MistyNites

My Life in Motion

Archive for the tag “plane”

Travels with a Local

My hands turned white with the force of gripping the seat in front of me. With nothing but a windscreen between me and the road in front, I held on to the head rest tighter as the speedometer on the taxi climbed higher and higher, and the driver weaved more manically through the busy streets of Athens, ignoring stop signs and chasing red lights. It was the wildest taxi ride I’d ever been on, and even a few clicks on Youtube before the holiday couldn’t prepare me for the crazy driving in this country.

The heat on arrival in Athens was overwhelming. My partner at the time was an Athenean, and we were met at the airport by his aunt and cousin. From there it was an hour’s drive to his mother’s summer house, and I sat crumpled in the back seat listening to the argument about the air conditioning. Many Greeks decamp in the summer months to their second homes, somewhere in a small town or village, and generally on the coast. His mother lived in an area not officially recognised on a map: a collection of relatively new homes with no shops and little business. But it had a beach and that was all that mattered. I spent those first few days of our 2-week holiday failing miserably at the Greek language, missing out on half the conversation, and awkwardly trying to get along with my potential in-laws. The weather was divine though, and I enjoyed chilling on the balcony, watching some amazing sunsets, and tucking in to locally caught fish and savouring frappes.

 

One of the fantastic things about my Athenean was that he held a private pilot licence. He had a friend who worked in the Air Force, and on his day off, we arranged to rent a little Cessna and fly out to the island of Skiathos. So we turned up at a little airstrip outside Athens and the two of us, the friend and his girlfriend loaded up and took off. Greece is a beautiful country at ground level, but it takes on a whole new perspective from the air. We flew over forests, lakes, and mountains before hitting the sea. Unfortunately for me, my obsession with filming and taking photos out of the window resulted in an acute onset motion sickness, and I missed a good portion of the view whilst keeping my eyes tightly closed and concentrating on my breathing, desperate not to vomit in front of 2 people I’d only just met. It was embarrassing enough just cradling the sick bag. I managed, thankfully, to regain some composure to witness the approach to Skiathos over a myriad of little islands, and beautiful blue sea scattered with pleasure boats. It felt surreal to pull onto the tarmac next to a large jumbo jet filling up with tourists.

 

Skiathos was beautiful, but had a few too many Brits for my liking. I like to go on holiday and feel like I’m escaping all things British, so it is always slightly disappointing to travel for hours or days to find the place riddled with British tourists. It was a short walk into Skiathos town, and the place was crammed with locals and tourists alike. Having recovered from my motion sickness, I was starving, and the food was an absolute delight. I’ve often acknowledged how different that holiday would have been if I had not been there with a Greek. My grasp of the language was pathetic, and my stubbornness to avoid speaking English, meant I relied heavily on my partner doing the talking. With a local, the places that you end up going to and eating at are often very different from where the typical tourists go, and I definitely feel the reward is the most amazing food ever. The lunch we had that day in Skiathos was one of my favourites of the whole holiday, and I felt better prepared for the flight home that evening. It was another stunning flight over the islands and onto the mainland. It was very much a shame that large sections of the forest that we had flown over were destroyed in a massive bush fire just a few days later.

 

After over-nighting in Athens, we caught a bus north heading towards Volos. This time, we were off to visit the father’s holiday home in a little sea-side village, again missing from most maps. This little village round the coast from Volos, quickly became my favourite place in the whole country. The house we stayed in was amazing, albeit riddled with mosquitoes, and it overlooked a beautiful bay with crystal blue water. It was a mecca for seafood, and I loved every night dining out on the waterfront with most of the village people around us, savouring mezzes of all varieties and soaking up the warm evening air. This was a place that no tourist would know to go to, nor find reference to on any map or in any guide book, and yet here was the authentic Greek summer experience, and I adored it. The heat during the day got unbearable at times, and I struggled with the concept of taking siestas, stupidly ignoring advice to stay indoors and insisting on going for hikes round the coast in the heat of the day. My reward was verging on sun stroke on one occasion, and generally being eaten alive by every mosquito in a 12km radius. By the end of that stay, I looked contagious, such were the numbers of wheals all over my body. The language barrier was hardest with this side of the family, but yet we all had an amazing time together, and I was sad to leave at the end of it.

 

After another long bus ride back to Athens, watching the smoke from the forest fire advancing towards the city, we prepared for our big adventure out on the Cyclades island of Sifnos. We planned on hiking round the island and camping under the stars, and went prepared with hammocks and mosquito nets. Zipping across the Mediterranean in a catamaran, we arrived as the sun sat low on the horizon. By the time we had enjoyed yet another amazing meal, it was dark, and the mountain that we had planned on hiking over was invisible in the gloom. We decided to reverse our hike, and grabbed a taxi to drop us off in the middle of nowhere. The driver was bemused by our request: Greek people don’t hike – what were we thinking? It was a challenge in the dark to know that we were at the right track, but we waved the taxi goodbye and started hiking by torch light. It is amazing how simple noises are magnified in the dark to unknown terrors that may be hunting you down for a meal, and we got a bit of a shock when our torch light detected some pigs at the side of the track in a make-shift pen. The intermittent sound of dogs barking in the distance kept us wary, never knowing if they were loose, and how domestic they would be if they found us. Eventually, we grew tired, and in the dark, the hammocks were trussed to some trees and we fell asleep.

I was woken by rustling and scuffling around me, and peeked out to find us surrounded by a herd of inquisitive goats. With the benefit of daylight, I could see that we had erected our hammocks in a little copse, and the goats were foraging for food. Scrambling out and walking to the path, I was met by a stunning view of a dramatic coastline… and more goats. Following breakfast, we continued on our hike, skirting round to the south coast of the island and following beautiful rugged coastline down to secluded bays and beaches where we relaxed in our hammocks waiting out the heat of the day. Eventually though, a shower called us, and we hiked back to civilisation where we got stared at by the bikini-clad beauties on the beach as we trudged through them laden down with hiking boots, backpacks and hammocks.

The beauty of Sifnos was that it lived in a time that was not our own. Relatively untouched by the buzz of modern life, it was peaceful and idyllic, and reassuringly simple. Goats littered the landscape, and donkeys were still kept for pulling carts. The settlements were quaint, and only just beginning to be touched by the tourism scene, but it didn’t take much of a wander to feel that you were in the Greece of the past, and it was wonderful. We did several day hikes round portions of the island, including up to a monastery on top of the mountain overlooking Kamares, the ferry port. It was the hike that we had planned to do when we arrived, but it was worth the view to do it in daylight hours, and it was hard not to get lost in the blistering sunshine, never mind the darkness when there would have been no landmarks to keep our bearings. It was exceedingly windy at the summit, and it was delightful to get there to find some utensils and some coffee for making a cup of Greek coffee. Anyone who has drank Greek coffee will know that it tastes very different to what the rest of us would define as coffee, and frankly it fails to do coffee justice: it is gritty and very bitter. After a short break, we braved the cross winds to traverse the summit, hunkered down against the ground to avert being blown off the edge, and made our way towards an old mineral mine. The landscape resembled a scene from Star Wars, as we worked our way round the abandoned mine entrances, and picked our way down the unmarked mountain-side. Eventually we picked up a trail again, which took us down a relatively hidden, yet very steep path down the mountainside, and back towards Kamares. We approached the town as the sun was setting, and we treated ourselves to a dip in the hotel pool on our return.

 

Our final hike on the island took us round the west coast, past monasteries, both used and abandoned. It was surprising how remote some of the active ones were. We camped overnight hanging in an orchard, and both the sunset and sunrise were stunning from the hammock. I was rather sad to board the ferry and leave the island behind. For nearly 2weeks, my partner had been encouraging me to speak to people, forever lamenting that everybody in Greece spoke English and I would be perfectly understood. Waiting in Kamares on the ferry, I had decided to use my well-rehearsed Greek phrase for ordering a frappe (Greeks love their frappes!), only to be met with a response I wasn’t anticipating. I stared at her blankly, then looked in despair at my partner who just laughed at my misery. I felt particularly ashamed to discover that our waitress was Swedish, and was fluent in both English and Greek on top of her mother tongue. Another example (there are many from several countries) of my lament at being British and so poor at foreign languages. On the ferry back to Athens I gave in and decided to order (yet more frappes) in English. I went to the counter and addressed the guy in his early-20s, only to be met with a blank stare and a look of desperation directed towards his colleague. Thankfully his friend spoke fluent English, but I blushed none the less, and sheepishly pointed out to my partner that not everybody speaks English. Apparently, I found the only non-English speaking Greek in Greece!

 

Arriving back in Athens, we were bundled into a taxi with 2 other strangers, and taken for that most interesting taxi ride through the night-time streets of Athens. We had already experienced an interesting taxi ride in Volos where the driver told us not to fasten our seat belts (because Greeks don’t do that apparently), and then proceeded to drive us for an hour, mainly facing sideways conversing in Greek with my partner, and paying only vague attention to the road ahead, all the while maintaining a good amount of pressure on the accelerator. This time in Athens, I was squashed in the middle of the back seat with no seat belt, and only the head rests of the 2 front seats to grip onto whilst our madman of a driver negotiated the busy streets of the city at high speed. Apparently stop signs and red lights do not apply to taxi drivers, and any gap in crossing traffic was a challenge to push out. It was vaguely reminiscent of India, only the cars get up to a much faster speed than the tuk-tuks ever did. I worried with every emergency stop that I was just a hand-grip away from being sent flying through the windscreen onto the tarmac.

The last 2 days in Greece were a very rushed affair, trying to get round some of the historic sites of the city, mainly focusing on the Acropolis and the surrounding area. It doesn’t matter how much I travel, but I will always get excited to find myself at some well-photographed landmark, and have that pinch-myself moment of comprehension that I’m actually there! It was the same at the Parthenon, although I was slightly disappointed at the amount of scaffolding marring the site. One whole side of it was hidden behind immense steel scaffolds and platforms. That aside, the view from the Acropolis over the old and new sections of the city was amazing. It was bakingly hot, and there was a constant shimmer on the surface of the ground. Spending hours in the intense heat was hard going, and it was refreshing to finally sit down in the shade with a beer. By this point, I could understand enough Greek to freak out my partner. When he was chatting away to his friend, he turned to translate for me and before he got a chance, I related pretty much what he had just said. Incidentally, Greek, like many languages, is easy to learn on the ear, but the written language is a whole other ball game. Having said that, once you master the alphabet, it suddenly becomes a whole lot easier to read and write (I subsequently took several Greek classes in an effort to be more competent on any future excursions there).

 

I love wandering through foreign cities after dark and marveling at the similarities and differences to those Scottish cities I grew up in. I watched in awe at the controlled way that Greeks drink alcohol, a stark contrast to the rowdy, drunken behaviour that tarnishes the British social culture. Bars were packed out to the pavements, and drink was a plenty, but yet no matter how many streets and lanes we walked through, nowhere were there the signs of passed out drunks, or people peeing against every wall they could find. It was refreshing to find coffee shops open as late as the bars, something which I have always dreamed of in Scotland: somewhere social to go at night, that doesn’t revolve around alcohol. It was a fun place to be, just a pity the Athens stop-over was so rushed. I could have easily spent a lot longer immersing myself in local life, and the history of the place.

 

Looking back, it would have been an all together less satisfying holiday without a Greek at my side.

Listo Para Saltar! (Ready to Jump!)

I hit the ground at such speed that my legs buckled and I was thrown forward on to my head, and then it too buckled until my legs flipped up behind me and I did an ungraceful forward roll, bending my neck at an ungrateful angle, until finally my body came to a halt, crumpled on the ground. There was that momentary pause when I wasn’t sure if I had done any damage to myself, and then the gradual realisation that thankfully, most of the injury was to my pride. I had a few grazes, and my head and neck hurt a bit, but other than that, I was remarkably unscathed. I stood up, gathered my equipment up, and started walking back to the hangar. My instructor came running over and was immediately relieved to see that I was able to walk, which he told me he was very surprised about, and then proceeded to tell me off for such a bad landing.

After that tandem jump in South Africa in 2005, I had looked into doing some skydiving training, but after a year of cancellations due to weather or instructor issues, it wasn’t till September 2007, that I arrived in St Andrews to do my level 1 Accelerated Freefall Course (AFF). Following a morning of ground schooling, learning the ins and outs of safety and control, there was a long afternoon waiting for a good weather window to put the theory into practice. It was a long wait. It was a beautiful sunny day, but the wind was too strong. Just as I was about to head off for the day, I was summoned to gear up. Finally, the moment had arrived.

The AFF course for skydiving is essentially a crash course in learning to solo skydive, with 8 levels: 7 full altitude jumps, between 12,000 ft (3657 m) and 14,000 ft (4267 m), and a ‘hop-and-pop’ at 6,000 ft (1828 m). Levels 1 and 2 involve 2 instructors, not strapped to you, merely jumping with you, and holding on to you until you’re stable. Levels 3 – 5 involve just the 1 instructor holding onto you whilst you stabilise, then levels 6 – 8 are all solo exits with the instructor following only to give directions. After that, there are 10 more jumps, completely solo with no instructor at all, and once that’s all done, you’re certified to skydive. Easy.

I don’t remember much about the journey up, other than noticing that the drop zone was quite difficult to pick out amongst the patchwork of surrounding fields. I ran through the jump procedure both out loud and again in my head, and finally, the magic altitude was reached, and the door opened. I was last to exit, alongside my two instructors who held onto my jumpsuit either side of me. Exit procedure commenced and then out I launched. Straight away there was a problem. The instructor who was supposed to be on my left had lost his grip at exit and was flying solo, trying to track back towards me. I was therefore off balance with the air flow, and immediately I was distracted by the lack of control, and despite being trained on what to do in the event of instructor loss, I forgot everything. I spent most of the 50 second freefall looking for the other instructor, who finally made it back to me in time for the instructor on my right to pull open my parachute for me at 5,000 ft (1524 m).

Under canopy, it was up to the people on the ground to guide me down. Again, I had forgotten everything I was supposed to be doing to guide myself down, and as it turned out, the wind was stronger than what it should have been for someone of my lack of experience, and as a result, I had little chance from the outset of landing anywhere near the drop zone. I drifted a mile off course, narrowly avoided a small copse as well as an electricity pylon, and finally landed in a freshly cut field of straw, with the razor-sharp stalks sticking skyward. I did a perfect parachute landing fall, or PLF, and was left with grazes and bruises up my entire right hand side. It was dusk by this point, and frankly I was just glad to be back on terra firma.

After the drama of that jump following a year of cancellations, I decided that it would be better to continue my training somewhere with more predictable weather. After a bit of research, I booked myself a week at the Skydive Lillo centre in Spain in the summer of 2009. Landing in Madrid, and waiting at the baggage carousel, I experienced that not-so-delightful feeling of watching everyone around you collect their luggage then depart, and my bag was nowhere to be seen. Eventually the belt was empty, and it stopped turning. There were 4 of us standing there with no bags. The rest of them were Spanish, so they had no problem conversing with the man at the help desk. I stood flicking through my phrase book, before eventually piping up with ‘Habla ingles?’ Thankfully, he answered with the affirmative, and I was directed to wait at the belt. After 15 minutes, the belt started up again, and out popped 6 bags, 1 of which was mine. Jumping onto the metro, I headed into the city, and onwards to the bus station. Once there, I rehearsed my well practiced Spanish in order to buy a bus ticket, then as usual, caved to the same phrase again at the desk. This time the answer was no. I had no choice. Spanish it was then. Sometimes I just need to be pushed.

Lillo was an hour bus ride roughly south of Madrid. It is a quiet, sleepy little town, with little to mark it out, save for the parachutists descending upon its outskirts, visible for some distance ahead. I was supposed to be getting met at the bus stop, but there was nobody there. After 20 minutes, I was still waiting and a phone call to the drop zone went unanswered. Eventually I tried to find the drop zone, which was not as easy as I anticipated down the various dusty lanes and roads. I returned to the bus stop and sat down again, overlooked by some local gentleman. After over an hour, eventually my hosts arrived, and took me to the guesthouse. It was roasting, and the heat was so severe, that I struggled to sleep until well after 1am when it finally subsided slightly, only to fire up again about 5 hrs later.

 

The following day marked the start of my training. Repeating the ground school, I was worried about going back up in case there was a repeat of the last time. In the end, I had nothing to worry about. Levels 1 and 2 were cleared easily, managing to stabilise with an instructor either side, and getting a brief spell of solo flight. Under canopy, I remembered my instructions, and flew it well, and at the last moment, I was instructed to flare my parachute, in order to land gracefully. After a bit of bother with my ears not equalising, I had to wait a day before getting back up for level 3. Stabilising with just 1 instructor was a bit trickier, and I had to repeat the jump before being allowed to proceed a level. My instruction under canopy was much reduced by this point, mainly restricted to a command to flare the canopy for landing. On the second level 3 jump however, I didn’t flare adequately. In fact, as far as my instructor was concerned, I didn’t flare at all. From a distance, he was sure I wasn’t going to get back up off the ground. I certainly lay there for a moment mentally checking myself to make sure that everything worked. I was certainly relieved myself to be able to stand okay, with just some minor throbbing in a few places, but my suit and helmet were covered with dirt which gave away the roughness of the landing. I gathered up the parachute and the lines, and headed back to the hangar, the adrenalin still coursing through me. I did another jump that day, but even now, the landing, and in particular the flare, makes me very nervous indeed. In the words of my instructor: “the only thing that’s going to stop you falling is the biggest goddamn obstacle there is: the motherf*cking Earth”.

 

In the evenings, I spent the remaining hours of sunlight wandering around the town or following various trails into the countryside. It is a very dry area of the country, and a lot of the land appears barren and brown. Whereas St Andrews had been a patchwork of green fields, the surrounding region of Lillo was brown and featureless for miles around with only the town and the neighbouring reserve for reference. I went to bed each night exhausted from the adrenalin surges and the heat and the fresh air, but each night, the temperature remained so high that it was regularly after 1am before it was cool enough to let me sleep. In the morning, I would either get a lift to the drop zone with my host, who was also an instructor, or I’d wander through the town square and walk there along the side of the highway that appeared to go nowhere, disappearing in a haze on the horizon.

 

By the end of level 5, I was starting to master the 180 degree turns, but I was still showing bad habits with my leg position. As a result, I had to repeat level 5 as well. Progressing beyond that was on to the solo exits. Level 6 was a standard exit, without an instructor holding on, and for the first time I started to enjoy myself. It seems an odd thing to put yourself through if you’re not enjoying it, but in all honesty, I spent the first levels quite terrified. It was simply the memory of that joyous jump in South Africa that had made me continue with the whole shebang. Now, I was getting my reward. Whilst a tad nervous without somebody holding on to me, it made me feel a bit more like a real skydiver. Whilst neither graceful nor well-balanced, I started to enjoy the freefall like I had all those years before. Under the canopy continued to be a non-event that served only to get me to the ground in as safe a manner as possible. I was restricted to keeping a holding pattern, whilst watching the aerial acrobatics of the more experienced jumpers on the other side of the drop zone.

 

By level 7, I was desperate to get into the plane and get jumping. This last jump of the core block was a front roll exit, going head over heels out the door, and initially facing upside down until the air flow corrected my position and I was once again facing the Earth. This brief moment, staring up into space was awesome, before I flipped over, and I was staring at the ground once more. Attempting to do a back flip in mid air was a slightly feeble affair that created the desired instability for me to prove that I could correct, but wasn’t quite what I was going for. A couple of 360 degree turns, some tracking (again not my strong point), and then after 50 seconds, I was at 5,500 ft (1676 m), and it was time to prepare to deploy. For those who don’t skydive, tracking is essentially the art of moving through the air in a linear plane by adopting a position that allows the appropriate air flow to essentially move ‘forwards’ through the air. This is what allows formation jumpers to form aerial displays. An alteration of this position, allows ‘backwards’ movement. I was extremely chuffed with this jump, and it was my favourite jump of all of them. I was even more ecstatic to be greeted by an announcement on the loudspeaker that I had graduated. I was greeted by my instructor with a handshake and a hug.

 

After the obligatory photos and congratulatory interview for my video log, I was soon back up in the plane for my first solo jump. Excited, I was now one of the first to exit the plane, and on jumping, I immediately went into a right-handed spin. Having never spun before, this was unexpected. I tried to alter my leg position to see if that would help, but the spin proceeded to get faster and faster. I went through the safety criteria in my head, and reluctant as I was to deploy the canopy early, I felt this was my only option. The rules are essentially to deploy the canopy at the correct altitude and in a stable position. If it is deployed in an unstable position, then there is the risk of a parachute error or failure. In a spin, the main risk is in the parachute lines being twisted, and this can either prevent a full inflation, and therefore fail to slow the speed of descent, or simply take a long time to untwist, and therefore reduce the flying control on descent. But as the spin proceeded to speed up, and I descended through clouds, I felt that I had no choice. I moved my arms into the deploy position, and in doing so, the spin corrected itself and then stopped. Panic over. I had a brief spell to enjoy the rest of the free fall before deploying the canopy at 5,000 ft (1524 m). I was relieved, but it had given me a bit of a fright. Now without command, and fully aware of my previous bad landing, I had developed a bad habit of premature flaring. Whilst not ideal, it allowed me to land at a speed that wouldn’t injure me as long as I maintained the flare, but it did mean that I tended to skid in on my bum, rather than coming to a stand on my feet. Not very dignifying, but it did the job.

 

I forced myself to go back up the same day, and this time I managed not to spin. Somehow, I developed a minor line twist on deployment, but this was easy to kick out, and I landed without concern. The last day of my trip, I continued with my solo jumps, and managed to master the back flip, and enjoyed another front roll exit in order to stare up at the stars again. I was loving it again, and eagerly queued up to get back up again. Both solo jumps I experienced line twists on deployment, but again they were easy to sort out. Clearly my positioning was still a work in progress.

Finally, it was my turn to do the ‘hop-and-pop’. Essentially, it involves a lower altitude jump that gives time purely to stabilise quickly after exit, then immediately deploy the canopy. Due to the cost of the jumps, this was to be my last of the trip. I had had a fantastic week soaking up the sunshine, sweating away in the heat, watching dust devils (small dust tornadoes) whiz past the hangar, while away the hours when the wind speed had been too high, and generally engage in the banter of the guys who worked at the drop zone. I had watched them deftly pack away the parachutes after every jump, carefully placing the lines to avoid a line-over – an automatic parachute failure – and setting up the rigging jump after jump.

 

Having retrieved my rig from the team, I kitted up in preparation to go up for the final jump. I was positioned right by the door of the plane for the first time, due to my lower exit. Essentially, this involved kneeling in a rather cramped, uncomfortable position in the door-well of the Pilatus Porter until it was my time to exit. In such a cramped wee plane in such heat, it is a relief to jump out into the cool and spacious air. Stabilising quickly, I assumed the position to deploy the parachute, and it wouldn’t budge. I released, then tried again, and still it wouldn’t budge. With the altitude dropping away quickly, I was ever aware of the increasing size of the buildings below. Tugging and tugging, my heart rate started to soar, until on the 5th pull, it finally came away in my hand, and I felt the all-important jerk as my descent was dramatically slowed. Thankfully, there were no line issues to contend with, and it was a not-so-subtle reminder of how little margin there is for error in this sport. I had my usual landing on my bum, and I stood up in the sunshine eager to go up again, but in great discomfort. After a week of jumping day in, day out, a bad landing causing a lot of bruising, and multiple canopy deployments that caused the harness to dig into my groin area, I was frankly quite sore, and feeling ever so slightly battered. I left Lillo that evening sore, but satisfied, and I was already working out when I could get back out there again.

The Book of Life

If my life was a story being written, then I’m on the cusp of chapter 7. I remember very little of the events of chapter 1, and chapters 2 & 3 were a non-event, that only served the purpose of progressing to chapter 4. As for 5 & 6, well, they have brought a thousand smiles to my face and a thousand tears. It’s been a fantastic ride…

In 6 weeks time, I’ll be on a plane, cruising at 35,000ft above the Atlantic Ocean. I’ll possibly be eating some airline food right now, watching a movie perhaps. Maybe I’ll be cursing the screaming child sat in the row behind me, or quietly fuming about the overweight man in the seat next to me spilling into my personal space. I’m an ‘aisle seat’ person. I love the window seat if there is anything worth seeing, but as most long haul flights are too high up for any kind of view, or generally over oceans, or during the hours of night, I prefer to feel that perception of space that is afforded by sitting at the aisle. Being stuck in the middle or window seat of a long haul flight is the closest I will ever come to feeling claustrophobic.

One of the worst flights I experienced was on a London to JFK flight, where I was stuck in the middle seat. To my right was a man who did nothing to dispel the well known stereotype about American’s waistlines. As such, I couldn’t get my arm rest down, and therefore I had nowhere comfortable to rest my right arm. I naturally spent a lot of time leaning to the left. Unfortunately, on my left side, was a full-grown, broad shouldered man. Whilst not overweight, his stocky dimensions meant that in order to avoid touching the flab of the man on my right, I was practically lying on his shoulder. I’d never before been so crooked in a plane seat. Mealtime was even worse. I couldn’t get my laptray down fully, and there was much awkwardness trying to politely make out like his belly wasn’t the problem. It was an extremely smelly and uncomfortable flight.

Μy most favourite flight on the other hand was another trans-atlantic, this time from Glasgow to Toronto. It was my first time heading out of Europe, and I was travelling solo. Clearly I looked pathetic and vulnerable to the ground staff, because without knowing it, I had my seat exchanged at the last minute. I knew no different when I was seated in the second row from the front, and it wasn’t until half way through the flight that it finally dawned on me that I wasn’t in economy class. The space was luxurious but boy did I feel the difference on the flight back to Scotland!

The long and the short of it is: I love to travel. I love travelling around my own country just as much as I love travelling to and around other countries. It doesn’t define me, but it is part of my story, and it plays an integral part to chapter 7 in my book of life.

Welcome to my travelogue…

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