Well folks, we made it! Kind of. Getting to LAX was quick and painless, at least according to my aunt, compared to its normal hustle and bustle. However, things took a turn for the worst when we managed to land up in the single slowest security line of the day. Almost everyone that went through the line had to have one thing or another checked by a TSA officer because the machine was calibrated to a highly sensitive calibration that day. Some child’s Iron Man helmet had to be scanned four times because it was too light for the machine to read and kept triggering the security alert! But after much waiting and losing my cooling gel pack to a persnickety and grumpy TSA officer, we headed off to our gate.
On our way, we met up with Lauren, one of our volunteer companions, and that’s when it hit: there’s really no going back now. But why would I want to? We were setting off for the biggest adventure of our lives to date, and I wouldn’t miss it for anything! Sure, a 16 hour flight sounded intimidating compared to my previous flight max of six hours; however, armed with compression socks and my beloved travel pillow, I figured that if 200 other people could make this flight, then so could I.
Boy was I in for a trip! I think in the future if anyone asks me, I give some simple tips for making the flight much more palatable. First, always put one’s non-essential bag in the overhead bin. That extra space becomes prime real estate for your legs when trying to sleep. Also, stretch for a while each time you get up and get up often, even if it means asking the people in your row to get up, too. Yes, my compression socks were doing their job–compressing to keep blood flowing through my legs–but getting up to take a 5-10 minute stretch made the daunting flight a little more bearable as I allowed my body to loosen up from the stiffness that comes with sitting in one position for two long. Also, water! Ask for it every time the stewardess comes by because it’s not uncommon to become fairly dehydrated while flying if one isn’t regularly drinking water and being parched makes for an uncomfortable ride.
Three meals/snacks and three naps later (I’m a true believer in the food coma nap post-eating) I looked at the remaining flight time clock in the corner of my entertainment screen and we only had three hours left! Wild! Three ticked down to two, which then ticked down to one, and before I knew it, the tires touched down on the tarmac of Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar. Deplaning and getting through Transfer Security was a breeze, and in the blink of an eye the scenery in the airport went from typical airport escalators and tacky carpet to a chic uptown mall vibe. If I could afford Chanel, I would definitely have made a beeline for it, but alas, I’ll have to save it for a future and slightly wealthier me.
After checking the departure boards for our flight information (which wasn’t there because the flight was still seven hours away), Braydan and I made our way to the Al Maha lounge for some delicious food, cushy chairs, and much needed showers. The only recommendation I could think of to improve the lounge experience would be reclining chairs…but beggars can’t be choosers, and overall, I was not disappointed in the experience.
So far, traveling half way around the world has actually been quite pleasant. Sure, no one wants to sit for 16 hours and feel their backside go numb, but Qatar Airways and the Hamad International Airport strive to make the experience as enjoyable as possible. In that pursuit, they’ve definitely exceeded expectation. And now, it’s time to stretch my legs, relax, and get ready for our next flight down to Johannesburg! ¡Adios!