The Transpacific Flight to New Zealand (and back again)

The amount of hectic work I’m doing this week — to be expected, it fits in with the start of the school year and all — perhaps unsurprisingly puts me in mind of some of my best moments away from such sound and fury, and that means vacations where I REALLY got away. Thus my trip to Australia and New Zealand back in 2002, which I talked about in detail over here.

The flights themselves, though long, boring and tedious the way such flights are, were still something just special enough for me, though. They were the longest flights I’d ever been on, which was definitely part of it, and I was going somewhere completely new for me, which was also part of it. But it was just the sheer unreality, surreality of the flight in particular that made me feel a bit surprised then and makes me feel still a bit caught off guard now.

There’s no sense of really going anywhere when you’re flying over an ocean at night — you are in a self-contained little universe, you are (if you’re me) occasionally fretting over the idea that something could go terribly wrong and if it does, well, that is that, and there’s not going to be many people around to look for the bits unless one of the boats you can see so far below you, if you crane to look out the window, decides to steer around a bit. Otherwise there’s just blackness and the sense of motion and speed and air rushing past you, and cramped chairs and restlessness and more besides.

And to think that this was something that a mere century ago even would have meant massively long voyages even by steam-powered ships, a journey of days and not hours, and that even earlier, well, forget it — weeks, months? My mind flicked back on trips and stories I know, the Polynesian migrations, Magellan’s crossing of the Pacific, the stories of the Bounty, other half-remembered tales of long voyages. One of my favorite books growing up was the story of a Long Beach (at least I seem to remember he was from Long Beach) teenager who literally sailed around the world back in the late sixties or so, and the story of his Pacific trip which began the voyage really seemed truly epic to my young mind, and still does.

And me, well, a ticket purchased, luggage brought, and all that distance and all that time compacted into hours and avoiding leg cramps and the like. It’s very, very strange to think on it, and I could only imagine what those sailors of the past would have thought of it all.