The Most Difficult Part of Living Abroad

Each person who has lived abroad will tell you the greatest and worst parts about it. Most of the time they’re talking about the lack of food options, toilet paper, friendly faces, or not so friendly faces.

Sure, I’ve been robbed and misdirected. I’ve had to shit my brains out in a hole in the ground with leaves as toilet paper. I’ve gotten so sick from food that I almost crapped my pants. I’ve been molested and harassed. But I’m going to lay it out straight for you.

The absolute worst part of living abroad is the flight to and from. Maybe a 7 hour flight to Europe isn’t a bad thing if you live on the east coast. Or maybe that 8 hour flight to Japan from the west coast isn’t too terrible. But what about going to Asia from the US’s east coast? Or Europe from the West Coast? And that’s not the half of it.

Horrible Part 1: finding a flight. Many of us are too young and inexperienced to know about the whole ‘skymiles’ thing. We hear from our parents that they always use Delta or American. Or perhaps you have heard amazing stories about Emirates or Sinagapore Airlines (those are true).

You have to figure out the price that’ll work for you. Is it a roundtrip or a one way? How many stops will you have? How many stops do you want? Then.. how LONG is that layover? Two hours is barely enough time to clear customs – if you’re lucky. Then that stupid 5 hour layover doesn’t really give you the chance to leave the airport. You pray that the airport has free wifi. Ideally, we prefer to go on one flight non stop and just be over with it. For a flight from Miami to New York or DC to LA..I get it. But let me tell something to you… 16+ hours on ONE flight is absolute hell.

Part 2: Preparing for the flight. Are you taking a domestic flight within the country you’re moving to? Did you realize that your 50lb/23kg luggage is going to get overage charges for that mini flight… oh they didn’t tell you that they allow a maximum of 15kg? Yea. My bad. You also need to check up on a visa status. God forbid you have a layover in..say…Vietnam (as an American) and require a visa just to transfer?! Of course that depends on your carrier. Ya gotta make sure you have a few pairs of clothes in your carry on. Stuff up on all the goodness you want that you’ll miss from your home country (ahem ranch dressing ahem).

Part 3: The airport. Aside from the embarrassment of having your parents drive you to the airport, they’re crying the whole way. “I’m so proud of you but I’m going to miss you.” … yea but we facetime/skype every other day so….. Then they take the long way to the airport. Getting you there WAYYY earlier than you need to be because you’re on an international flight and that’s only helping not at all. Then you have to wait at the airport for 2-3 hours. Searching for the soon-to-be-extinct socket to charge your phone and computer before the flight. There’s that anxiety of wondering “who will I be sitting next to? Will they be sick? Will they snore? Will they be extra wide?”

The worst is part 4: The actual plane ride. Finally you’ve sat through all the boring airport time. Your computer and phone are charged. You are seated and have a smooth take-off. You set your watch to the destination’s time. Fuuuuuuck. 16 hours. Stay awake for a bit. Watch a movie. Write a blog entry about your excitement. Get your drink and your meal. Then pop that Xanax or Valium or Ambien or whatever you were smart enough to bring with you… and sleep. Ahhh sweet sleep on a FUCKING AIRPLANE. There’s no comfortable way to do it. And no matter how strong that medicine is, you’ll wake up multiple times. Sip your water and try to go back to sleep. You wake up and look at your watch. 8 hours to your destination. Are you for real? The reality is really setting in now. You can potentially watch the every Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Twilight, etc series. . . and still won’t be at your destination. You eat and try to sleep again. But your butt is numb. Take a walk they say. Walk around the plane to stimulate blood flow and awaken your muscles. The bastard sitting on the aisle is passed out with a blanket over his head and the person sitting in front of them has the seat in full recline-mode. You try to slyly step over them but find that ridiculous. So you tap their shoulder and ask quietly to allow some space. But they took that ambien also and are passed the fuck out. So you have to be rude and speak loudly and properly shake them awake. You had better make that worth your time. Go pee, go brush your teeth, walk the length of the plane. Glance at movies that people are watching to get an idea of what to do next. Then you have to repeat that maneuver to get back into your seat. And you drift off for another hour or so. You wake up and there’s still 3 hours left. Oh thank heavens.. that’s only 3 hours. The last meal will be served soon… ahhh we all love ‘chicken or beef?’ … and it’s the fattiest beef with potato and rice. To make you fat. And bloated. And salt filled. The last hour they wake everyone up to watch the same video 3 times in different languages and to fill out the customs form. You’re almost there. Somehow you’re still exhausted. After all that ‘sleep’ you can feel the bags pulling your eyes down. But the worst of it is now over.

Part 5: Foreign customs. Good luck. 🙂

For the record:

Emirates and Singapore Air are fantastic. Score them if you can. They also have plugs for your electronic devices to charge on the flight.

American and Delta… sigh. Stuffy chairs, no chargers, barely two ‘meals’ and the loudest flight you’ll ever be on.

Remember to sign up for miles…it’ll eventually pay off.

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