July 25, 2011


For The Love of Blogs has posted a writing prompt for those of us in need of inspiration.  This week's prompt is about flying...

My worst flying experience began in May of 2003.  I was living in Changchun, a city in northern China teaching English with about 30 other Americans.  SARS happened and as a result we ended up needing to leave a month earlier than planned.  We needed to make up the time that we would be missing, so we began teaching night classes-3 hours, 4 nights a week for 4 weeks.  On top of this we had to pack, get rid of stuff we had collected over the year in China and say goodbye to our students.  It was a stressful but the extra time spent with students was worth it.  To complete this month of stress, it took me 3 days and 5 planes to get from northern China to Boston, MA.

Wearing masks to "protect" us from SARS

We left Changchun, China in the morning and flew to Beijing (flight 1).  We then had to hang out there for about EIGHT hours.  We couldn't check in for our international flight until about 2 or 3 hours before hand, so that meant we had to chill with all our luggage-each of us had 2 70lb bags and 2 carry ons.  We had luggage stacked on the rolling carts and staked out some benches.  We talked, read, chilled, plucked eyebrows and did whatever we could to stay amused.  It was easier once we were able to check in and go through security...there was stuff we could do!  We had a flight from Beijing to LAX but we had a stop in Shanghai (flight 2).  We arrived very late in Shanghai and for some reason the flight to LAX didn't take off till mid afternoon the next day.  Thankfully the airline put us up at a hotel! They provided a shuttle to the hotel, a room, and three meals.  They also brought us our luggage.  It was pretty awesome.  We got a good nights sleep, decent food, and a shower before having to spend 13 hours on an airplane.  It was also nice that we got to spend the morning in a hotel with TV & internet.  Having just spent the past year with these people, it was nice to have a little more time together before going our separate ways.

Hanging out with K in Beijing
Just a small portion of our luggage!

So on day 2 we flew from Shanghi to LAX (flight 3).  I don't remember the exact flying time but it was probably around 13 hours.  Due to SARS the plane was pretty empty, which was nice cause it meant we could spread out.  I was actually able to sleep on the plane since I was able to lie down.  I very rarely sleep on planes because I can't sleep sitting...it's so uncomfortable!  The flight was uneventful and we landed an hour before we took off...got love traveling over the international date line.

We arrived in LAX, went through customs, got our luggage and made our way to the domestic terminal.  This is where it got hard.  I was about to say goodbye to the people that had been my family.  I wasn't close to all 30 of them.  My team had 6 people and Kim, our leader and a different flight out of China.  So there were just 5 of us left and goodbyes were hard.  Really hard.  Saying goodbye to the other 20+ people was easier but still not fun.  Slowly our group began to dwindle.  I had a red eye to JFK (flight 4) and was one of the last to leave.  I think I spent about 8 hours hanging out at LAX.  In addition to killing time I was also starting the process of readjusting to the US.  It was weird and I remember feeling overwhelmed.  Reverse culture shock definitely happened!  I remember being amazed at what people were wearing. I also enjoyed understanding all the conversations going on around me! 

Day 3 was spent on the plane to JFK.  Once I was there I had one more flight to Boston (flight 5).  The two hour layover was a killer even though it was the shortest one I'd had.  So close and yet so far away!  The flight was on a little regional plane and I was so ready to be home.  I was impatient and couldn't wait to shower and see my parents.  The past year of my life had been incredible and I couldn't wait to share it!

This might not seem so bad but it was the worst experience because it was so long and very emotional.  Since then I've flown back and forth from Asia several times and it NEVER took so long again!  The best flight ever? Hanoi to Bangkok to JFK (17 hours!) to Boston.  3 planes and 21 hours in the air...loved it and would do it again in a heartbeat!

What was your worst flying experience?


  1. Wowza - you're so well-traveled & cultured :) Glad you made it back safely!

  2. Oh my gosh, I don't know how you made it, lol. I would've lost my mind at some point during those long layovers. I HATE layovers lol

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  4. haha oh please ignore me posting from my dog's account. lol

    The emotions can really make travel awful. My worst flight was flying from Germany to Seattle by myself with two kids. One 2 and one 7. The bathrooms broke an hour into the flight and they weren't able to fix them until an hour before we landed. The 2 year old was still in pullups but having to have a 7 year old hold it for almost 10 hours is awful.

  5. i think the worst part of traveling is the last leg, especially the short kind. because you are so anxious to be there, you are jetlagged....they are just a tease.
    last year a friend of mine was doing the same thing in Wuxi...after a year of being there and traveling she returned to the States and stopped by Cali to visit us and to make her trip less tiring...she loved it there!


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