Surviving Frequent Travelling

Last month I think I might have finally understood partly how new mothers feel.  You are able to sleep anywhere, eat anywhere and everything, for some reason you shower 3 times more than usual cause you’ve forgotten what day it was and most importantly you’ll do anything to block out noise.

Jet lag, times motherhood, equals frequent ultra long haul cabin crew.  Within a month I traveled East to West to East to West so many times that I couldn’t sleep unless the sun was up.  Even though some people were happy that I could stay up and chat all day,  I almost lost it.  Nah, I did lose it, I just can’t remember that I did.  So after I went to Sydney and my state of mind miraculously readjusted, I tried figuring out how to keep it that way.  I would be so tired that I’d sleep for 18 hours straight and that’s not only incredibly confusing and scary, its also unhealthy and I kept losing my days.

From napping to packing to getting on the plane, here’s how I stay sane…

I don’t take naps, I think its silly and I am the grumpiest person ever when I wake up from a nap, so I adjust my sleep.  I make sure that I get at least 5 – 8 hours sleep before my flight, cause you see, I need to be awake and happy at the same time.  So a lot of times I’ll be up through the night before a flight, like when I was studying for big exams in college…  Minus the strobe lights and “thirst quenching beverages”.

I’d have showered and packed before the sheep line up, otherwise every sheep would question my flight preparation.  Depending on the weather forecast, which should not be trusted, I try to have a little bit of everything in my trusty “Trunki”.  So I check the weather just to disregard it anyways, then  I pack my hooded leather jacket, a summer dress that looks good with tights, a pair of jeans and a shirt or two that works with everything. If its snowing I pack boots, if not, the boots stay.  So ballet flats and sandals work. I don’t know where my trip will lead me, so I pack a pretty little black dress and a pair of heels just in case.  Obviously I have the usual toothbrush, underwear, sleepwear, etc.  Then I have learnt to pack a small carton thingy of milk, because the hotels give minuscule amounts and I like a lot of milk in my tea / coffee (also packed in teeny amounts).  Oh and swimwear!  Cause there’s bound to be a pool or a beach or a jacuzzi or something.

My carry on has the usual on-board black crew pajamas for the crazy far flights, together with facial water spray, lip balm, hairspray, millions of extra bobby pins, toothbrush and toothpaste and my make-up (all liquids and gels separated into clear plastic bags for customs).  I also carry my tablet, camera, a folder with paperwork, my legal documents and licenses, wallet with the correct currency if I was bothered enough to go exchange before hand, my cabin shoes, trench-coat and finally my on-board uniform.

Thank goodness for air conditioning and blackout curtains.

After my 7th alarm has given up on me, I force myself out of my comfy pillow-nest and quickly make my bed before I change my mind.  Kettle on.  YouTube playlist on.  As I walk back into my room with a hot cup in my hand, I smile at the sound of the lyrics… da da da “I flick the switch on the generator…..” and I do a little happy dance.  After dance-fighting myself into my compression tights for flying, it takes me about 10 minutes to do my makeup, then about 5 minutes to make the signature low-bun then about 5 minutes to decide whether I should have breakfast.  After either having breakfast or not, I throw my charger and my make-up into my carry-on, I lock my Trunki bag.  I finish getting dressed and I chuck my phone and my flight journal into my handbag, and earphones for blocking out the noise on the bus and making a video call in public.  Out the front door.  Whatever I’ve forgotten I’ll survive without for a couple of nights, or I’ll walk into the nearest mall.  I know I have the basics, I’ll survive.

If I am travelling as a guest (happens more often than you’d think) surviving on the plane is just about securing yourself a window seat and scaring the people next to you into moving away, if you’re in economy.  Normally I am in business class, cause it’s nice and I get to sleep more, and I don’t have to scare anyone.  I just throw on the noise-cancelling headset and watch every movie that the in-flight entertainment has to offer, or connect to the wi-fi and go about my business as per usual with the crew happily bringing me whatever I want.

If I am working and everyone in first class has eaten and is asleep, I survive by walking around and annoying the other crew in the other galleys.  Or if the crew isn’t as fun as I’d hoped, I just sit in the cockpit and wait for something interesting to never happen.

I never shower right after a long flight, it’s something about your skin and it being bad after the dehydration on the plane or whatever, so I just moisturise.  And depending what time it is, I either go to sleep or I go out into the city and explore.  After a couple of hours exploring, having dinner with the crew at a cute little hidden place that the locals recommended,and the sun is setting, I’d be back at the hotel taking a shower and getting ready for a good nights sleep.

Getting back onto the plane for the ride home is the part that sucks for everyone going back home after a fun holiday, but if I have gotten enough sleep, I’ve eaten a good meal and seen the sun shine for a while, I can handle it just barely to smile at the fact that I got to experience a new country.  Even though travelling is tough on my mind and my body, I am happily exhausted by the time I get back home.  I throw on my most comfortable shirt and I try to relax.  I try not to be bored, I Skype, a lot (ask my flatmates).  I go outside, I go shopping, I go to the beach, I go have lunch, anything. Cause the next time I lock myself in an airplane for 16 hours (either as crew or as a guest), I need to make sure I smile at the people who keep me company.

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Supernumerary 2

We’ve made it through the first one.  I have Ian at my side, we’ve been training together.  The chef looks friendly enough, I guess.  We’re going to London and no matter how scary everyone makes this flight out to be, we’re excited!  So we silently finish our briefing and we march over to the Boeing 777 that’s taking us to the UK.

On board we start our security searches, Ian will be in the cabin and I’ll be in the galley, on the return sector we will swap.  So I’ve changed into my chef’s uniform and I’ve started breaking seals and checking the carts.  Our guests board about 10 minutes later and we start serving welcome drinks.  Hayyakum.

“Cabin crew seats for departure” and we’re off.  All smiles. Can’t believe I’m going to be by myself next time.

7 hours later I’m sealing all the carts that stay on board, my mind is rushing knowing that this is the last time I have someone to show me how and what.  Chef reassures me that it’ll all make sense and that we will get used to it.  We rush to the economy galley and we sit down as quick as we can, buckle up and ready for landing.

Ian and I are determined to see some of London.  Th crew think we are nuts, but we’re suppi’s, we don’t know much.  So once were finally checked in, I start the walk to my hotel room.  This place is creepy.  Long dimly lit hallways and quiet rooms, looks like it could have been a hospital ages ago, but instead of white tiles, light brown carpet fills the hallways and the rooms.  I rush myself out of my uniform and into London weather-proof clothes.  Gotta get out of this place.

IMG_2469Ian meets me downstairs in shorts, this isn’t exactly bikini weather, so he goes back upstairs.  Finally after figuring out how to get into the city, we find ourselves on a big red bus back to the airport.  We have to catch a train to Piccadilly Circus.  At the airport train station, we find the nearest thing that looks like it could spit out a train ticket, but we’re soon met by an “Assistant” to help us get a handy little card called an Oyster Card (weird) for public transport in London.  And about 5 minutes later were on a train.

And about 45 minutes later we’re still on a train.

IMG_2466Finally we get off and we walk straight onto what looks like the Times Square of London.  And it’s raining, of course!  Damn I’m starving, Ian is determined to have Fish & Chips.  So we start to walk around.  And its still raining.  I find myself in a bookstore asking a girl where to go have dinner, IMG_2465she points us in the right direction and after two hours of running around the streets of London, we finally decide to eat at a small little random place we found.  Two plates of battered fish and soggy chips later, we are once again getting rained on.

The nearest taxi picks us up and were taken to the Big Ben, smack right next to it.  Problem is, it’s dark out, there are no other taxis around us now and, you guessed it, it’s raining.  So we’ve made peace with the fact that our socks inside our shoes are soaked in the little puddles of water we’re carrying with us, the map we had is now paper mache and we have no idea where we are or how to get back to the train station.  The lady standing next to us at the bus stop is giggling at us as Ian and I are laughing so hard our stomachs hurt.  So he starts counting down.. 3, 2, 1 and we’re sprinting down the street in the general direction of somewhere else.

IMG_2471IMG_2428

We are now taking pictures and we’re drenched and loving London.  Ah finally, a taxi.  The taxi driver laughs at our state and drops us at the train station.   I have to fight to stay awake, bed will be good.  45 minutes later and we’re back on the big red bus to the hotel.

Luckily I am way too tired to care about the ghosts who haunt this creepy place, I turn my AC down as far as it will go and I cuddle up for a good nights sleep.  Sweet bliss.

Supernumerary

I remember it like it was yesterday.  I ran to my laptop, threw open the screen and typed my password in as fast as I could manage.  And there it was, my first ever roster..  image1 (1)

Geneva, Switzerland was to be my first ever destination.  My first supernumerary flight or suppi, to make it easier.  Preparing for the flight was insane, trying to remember everything they taught us.  I had to pack, I had to do a quick online search for what to pack, I had to get my uniform dry cleaned, my buttons had to be put into my jacket, my trolley bag had to be stocked with first class order forms and my Cabin Crew Quick Reference guide so that I don’t forget any part of safety searches.  And on top of that I had to make sure that I knew everything there is to be know about the airport in Geneva, what aircraft we were on, what the service was, who the crew was, and most importantly, whether I packed extra underwear.  I was sh….. nervous.  I was definitely nervous.

Luckily I had about 2 weeks to do all that.  So I sat in service training waiting for my mom to respond to my text trying to figure out whether she will be at my graduation or not.  I was flying her to Abu Dhabi to visit for 10 days.  I couldn’t wait.  BUT I had to pass service first, so back to how to serve Champagne at 40000ft it was for the moment.

My trainers were amazing, I mean they still are.  I could ask them anything, and on top of that, they were still flying as Chefs as well, so honestly they were just available for any question.  Mostly at this stage they were interested in what our first flights were.  I had some random chef as my first suppi chef and was reassured that he is really nice and that I shouldn’t worry..

So I graduated and I smiled and waved and shook the hands of all my trainers and my new managers and the heads of the departments, and I walked out of the room knowing that within a couple of days my first flight is upon me.  And just as I thought that, my trainer comes to me all smiley “see you tomorrow morning, crew changes”.

WHAT?  Ha!  My service trainer was now my suppi chef.  So happy.  All the crazy worries just disappeared and I could relax for the first time in weeks.  Now whether or not he intentionally put himself on my flight or not is still a mystery, but I was happy none the less.

A sleepless night and a lot of prep and pep talk from my mom later and I’m standing outside in my uniform waiting for pickup.  The bus is late, apparently it’s normal.  I get to the airport and I follow the crew, cause what on earth else should I do?  I go through security screening and check myself in and report for duty.  I get my baggage tags, tag my bag and I leave my massive “Trunki” suitcase to be loaded onto the A330-300 that will take us all to Geneva.  Moments later I am in the mail room picking up the newest revision of our safety manuals and realize that there is a lot that goes into running an airline.  Next minute I’m standing in the hallway with my trainer/suppi chef waiting to go into briefing.

My Cabin Manager starts:  “Good morning everyone, everybody has all their legal documents? All fit to operate this flight EY051 to Geneva?”

Yes….?

“Right, please introduce yourselves.”

Mark says his bit:  “Morning, name is Mark, I’m from Scotland, Imke over here will be your In-Flight Chef for the flight, I will be your onboard coach.”

Wait… WHAT?! “Hi, my name is Imke, I’m from South Africa and I speak Afrikaans, Mark is insane, I will be your suppi chef on this flight.”

I laughed from start to finish, this was going to be a good day.  Again we went through security, and got onto a bus that takes us to the aircraft. As soon as we got on, we got dressed in our Chefs whites and Mark started his security search and set up the cabin with the cabin crew in First Class.  Good grief they were quick.  The flight was eye-opening.  The amount of stuff I learnt in the 7 hours I spent in a galley on a plane made all my training make sense.  I had to take orders, pour drinks, cook food, plate desserts, make notes (I didn’t make notes) and I had to make sure my makeup was up to standard, operate doors, secure the cabin, clear coffee and tea and smile.  Thank goodness for suppi flights with great chefs!

We rush off the plane at the end on the flight and it hit me.  I was in cabin crew uniform, walking through 10606413_10204154937329551_5546813690966678608_nan airport somewhere in Switzerland smiling like I’ve never known how to smile, pulling my trolley bag and laughing with the rest of the crew.  I was so happy.  Tired, but happy.  This was the day my world changed, my horizons broadened and my soul settled down.  I am a chef, but I’m cabin crew at heart.