How to survive a long haul flight

How to survive a long haul flight

Originally published by me on BeautyNews.com.au.

We all love travelling, but the idea of being trapped in a metal can for hours on end can deter even the most frequent flyers. For us Australians it’s especially difficult, as we live so far away from most of the world. But if we want to visit somewhere exciting like Europe, we have to suck up our pride and make the most of a not-so-great situation. Here are some of the best ways to do just that:

1. Wear comfortable clothing

This goes without saying, but comfortable clothes are a godsend when it comes to long flights. You will be sitting down for several hours, and perhaps even transiting through various airports, so dress comfortably. Trudging around with heavy luggage is already bad enough, but it’s even worse when you’re wearing heels and jeans that cut off your circulation. Opt for something loose, light and layer up. Planes usually range from freezing cold to scorching hot, so bring a jacket and wear something lighter underneath.

2. Bring a neck pillow, earplugs and an eye mask

Neck pillows are an absolute must for long flights. Most airlines provide you with these, but they’re not always the best quality. Invest in a proper neck pillow, which you can easily buy from your local airport. It will help you sleep, support your head and make your journey a thousand times better. Make sure you also bring earplugs and an eye mask if you want that quality shut eye. Again, some airlines will give you these, so it’s a good idea to check beforehand.

3. Don’t go overboard with food and drinks

We know free food and drinks is never a bad thing, but there’s no need to over do it. There’s nothing worse than getting indigestion when you’re thousands of feet in the air. It’s already uncomfortable enough – don’t make it worse! The same goes for alcohol. While it’s fine to have a sneaky wine or two, don’t drink too much. It can act as a stimulant and keep you up for hours.

4. Drink plenty of water

There’s a lack of humidity in air cabins, which makes flying incredibly dehydrating. Experts usually recommend quadrupling your water intake on flights to avoid dehydration. Keep this up the entire flight, and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to ask for more water. Experts also advise drinking other liquids, such as gatorade because they’re full of energy, and maintaining balance is very important.

5. Bring your own entertainment

Most long-haul flights have in-flight entertainment, but you should check this just in case. Either way, pack a few things to keep yourself entertained. Load your phone up with some music, bring a good old fashioned book, download some movies on your iPad, or even take this opportunity to tackle that work you’ve been putting off!

6. Pack light, but be prepared

We know this is going to be hard for you fashion-savvy gals, but don’t pack too much stuff. Carrying heavy luggage around for hours on end can be exhausting, and it’s guaranteed to put you in a bad mood. Having said that, make sure you pack the essentials. Remember to pack a toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash, baby wipes and deodorant. They sound like simple things but can be easily forgotten and you’ll definitely regret it if you don’t. However, make sure you don’t pack anything over 100ml, and that you don’t bring aerosol deodorant. Airport security is very strict with these rules, and they’ll probably be confiscated.

7. Sit back, relax and enjoy

Finally, just enjoy your flight. We know it’s long and tiring, but it’s not every day we get to sit down for hours and do absolutely nothing but eat and watch TV. Enjoy it while it lasts because it will be over before you know it!

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Week 2 in Belfast – Field trips, lectures and endless activities

Week 2 in Belfast – Field trips, lectures and endless activities

None of us here in Belfast can quite believe that another week studying “Conflict Transformation in Northern Ireland” has come to an end. A few days ago, everyone realised our course had reached its halfway mark, and there were definitely some long faces around. However, I think we’ve all done a pretty good job picking ourselves up because there’s never a dull moment around here.

Me at Giant's Causeway

The weekend kicked off with another field trip – a drive to the Antrim Coast, Glens of Antrim and Giant’s Causeway. We drove north along the River Bann, and then stopped east for a tour of the Giant’s Causeway, which many say is one of the United Kingdom’s greatest natural wonders. It has over 40,000 basalt columns that were formed by a volcanic eruption over 50 to 60 million years ago. It was absolutely breathtaking, and the views were spectacular.

Giant's Causeway

When we asked the tour guide why it was called the “Giant’s Causeway”, we were told that according to legend, these columns were the remains of a causeway (a raised road or track) built by an Irish giant so he could meet his giant Scottish enemy for battle across the channel. One theory was that one of the giants destroyed the causeway so that others couldn’t follow him back. In the 17th century, this was the only explanation for the causeway’s existence.

Another highlight of my day was driving down 96 kilometres of the most beautiful coast you could imagine. I’ve never seen such a blue ocean, or such bright grass in my life. Even though it was impossible to capture the coast’s beauty on camera, I couldn’t help but take more photos than most people would probably take of the entire trip.

Before the Euro cup

The rest of that weekend was spent at one of the local pubs watching the Euro Cup football grand final – Portugal vs. France. Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of watching sport, but as you can imagine, this time brought an electrically contagious atmosphere. After the game ended, I even saw a few men wiping tears from their eyes. I’m still not sure whether they were tears of anguish or joy, but it was an interesting experience nevertheless. Some of us even stayed back to continue the celebrations well into the night.

On Monday, we learnt about how parades are an important part of Northern Ireland culture. The 12th of July is the biggest day of the year in Northern Ireland, and for half of the population (protestants) it’s a huge celebration because it signifies unity. The other half (Catholics) generally avoid the entire occasion because it celebrates the day their king was overthrown by protestants.

Bonfire being built

In class, we were informed that bonfires would be ignited that night around Belfast. Apparently this happens every night before the 12th of July celebrations, and protestant street parties often accompany them. We had a look at the bonfires being built during the day, and found they were mostly made of wooden pallets and tires, with many of them being over 30 metres tall. During the night, my friends watched the events unfold, but unfortunately I fell asleep in my room (in sheer exhaustion after having too many good times) and missed out. Not to worry though – more good times were on the way!

The following day, we set out to watch the parades. We witnessed countless men, women and children march through the streets of Belfast banging their drums, while locals cheered them on from the sidelines. It was great being able to immerse ourselves in the local culture, particularly as we learnt all about the parades in class and therefore knew the origins behind them.

Because of the parades, most of the shops in Belfast were closed on the 12th of July, so we had limited dining and shopping options after the parades ended. However, I went for a leisurely walk that night and discovered the entire city was still celebrating. I hadn’t really seen anything like it before – people of all ages were roaming the streets partying, eating and drinking. There were policemen everywhere, but I wasn’t worried about violence because despite past conflict, Belfast is now one of the safest cities in the UK.

Pub crawl

My favourite night so far was probably our pub-crawl on Wednesday night, as many people in our course gathered to experience some of the region’s best pubs. Our program helpers organised the night, and they didn’t disappoint. We all tried a number of different beverages, and some of us even danced the night away to live music. Belfast pubs are much more lively than most pubs I’ve been to, so I had a great time. The locals are very friendly, and they don’t seem to mind that I can’t understand their lovely accents 99% of the time.

There was, however, one unexpected occurrence that night – I somehow ended up Irish dancing (again) with a bunch of my friends and strangers in an upstairs area of a pub. If you read my last blog post, you’ll know that I wasn’t very good at Irish dancing last time I tried it. Well, I’m afraid that things haven’t changed– I’m still terrible at it. I’m a tiny bit more confident in my abilities, but I spent most of my time mimicking the people who looked like they had a clue.

Derry (Londonderry) sign 2

The rest of the week flew by. We attended lectures and learnt more about the history of conflict in Northern Ireland. On Friday, we put some recently learnt theory into perspective by visiting the city of Londonderry, or Derry, as many people tend to call it. We had a look at its murals, the city walls and visited some local museums where we saw the history of the city’s past conflict. It was a very eye-opening experience, and I’ll never forget the violent stories I read, or the confronting images I saw.

Derry (Londonderry) sign

This weekend is our first free weekend, so I’m jetting off to London to visit my close friend. It was a pretty last minute decision, but Northern Ireland is so close to other European countries, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever have the option of ‘just going to London for the weekend’ any time soon.

Coast

I love Belfast and I’m having such a good time. I love the food, the atmosphere and the people. I am feeling quite sad that next week is our last week, but I’m so excited to see what the final week brings (let’s be honest – it’s probably more Irish dancing…)

Rome – The City of Love, Leather and Language

Rome – The City of Love, Leather and Language

Italy 1
Photo taken by me in Rome.

If you’re looking to experience something that you won’t soon forget, the capital city of Italy is probably the answer. With its cobble-stoned streets, ancient buildings and magnificent landmarks, Rome is one of the most historical cities in the world. It’s a beautiful place, but like all areas, it also has its share of both positives and negative aspects. This review will explore some of my experiences in Rome, so that you can be prepared for the good, the bad and everything in between.

Before I go into detail about how amazing Rome is, I should advise you to be careful of pickpockets and gypsies. These types of people are abundant in Rome, and they have absolutely no shame in trying to steal your belongings. You should travel with a bag that has a secure zipper and a short strap so that you can keep it close to your body at all times. You shouldn’t leave your bag open, nor should you let it out of your sight.

You may think that citizens are being friendly when offering their assistance (don’t get me wrong — sometimes they are), but you need to be wary. Often, people will help you with things, such as giving directions and carrying your luggage, but they might expect to be paid for their help. A lot of them do this for a living, and if you refuse to pay them, they probably won’t take it well. This was a new experience for me, as Australian culture is very different.

In my opinion, Rome is home to some of the best food in the world. If you enjoy pizza, pasta and sauce, you can’t go wrong when dining out in Rome. Most restaurant staff have basic English speaking skills, so it’s quite easy to communicate with them. Admittedly, there were a few restaurants that gave me the incorrect meal due to my poor grasp of the Italian language, but fortunately, I enjoyed the meal anyway. Even though it’s always best to learn the native language, you can easily get by without knowing how to speak Italian.

Me pizza
Me. I ate the entire pizza (it was THAT good!)

When it comes to sightseeing, the Colosseum is an absolute must. It has stunning ancient architecture, and it carries so much history that it’s impossible not to be impressed. The Vatican, which is the home of the Pope, is also an extremely worthy destination. It has breathtaking art, which you’re free to observe at your leisure. There’s a lot of walking involved, and these destinations are always crowded, so make sure that you’re prepared for an array of different circumstances. Other popular tourist destinations include the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and more. You should do some research about what attractions you’re likely to find enjoyable before booking anything.

For those who enjoy a bit of shopping, Rome is definitely for you. Rome is known for providing excellent qualities of fashion, and most shopping facilities are reputable. Rome boasts all kinds of shopping resources, and it caters towards people of all different tastes, so there’s something for everyone. You can visit quaint markets, wander around designer stores, shop for luxurious handbags and perfume, or even try your luck bartering at local shopping areas. It’s a good idea to make sure that you have an understanding of Euros, which is the Italian currency, in comparison to your own country’s currency. Some shopkeepers in Rome have been known to take advantage of tourists’ vulnerability.

Nana Italia
My grandmother: burning a hole in her wallet.

Rome is one of the most historical cities in the world. It has a lot of public transport available, including trains, buses and taxis, so you should find it relatively easy to navigate around. You can even explore outside the city, as it’s quite close to several other popular cities and towns.

If you’re adequately prepared for all of the above circumstances, you should have a once in a lifetime experience. Don’t let the negative aspects deter you, but learn from them so that you don’t repeat them.

Happy exploring!