it just reminds me how little control I have in my environment and that freaks me out. 

My flight to Glasgow a few weeks ago was like this only Glasgow was a shorter flight. At one point I thought I might cry because I knew at that point I still had 6 hrs to go and had no choice but to suffer thru it. Isn't it amazing how we allow ourselves to over react sometimes?  I let my mind run away with me. And that was stupid.

I will say that my theory that you really need some time between long haul flights is true because you need to forget about the pain of it... Kind of like childbirth. And knowing that in just 4 weeks I've got to do this again WITH the kids (and turbulence doesn't phase them) makes me rethink my decision making process on going home in June instead of August to space out the flights a bit. But what's done and I know I'll get back on that plane. My mother is terrified of flying and just got on a plane for the first time in 25 years this weekend. I can see where she's coming from and had moments of thought where I decided that I will live out my years in Europe and let everyone come to me. But I immediately recognized that's not realistic and like always know that unlike my mom (whom I think may have turned a corner this weekend) my fears will not prevent me from living my life.

I got to Barcelona airport and flew thru customs only to wait forever for my luggage.  When it finally appeared, it looked as if one of my suitcases had been robbed - not the suitcases itself but the contents.  My duffel had been completely full to the top and upon arrival it was half empty.  I was beside myself upset.  Not only had I travelled for 19 hours to get to this point, but now I've had stuff stolen???  Almost in tears I went to the Delta/Air France counter who told me that I had to contact the TSA.  So then I went over to a police officer to see if there was anyone there - he spoke no English and I was impressed with my ability to switch right back to Spanish to explain the issue.  He told me to talk to Delta so he was really no help.  When I got home a bit later, I actually went thru each receipt item by item (given I usually toss the receipts, I'm lucky I had them) and surprisingly everything was there so I guess I overreacted... exhaustion I'm sure played a role.  I'm guessing that everything was just compacted in travel or something... a mystery that will never be solved!

As much as this flight was miserable and I can barely see straight from the exhaustion, it was worth if for my 3 days in the us to spend time with my family that I hadn't seen in 11 months. And to see my brother get married. So next month, as much as I dread it, I'll be boarding that British Air flight back to Boston for yet another long flight. Lets just hope things go a bit smoother for the sake of my sanity!!  Off to book a flight to Menorca now!  It's good to be back!


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