Atlanta >>> Los Angeles
Technically, my first flight was from Atlanta to Los Angeles on Sunday morning. I was so excited to start my innovative, sustainable journey but instead my dreams were crushed. I had semi-slept through the initial drink distribution so I pressed the call button for the first time in my life to summon one of the attendants. I eagerly presented my cup and asked if I could have it filled with water. He gave me a half skeptical, half confused look and said "Why don't I just bring you a can?" You'd think I had just presented him with a cursed, tribal talisman that you would likely encounter during one of Indiana Jones' adventures. Fine, I'm sure Southwest recycles all those cans (and they claim they do) and when he asked if I wanted ice as well I said no, because I knew he would bring it in a plastic cup, which is what I was trying to avoid in the first place. So of course he either didn't hear me or didn't care and brought me a cup of ice anyways. I know this probably seems really trivial, but that's because I'm only one person. But ya gotta start somewhere.
Los Angeles >>> Nadi
Other than leaving super late at night, the first leg of my flight from Los Angeles to Nadi, Fiji was rather uneventful. I had an aisle seat and felt incredibly lucky since the seat next to me was empty. Fiji Airways economy seats have decent legroom and both a power outlet and a USB port for each seat in addition to a personal multimedia touchscreen for each passenger. I started watching American Sniper even before takeoff, because I never got around to seeing it in the theater. It's a really intense story and movie and I was surprised to learn that of all the days in the year, star sniper Chris Kyle was killed on my birthday in 2013. RIP.
So here’s a perk of being vegetarian or vegan: your meals are served first. I fully intended on using my own silicone cup but an attendant just showed up out of nowhere with a snack and a juice already poured into a plastic cup. (I can't help but think that If I had a regular meal, they would have served me off of the cart in the aisle like everyone else and I probably could have convinced them to pour whatever beverage I requested into my personal cup.) Later, with the breakfast meal, they did it again and appeared out of nowhere with a pre-determined, pre-poured juice. However, I’m going to keep trying on every subsequent flight to get my bright green cup filled up. The silver lining is I was able to spare two sets of plastic flatware by using my bamboo set so I saved those in my seat pocket til the end of the flight to return them and make sure a lazy attendant didn’t just toss them out anyways.
I inflated my neck pillow and tried to sleep but it’s nearly impossible to become fully comfortable and unconscious in economy. I hovered in that drowsy half-sleep for a while before deciding to watch Kingsmen. It was a little bit wittier and more clever than your typical spy drama and the movie amassed an outrageous fictitious body count that dwarfed that of Kyle’s real life record-setting number of kills.
We landed in Fiji 10 hours later and I correctly stopped at the Transfer desk with my boarding pass and passport. I’m glad I didn’t have to retrieve my rucksack and check it back in, but I was pissed off that they “confiscated” my tiny bottle of antibacterial hand gel. The reasoning? “It’s supposed to be in a plastic ziploc bag.” This is what irks me to no end about many airport employees. There is no logic involved - they just spout off stupid, senseless rules. It makes no sense to put a single, less than 3 oz bottle in a clear, plastic bag. If I had multiple gels and liquids I could see a sliver of a valid argument but no. I explained that I just came from the US which has pretty much the strictest travel policies and that it was approved and she still refused. SO ANNOYED. She just “confiscated” it to justify her worthless job. So not only are they just going to throw away a barely used, perfectly good bottle of antibacterial gel, but now I have to buy another bottle when I get to Australia. Rant, rant, rant. Ok I’m done.
Overall, it’s just so frustrating to put so much thought and effort into trying to make something better and reduce waste and the apathetic airlines just make it so hard. They should get creative and offer a free drink if you bring your own cup. Although they are spewing tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere by consuming all that jet fuel so I can see how they are less concerned with the amount of mostly plastic passenger waste they produce.
Nadi >>> Brisbane
And then finally! A minor victory on my three hour flight from Nadi, Fiji to Brisbane, Australia. I received my veggie meal first as usual but this time it didn’t come with a beverage but there was a re-usable mug for coffee/tea. I finished my meal before they even started serving the rest of the plane, so I took my tray to the back of the plane on my way to the lavatory and specifically handed my unopened plastic utensil kit to an attendant and informed her as such. Then, when they paraded down the aisle with the beverage cart, a friendly male attendant gladly filled my silicone cup with Fiji water.
I drifted in and out of consciousness and read another chapter of Walden. This flight was ok until the end when a toddler decided to wail like she was possessed by a demon for the duration of our descent and landing. Seriously, I've never heard a kid scream this loud for this long. It had to be close to an hour of auditory torture.
Brisbane >> Cairns
I arrived in Brisbane around 10:30 AM local time and followed the signs to international baggage claim. Of course my fancy shmancy new e-passport, didn’t work at all in the Aussie scanning machines so I had to wait in line a lot longer than I would have otherwise. I’m not stressing through because I have nothing but time to kill during my 11 hour layover. After navigating the obstacle course that is Australia Immigration and Customs, I had to take a bus from the international to the domestic terminal.
I freshened up in the bathroom - after all I’ve been on planes or in airports for the past 18 hours - then was planning to check my rucksack right away. However, Jetstar**** which should have several asterisks as part of its logo (both for the expletives I’d like to use to describe it and all the fine print that comes along with your ticket purchase) doesn’t allow you to check baggage until 2 hours prior to departure. And they’re pretty strict on weight so I’m probably going to have to transfer 5 lbs worth of stuff out of my backpack and into my rucksack, if that’s even possible. I pre-purchased 23 kg worth of checked baggage so since my rucksack only weighs 20 kg, I would think that extra 3 kg covers the extra weight in my carry-on but I doubt they’ll see it that way.
Thankfully, BNE gives you 8 hours of free and very reliable internet access so this is probably going to be the most amount of consecutive computer time I’ll have for a long time. And whilst I was taking advantage of this fantastic service, a BNE employee approached me and asked if she could film my responses to a three question survey about my experience at the airport so I obliged and got paid $10 AUD for it! What were my best/worst experiences and what would I change about BNE? Easiest ten bucks I ever made since I was already blogging my answers to her questions before she even asked me. ;)
I deliriously arrived in Cairns just before midnight. After collecting my baggage, I waiting in line to take a shared bus ride to my hostel but it was booked by the time I got up to the front. So it was off to the taxi queue to wait for a cab. A girl roundabouts my age was standing behind me and there was a more gregarious, middle-aged man behind her. He asked us both where we were going and it turns out our destinations were a stones throw from each other so he told us we should share a ride. Brilliant! It cut both our costs in half. Her name was Mel and she and our cab driver gave me lots of tips as to what to do and see during my stay. I briefly fantasized about getting certified to scuba dive but it's probably going to be out of my backpacker budget.
When I arrived at the hostel, I wasn't sure what to do so I just stared inside the sliding glass door of the lobby like a creeper til I was rescued by the night shift guy. He introduced himself as Scotty and I pondered whether this was his actual name or just a nickname because his accent identified him immediately as hailing from Scotland. My room was ready but I couldn't get a key or wifi until the morning so he escorted me to my private room and let me in. It's pretty sparse with some hooks on the wall and a twin bed and two windows but that's about all I need. Luckily the shared bathroom is catty corner to my room so I can see from the sink if anyone tries to get into my room since the door is ajar. I washed my face, brushed my teeth & immediately crawled into bed wearing my eye mask and earplugs. Not that it was one of those crazy party hostels, but even just the two people casually conversing outside will keep me awake.
All of my body is excited for a break, but none moreso than my back and shoulders. My flannel pajamas were a welcomed respite from the leggings, tank top & hoodie that I'd been wearing for the past 48 hours. I woke up once that night around 4:30 to go to the bathroom and discovered it was raining outside. So I took my earplugs out a let the rain lull me back to sleep. I woke up again around 6:30, unable to go back to sleep this time. The front desk opens at 7 so I headed down shortly thereafter to officially check in and finally get a key for my room.