I am ready for a holiday
It’s been a dirty old year, in fact just yesterday I attended the first anniversary commemoration of my friend, Matty’s suicide. As was his expressed wish, a group of family and friends hired a boat and took to Sydney Harbour to spread his ashes. It was both funereal and fabulous as he would have wanted it and of great benefit to those of us who have struggled this past year to come to terms with his sudden and unforeseen disappearance from our lives.
Matty was a QANTAS flight attendant so it was with some poignancy that I boarded today’s QANTAS flight on the actual anniversary of his final departure. I wasn’t as prepared for the trip as I ought to have been but then again, I rarely am these days. It’s always a shove-fest at the last minute, hoping I remembered everything I need. You’d think I’d become more organized the more I travel, I think I just become more complacent and this time, quite anxious as well, no doubt as a result of the lack of planning involved.
The first leg of the flight from Sydney to Dubai was fairly unremarkable though I managed to cram in quite a few movies that comply my cinema-at-altitude philosophy, which states that cinematic discretion declines in direct proportion to altitude. I’ll watch things up there that I’d never consider at sea level and I know I’m not the only one. Who doesn’t love Sandra Bullock at 40,000 feet!
After a couple of uneventful hours in the palatial Dubai airport, I re-boarded for the second leg to London, which was even less eventful, mostly featuring me trying to sleep, mostly unsuccessfully. We landed around 7am. Border security was uncharacteristically simple and efficient at Heathrow. I even had a decidedly friendly officer oblige me by stamping one of the three remaining blank pages in my passport.
Leg 3 was Heathrow to Gatwick, which of course required diving headlong back into the London transport network for the first time in a couple of years. Being by myself, I was curious to observe the subtle shift that occured the minute I was officially back in London, a place I spent several significant years of my life. The novelty at being back wasn’t London itself but rather than there was no novelty in it at all. I felt an almost imperceptible reordering of myself to bring my London-skin to the outer; an embedded program brought to the fore to better engage with the familiar surroundings, automatically accessed and reinstated.
The morning was thick with fog, imbuing the scene from the tube window with a spectral beauty. Soon enough, I was underground for a series of connections that rendered the outside world irrelevant until I was spat out again at Victoria on an overground train to Three Bridges, just one stop shy of Gatwick Airport.
I was met there by my friend, Becky, who I first met in Thailand 4 years prior whilst volunteering at Elephant Nature Park outside of Chang Mai. Since that time, our friendship has grown to include creative works of cross-global collaborations. Becky’s been more busy in recent times with an entirely more impressive creative collaboration – her beautiful daughter, Carenza, whom I had the great pleasure of meeting for the first time. The three of us spent the day together, chatting about all manner of things and essentially reminding me how completely aligned we are on just about every issue, with the same level of fight and ferocity.
As the evening drew in, Becky’s partner, Dan returned home just in time to drive me to Gatwick Airport for my night flight to Iceland. I felt terrible that I didn’t have more time to catch up with Dan but was so grateful for his kindness. How good is an airport drop off?! Such a luxury for the budget traveller.
Leg 4 should’ve been straight forward – a quick 3-hour jump from London to Reykjavik, except that beautiful fog from this morning had been pushing flights back all day. At check-in, they warned me that the scheduled 8.30pm departure was likely to be delayed and then, after 17 years of hard service, the zipper on the back of my backpack finally broke. By this point, I was coming up to 48 hours in the same underwear. My eyes hurt and I was utterly exhausted.
The 3-hour delay felt like 3 days and turned an already wearisome 11.30pm arrival time, into an almost unbearable 2.30am touchdown. At least it wasn’t snowing… it was raining. The coach from Keflavik Airport to the bus terminal in Reykjavik took a further 45 minutes before transferring to mini buses to be dropped at individual hotels. I came clean with the driver about the false address I’d given of a fancy hotel in order to be dropped nearer to my airbnb apartment, planning to walk the 2-block difference. He very kindly agreed to take me to my actual address for the upcoming week.
Mercifully, the key was hiding in the designated place and at 4am on the dot, I was ‘home’ and what a beautiful home it was, even prettier than its pictures. I wanted nothing more than to collapse in bed but I really needed a shower, which of course required an unpack. My head hit the pillow at 4.30am and you know what, I can’t sleep!
OK, now I’m ready for a holiday.