Twenty hours. That’s fourteen hours from San Francisco to Taipei, about an hour at the terminal, then another five till Singapore.
If you’re like me and haven’t ever flown for this long, then twenty hours seems impossible. I’ve been flying back and forth from California to Michigan and can’t even stomach four-hour flights. This is also the first time I flew out of the States alone. For some reason, I decided my first transcontinental flight was going to be to the other side of the world. So you could imagine my mental state when I hugged my parents goodbye and made my way through the security checkpoint.
Everything went smoothly, at first. Like always, found a seat with a charger at my gate, filled my water bottle, went to the restroom, and so forth. The line slowly inched forwarded as my fellow fliers boarded the plane. My seatmates were two middle-aged, kind gentlemen. I settled in.
The plane seat cushion was pushing my head forward. I tried my best to scoot to the side so that my head rested next to the window, but now my neck was tilted at an awkward angle. The characters on my phone screen yelled at each other and ran away from an explosion. I rubbed at my neck. The man beside me snored and tilted precariously closer. I shifted in my seat again. He swayed and landed on the other passenger who snorted in his sleep.
The flight attendants carried in plates of food. I picked the braised chicken and potato, which was delicious, and stored the fruit and dessert under my chair for later. A few minutes after I had finished, the yellow seatbelt sign flashed and ticked above us as the plane trembled against the wind. My stomach turned. I sat straighter, looked up, and prayed that I wouldn’t be that one passenger who had to use the small paper bag.
Once the nausea subsided, I popped some pills for motion sickness.
I woke up and checked my phone. Perhaps we were close to Taiwan by now? Two hours! I had only slept for two hours; there were still eight to go. I turned on my phone and pressed play. On cue, the characters jumped and punched and dodged. After a while, the image blurred so I put my phone down. At least I wasn’t getting motion sick anymore, but I was getting bored and needed to go use the restroom. To my right, both men were still asleep but I decided to bother them later when they were awake. I wondered how they could sleep so comfortably for so long.
I reached down for my bag to pull out a pad of paper to draw or write on – and nope, my stomach churned angrily. Okay, so I wasn’t feeling up to par yet. Maybe I should wait it out. I pressed play on the phone and let my eyes glaze over.
Somehow I managed to sleep again, which was a blessing. Another three hours shaved off and now I was more than halfway there.
Somewhere along the way, I had lost the tiny pillow they had given us. I checked under my seat and noticed the food that I had stored for later was also missing. Great. I tested reaching for my bag and my stomach stayed silent. I had some vitamin gummies and checked the time again. It was an automatic motion. Every few minutes I would take a peek at the screen and slowly the dread in me was building. What was I going to do for five more hours?
I didn’t need to go to the restroom anymore, almost like my body was slowly realizing its reality and started adapting. Rummaging around my bag, I pulled out my pad of paper and sketched my seatmate, who was of course still sleeping. I wondered if he ever woke up this whole flight.
They brought out the food again: an omelette with sausage and broccoli and raisin bread, yogurt, and fruits for side dishes. I wasn’t aware of how hungry I was until I peeled off the foil and the smell of fried egg hit my face. I scarfed it all down and, as scheduled, the plane shook from turbulence and the nausea set in. I popped some more pills and checked the time. Two hours is manageable.
For the first time on the flight, I cracked the window open and looked out. It never got old. The vast expanse of ocean that met the sky, spotted with white rippled reflections from the sun and dark shadows from the clouds floating beneath us. In the distance, a silhouetted stretch of land.
At last, I had made it on the other side of the world. My first order of business? Restroom.
After I relieved myself of fourteen-hours’ worth, I joined the line at the security checkpoint and entered the terminal. The Taipei Airport was amazing. There were tiny museums and displays, a flower garden, themed gates, and even a tea ceremony area. I pulled out my camera to take it all in.
The plane was the famous Hello Kitty plane. Everything from the screen animations to the pillows to even the puke bag was Hello Kitty-themed. Needless to say, I was impressed and dying from the cuteness of it all.
Compared to the fourteen-hour flight, this five-hour was nothing. I had my nap. Ate just enough. When the plane trembled, I took my pills. I also played around with the screen in front of me. Tetris, bowling, chess. I settled on Monsters University, which I had seen before, but nothing beats a classic.
At last the plane swooped onto the track and slowed to a stop. I looked out the window and met Singapore face-to-face.