It’s the time of year where I start spending a significant portion of my life on the road with my day job.
At around 4am I’ll be heading to Edinburgh airport to begin the first leg of my trip out to Kazan, in the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia – the host of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. While I’m there I’ll be spending most of my time in an ice rink, but I do hope to get an opportunity to spend time exploring the area and taking a lot of photos.
It’ll be my second trip to Russia. The first trip was to Sochi with work the year after the Winter Olympics which was a fun but strange experience. In that trip I also managed to leave a winter sport event with sunburn after sitting on the beach for a few hours towards the end of the week. I don’t imagine anything like that will happen this time.
Getting to Russia begins with applying for a visa, well in my case it involved getting a letter of invitation from the sports ministry, then applying for a visa. I can say with all honesty it is one of the most infuriating visa forms I’ve ever had to complete.
It asks for where and when you’ve travelled outside your native country for the previous ten years (which I thankfully have a detailed record of) which can take a long time to complete if you travel as much as I do, as well as a lot of other information that seems completely pointless for the application process. But it’s what they want so you have to do it if you want to visit the country.
My total travel time tomorrow, including connections, is going to be somewhere around 15 hours, which isn’t ideal, but certainly not the worst travel time I’ve ever experienced. It is helped by the fact that these days I’m a Flying Blue Gold level frequent flyer, which gains me entry to Executive Lounges and makes waiting around in airports so much more relaxing. And there’s a lot of waiting around tomorrow to contend with.
The airport and flying part of any trip is usually the worst aspect of going anywhere, but I’ve been able to make the process a little easier on myself. By flying with the same airline group constantly you very quickly level up in their frequent flyer programme, which brings a few perks.
For example, as well as lounge access, I also get something called Sky Priority which lets me go through fast track security and board the plane first. So even though I’m flying economy I get to store my hand luggage and get settled before the plane begins to fill up. It’s a small thing but it makes the whole process less stressful.
I also tend to be towards the top of the upgrade list now so if I pay attention I can get upgraded to business quite easily. That makes flying long haul flights enjoyable rather than the uncomfortable experience they usually are.
The best part about travelling, and what makes people want to do it again and again, is arriving at your destination. You get to meet new people, experience a new culture and see how amazing the world really is. It teaches you more about yourself than anything else ever could.
Travel changes people, it has certainly changed the way I look at the world, and while I may complain about long flights and waiting around in airports, those are momentary discomforts for something I absolutely love.
I honestly believe everyone should travel and live away from home for a period of their lives. It not only teaches you to appreciate home and makes you completely self-reliant, but it also makes you want to experience as much of the world as you possibly can in the short time we get to live on it. And doing that today is easier than it’s ever been.
Photo info: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada © Christopher Hamilton