The trials and tribulations of modern travel

ONCE upon a time, preparing for a trip was fairly joyful and exciting experience. You would pack everything, perhaps stopping short of the kitchen sink. All the lotions and potions would be placed in a Vanity Case which would accompany you in the cabin rather than with the rest of the luggage since no one enjoys clothes marinated in suncream.

You would turn up for the flight in your best outfit, just in case the smiling and polite check-in clerk upgraded you to business or, indeed, first class. Then settle down in your designated seat and await the in flight courtesy service of wine, nibbles and the tantalising choice between chicken and beef. 

This scene is, of course, relegated to the realms of fairytales by now. The only exception being our trusted Russian Oligarch readers who travel in their own or privately chartered aircraft.

You no longer don your best clothes to fly, rather you wear all your clothes, since baggage is charged at a price that can exceed that of the ticket.

If you do splash out on bringing a suitcase, be sure that it will fit the dimensions, weight or colour required by the suspicious ground staff.

In fact, if you make it through the check-in process unscathed it is something of a miracle. You no longer have a ‘ticket to ride’, instead a print-out or a booking reference and if you make even the tiniest mistake it will cost you dearly.

Queues are more like slithering snakes.  If there is a choice of queue, be sure that yours will move slowest. Unless you switch half way through; then a problem case will soon be holding up your new line.

At this point, you will be anxiously looking at your watch. Having arrived with plenty of time to spare, you are now faced with sprinting like an Olympian to make it to the gate on time. 

After you pass through security, that is. It is not quite like the Full Monty, but not far off either.  Off come jackets, shoes, belts, jewellery. All of which is, lamentably, understandable in this era of terrorism and we would rather be alive at the end of the journey and suffer the indignation of airing socks with holes.

But it does hold up the sprint somewhat. If you never had a medical condition prior to departure, you probably do by now. Chest tight? Shortness of breath? Onset of panic attack? Welcome to modern travel.

Forget stopping for a snack or even buying a bottle of water (to replace the one you had to ditch at security); if you are lucky you will make it to the plane before they close the doors behind you. But the ordeal is far from over. 

With your meticulously measured on-board bag squashed under and yourself squashed in your ad hoc seat, the expedition begins.

From the trolley – which can be guaranteed to block your path to the toilets – you are offered drinks and snacks that would gain no compliments from Jamie Oliver on their nutritional value, yet command five-star hotel prices. 

Should you reach the toilets before the seat belt sign is switched on for landing, you have to mimic Houdini to contort yourself into a workable position. Many, the floor will reveal, fail at this task. 

Still, with a bit of luck you arrive somewhere close to your final destination in one piece ready to enjoy a holiday that you sorely need at this point  Not least to relax a few days before the onslaught of the return journey.

Thank you for flying Expat Strife.   

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