Sunday, 29 January 2012

10 things you can do on a plane (or a train, or a coach!)

We've all been there, long journeys, extreme boredom, sardines in a tin. Never a problem for those of us who can afford first or business class but unfortunately I am not one of them.

Over the past year and a half of living in Prague, I have spent a fair chunk of my time travelling. Last year I had the luxury of a Eurolines business class coach to and from Croatia (which was a bonus because I'd only paid for economy!). I also flew business class on a business trip to England which was great (lounge, tons of food, fast pass through security, everything!). If I could afford it I would always travel this way, however, I cant.

I used to love flying, but these days it really stresses me out, I just cant relax. I have some confounding issues regarding crowded places that have developed over the past 2 or so years. 200 + people all trying to cram into a little metal tube does nothing for my anxiety. I end up landing a nervous wreck and invariably doing something stupid (such as causing a bomb scare by leaving my baggage in Manchester airport last Christmas Eve - true story). So, to try and attempt to preserve whats left of my mental health I thought I'd come up with some ideas to alleviate the stress whilst travelling.

  • Ipod / Iphone / Ipad- I never go on a trip without my Iphone. Make sure batteries are fully charged and loaded with your favourite tunes then plug your earphones in and you're away. If you're lucky enough to have a coach with wifi, you can use the Internet too whilst you're outside your home country to avoid those dreaded roaming charges (however please be aware that on these wifi enabled coaches the signal is invariably crap).
  • Take your laptop and have some films ready. This passes alot of time and you can concentrate on the film (rather than the fact you're in a small space crammed with people). If your mode of transport has plug sockets, great! If it doesn't, take a spare battery.
  • If you're travelling with your partner, participate in the mile high club?! Whilst this well known phrase is usually reserved for planes, there is no reason why it cant be extended to trains. I advise you not to try try it on a coach, I've seen bigger shoe boxes than coach toilets, not my idea of fun. If you're contortionists you may still consider it. My friend told me he recently had some solo me time in the toilet of a train, if you're on your own, I guess this is also an option! I will pass on that one though.
  • Play Alive! You've read the book or seen the film right?! Well, have a look around the cabin.... You're travelling in adverse weather conditions. Suddenly, the plane begins to shake, and before you know it you've crash landed in the middle of nowhere (or broken down). But, your alive (hooray!). Now all you need to decide is, if you aren't rescued in the next few days, who looks the tastiest? Don't choose the biggest person, they're likely to have all kind of nasty toxins in their bodies, think along the lines of someone not skinny, but who works out a bit, think lean! Ok, this is just a bit of fun, don't take it too seriously! If you're scared of flying this is probably not the best of games to play. Being ex cabin crew myself, I'm most definitely not scared of flying so this game is fun for me! 
  • Pretend you have just got married (this only works if you're travelling with someone!). Sweet talk the cabin crew into giving you an upgrade (If you don't ask you don't get!). This may be your best and only chance of ever flying business or first class, grab it!
  • Stretch your legs. Sitting down in the same position slows your blood flow and can stagnate, which can lead to DVT. Simply walking to the toilet, stretching your legs on the way is sufficient. On a coach, there is usually 10 or 20 minute breaks. Use this time to get off the coach, have a stretch and a walk around. You will feel much better. Drink lots of water too.
  • Read a book, or even the air plane magazine. I always read these and usually take them with me, most are free to take. They are full of great articles and often some great tips on things to do at your destination.
  • Sleep. This is a good time to catch up on it if the journey is particularly long. The other week I had a nap in the carriage of a train from Krakow to Wroclaw. You wake up more refreshed, alert and ready for the day ahead. It can be hard to sleep whilst moving but its worth it if you can.
  • Bring some travel guides of your destination. Depending on how long you are going for you could plan your itinerary whilst on the plane! If you're feeling adventurous, learn some basic phrases of your destination country. I can guarantee you if you learn a few things the locals will be much more appreciative of you.
  • If all else fails play whack a mole! Its simple. All you need to do is kick the seats in front of you. When their heads pop up to find out what the commotion is, WHACK EM! Ok, this is a joke, but if you're really bored....

Blue Monday (The rantings of a travelling Manc!!!)

Firstly, I think I need to apologise for not writing anything on here for a while. Why? Well, a combination of things really... Christmas, busyness and that unfortunate thing most of us have to do... work! I'd like to say I write full time but I'm not so lucky! I have to go out, get stressed, bring the pennies in and pay bills like most of us mere mortals.

Also, it's difficult time of year. It's cold, miserable and grey. Last year it snowed in November and didn't let up till March. Not the case this year, just pure grimness :( Looking out the window doesn't inspire me to leave my warm comfy flat, and so I haven't had anything remotely interesting to write about. Inspiration is at an all time low and procrastination at an all time high!

Which leads me nicely onto why I'm writing this article. Apparently, some nerdy scientist 'calculated' (I use these terms loosely) that the Monday just gone, i.e, 23rd January is officially the most depressing day of this year. Personally, I think this so called 'calculation' is a load of rubbish (I sincerely hope he wasn't paid for this research!) but I do believe this January, at least for me, has been depressing beyond belief, and the worst thing is, I can't quite pin point exactly why I am feeling like this.

Having said that, January is a depressing time for many. Grey skies, rain, and a serious deficiency in sunlight is enough to affect anyone's mood. Post Christmas blues add to this. Mostly, were skint, and opening presents on a Christmas morning is but a distant memory (more so for me as I live in a different country than my family) and finally our bodies being shocked from all the calorific rubbish we gorged on only to be swapped for lettuce, lettuce and more lettuce (I feel sorry for poor rabbits).

Are you all depressed by this article yet???!!! Read on, it gets better!

Well here's the good news... the end of January is upon us (YAY!) and soon the temperatures will rise, pasty skin will be no more and we'll all be running round in minimal clothing! I, for one, cannot wait.

So now Blue Monday has officially passed, we can cheer the **** up and look forward to sunnier climes, hooray! 

This gets me onto thinking of holidays. Where should I go this year? Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a hardcore Croatia fan. I've visited so many times I couldn't mentally begin to count. Words cannot express how beautiful and amazing the country is. If you haven't been then book a flight ASAP, you will not regret it. Given half the chance, I  wouldn't leave it.

Aside from my lovely Hrvatski, there are other places I intend on going to this year. I am on the verge of booking a flight to Porto, to go and visit my lovely friend who I miss dearly. I haven't been to Portugal before so it would be a new experience for me (plus a cheap holiday, bonus!).

I also have my eye on Malta. I have been before and it is also extremely beautiful, I would definitely like to see more of it. Unfortunately when I did go last, it was marred by bad memories as I was in a particularly bad situation (one word.... ex. Eugh, says it all doesn't it?). I hope that by going again my memories will be more positive ones that I think of in the future, and not the negative ones I currently think of.

I have also been invited to Dubai for a holiday, but I am bound by the restraints of money (boo!) which is a big shame as I would love to go...maybe at the latter end of the year I may be able to if I can keep my prying eyes away from those clothes shops windows (who am I trying to kid?!).

But of course plenty of weekend jaunts await me! Living in a landlocked country has its benefits after all in that there are plenty of countries surrounding me and are relatively inexpensive to visit by train or coach. I'm a regular to Berlin and have just returned from Krakow (amazing btw!). Also there is much to see in the Czech Republic still so I guess all this will keep me busy for the next 12 months!

Finally if any of you have any suggestions or live somewhere beautiful then please do share. I love listening about other peoples adventures!

So please, don't be like me and be sad this January, the worst is over and the best is yet to come. Happy 2012 and I hope it's a great one for everybody!