I recently returned from a vacation in the Middle East. I was on ten flights over a three week period.
This was my itinerary:
September 1: Bermuda – NYC – Dubai – Bahrain
September 9: Bahrain – Dubai – Lebanon
September 14: Lebanon – Dubai
September 17: Dubai – London
September 21: London – Dubai – NYC – Bermuda
Let me make a confession here – despite all the leisure travel I have undertaken over the years, geography isn’t my strength. My travel details looked good until you get to September 17. In my defense, when I booked my tickets I didn’t realise London was seven and a half hours away from Dubai so when I decided to get a round trip ticket from Dubai to London, I thought I was doing a two or three hour flight.
Needless to say, September 21 was the longest day of my life. I left London at noon Bermuda time on Friday and didn’t get home until 10pm Bermuda time on Saturday night. Basically almost 24 hours in the air. (Don’t try this at home kids).
Having said that, I had some interesting conversations on the flight from Dubai to London. This helped to pass away the hours, considering I was in a middle seat in the centre aisle in the middle of a full plane. Yes, the struggle is real – and so is claustrophobic. And no, I didn't buy business or first class seats.
I had a Ugandan-born business man of Indian descent on my right and a white South African woman on my left. Talk about international travel companions.
I knew I had found my OCD soulmate when the lady on my left pulled out some wipes and started cleaning down the tray in front of her, every aspect of the tray and the arms of the seat. I asked if I could have a wipe because mine were in my backpack in the overhead compartment. Not only did she give me some wipes she also put antibacterial gel on it because the wipes weren’t anti-bacterial.
Who could ask for more than that? I then proceeded to share all my OCD knowledge with her - research has shown that the dirtiest things on planes on the trays because cleaning staff don’t pay close attention to them and parents use them to change their kids’ diapers.
I then went on to share my thoughts on being germ free while traveling – clean the light switches and door handles when you are in a hotel and for God’s sake, sterilize the remote control. Never walk barefoot through security and how often do you think the condiment containers are cleaned on restaurant tables?
The lady listened patiently as I shared my scary knowledge of germs and she added a few thoughts of her own. Luckily, we ran out of frightening OCD facts quickly which allowed us to have a conversation about South Africa and why she lives there as a white woman and the contributions she wants to make to her country.
Together with the gentleman on my right, who shared with me the basis of his company and his plans for the future, I was not at a loss for conversation. I felt as though I was able to get some unique insight into my travel companions, insight I wouldn’t have gotten had I stuck to my usual travel routine, sit down put in my earphones and pretend to listen to music while reading my Kindle.
Now, back to my travel itinerary. Yeah, probably not the best way to move around the world. I knew this when, near the end of my travels, one of the Emirates Airlines staff said she had never heard of anyone flying from London to Dubai to get to New York. I figured, I have three weeks to get there and back. Why not double up and go to Dubai airport, just one more time.