Thursday, February 23, 2017

Pack and Get Dressed 

I like to think of myself as a citizen of the world. Not as well travelled as I’d like to be, but certainly open to it. Clearly I am wrong. I am a withering petal on a dying plant. I can be sheepish and susceptible to suggestions when overwhelmed or hugely skeptical, obstinate and cynical if pressured to make a decision. Every time I see an article titled “How to Have a Better Flight”, I eagerly hope to find a new insight or some helpful “travel hack”. Instead I read it and think, “Well, that was obvious.” A recent New York Times article offered, “Be polite to flight staff.” Well, I’m not going to anger the fop who controls all the food and doors in a flying metal pod am I? I want to know how to sleep on an overnight flight or better yet, how to avoid an overnight flight. I have learned however why sometimes I feel immediately hungover when I drink alcohol aboard an aircraft (apparently, a loss of pressure in the cabin can make you susceptible to a mild altitude sickness and alcohol might worsen that). On this trip to India, I discovered some airports have day passes to lounges with showers, buffets and, more importantly, comfy chairs or loungers. After an overnight flight to Frankfurt with a six hour layover before continuing to India, I took full advantage of a Luftansa Lounge. Once I found the lounge, I immediately showered, shaved, took my meds and brushed my teeth. I then had a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, coffee, fruit salad and a croissant. I had to try at least 3 seats before I found a quiet, darker corner where I dozed off for a couple of hours of sleep. Given that I didn’t sleep a wink on the flight, and knew I wouldn’t sleep on the next leg, it turned out to be the only sleep I got over 30 hours of travel. I won’t have this luxury on the way back and will go from one 8 hour flight to the next.

In between this odyssey of modern transport, I spent two solid days in an air conditioned conference room in the industrial and tech-centric Indian city of Bangalore. The heat is welcome (if you like that sort of thing). The worst part of business trips is the complete command of your time in the company of company men (and women). After spending a day in room of white boards and charge cables and buzzing muted phones, you then join the same group for supper. The next day you do it again. This well intentioned hospitality is all about being a good host and occasionally a co-worker will really want to show you their town, and you get a genuine glimpse into a place you’d normally only see from 30,000 ft above. Last night, after a fantastic meal at a tandoori place, our host bumped into the owner who greeted us warmly. It was like being in an episode of an Anthony Bourdain show. After the meals (and maybe a beer or two) I melted into bed hoping for enough rest to reset for the next day. I will admit I’ve gotten better at staying awake when someone is talking about Amazon Web Services or the troubling decisions of choosing a framework that will forever change how everything works (it won't).
“What am I supposed to be doing again? Am I doing this right?”
I’m already running out of dumb jokes and benign observations; “I think I’ve gotten used to the time change, so it must be time to leave.” “It seems the most important working item of an automobile in Bangalore is the horn.” But what lies ahead of me is lying with my head down. Today I leave for a beach at a “luxury boutique hotel” in Goa. Of course this involves an epic cab ride to the airport, catching a flight on an airline I’ve never heard of (and apparently TripAdvisor has never heard of), and finding the hotel. Last summer I travelled in the most improvisational way, aided by my smart phone. I won’t have that crutch here (data costs me $20/mb in India - or about a $1000 to download a typical sized phone app) and will have to rely on printouts and old fashioned reservations. I’ve never been one to take a sort of beach resort holiday where lying on the sand, reading a book or drinking exotic cocktails is the only expected activity, but as a vitamin-D deficient Canadian, I think it might be healthy to absorb some sun on India’s western coast (not without sunblock and a hat of course). The weather looks promising or frightening depending on your tastes: mid-30s Celsius and sunny for the entire time I’m there.

I’ll soon find out if the reason I’ve never taken this kind of holiday is because I’ve been too timid or if actually lying in the sun is as dull as it sounds. I did a test this morning but it didn’t go well. I found myself thinking, “What am I supposed to be doing again? Am I doing this right?” I guess that’s why you never seen Anthony Bourdain doing it.

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