The Synergies of Travel

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned to my friend, Tim, that I was going to Sri Lanka. “Oh,” he exclaimed, “One of my favorite authors is from Sri Lanka. You should read about Michael Ondaatje’s trip back there.” That day, I ordered¬†Running in the Family.

Ondaatje, the Booker Prize-winning author of The English Patient, grew up mainly in Canada, but he has roots in Sri Lanka. In 1978, he traveled to what was then known as Ceylon, to revisit his childhood and his ancestry. Running in the Family, about that trip, was published in 1982.

I began reading it on the flight over here, and I had it under my arm as Shawn Smucker and I walked from our hotel, across the street to the beach. I looked up to notice a man walking on ropes, high above us in the palm trees, pouring a liquid from pots into a pot that he lowered by rope to the ground.

Our very gracious hotelier, Tommy, saw us looking up and explained to us that the man was collecting the sap of the palm flower, which is subsequently fermented and made into a drink called the palm toddy and also further distilled into arrack. He told us that he’d serve us a toddy before lunch and some arrack after dinner.

After that little education, I planted myself on a chair on the beach, and opened Ondaatje’s book, wherein, after a few pages, I came across the poem, “High Flowers,” which reads, in part,

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Welcome to Sri Lanka

These young dudes welcomed us to Sri Lanka today.

It’s been a long day of travel. I left Minneapolis just after mid-day on Thursday, and arrived at my destination on the west coast of Sri Lanka at the equivalent of 2am on Saturday in Minneapolis (11am here in Sri Lanka). The boys in the photo above gave us a nice welcome during our 2-hour van ride, but that was merely the final leg of a long journey.

From MSP, I flew to JFK, where I met the other members of the World Vision Bloggers Tour. They are, as you might guess, a wonderful and diverse group of people. We’ve already had some great conversations, about which I will post in coming days. From there we flew for 12+ hours in an A380, the largest airplane currently flying. We arrived in Dubai in time to hear the call to evening prayers as we waited in the line in passport control.

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Now THAT’S a Big Plane


In fact, it’s the world’s biggest plane.

I’m sitting at JFK, about to board a flight to Dubai, and then it’s on to Sri Lanka. I’ll be on the ground by Saturday morning, local time. I’ll be posting all next week about what I see and experience. I hope you’ll follow my posts and those of my fellow travelers. You can find us on facebook, and on twitter at #WVbloggers.

Ten Tips for International Flights

Although you wouldn’t know it by my lowly Silver Elite status these days on Delta, I have done a fair amount of international travel. Later this week, I’ll be in the air for over 20 hours, traveling from Minneapolis/St. Paul to New York (JFK) to Dubai to Columbo, Sri Lanka. My fellow World Vision travelers and I have been trading flying tips on our Facebook group, and several trip members are worried about sleeping or not sleeping on the flights.

While I doubt any of us will take an $18,000 shower on Emirates Air, I’m sure we’ll all survive. That being said, here are my top ten trips for international flying:

1) Don’t beat yourself up. I don’t sleep much on flights. Never have, and I doubt I ever will. But I no longer bum out about that. Instead, I just know that I won’t be sleeping, and I’ll have to suffer through some exhaustion upon my arrival.

2) Don’t over-medicate. I’ll take a melatonin pill, but I think that the stronger sleep-aids are a recipe for disaster. They don’t necessarily put you to sleep, but they definitely make you groggy. And if you have any weird side-effects, you’re pretty much screwed.

3) Work out the day before. Being that I’ll be sitting and sitting and sitting, I make sure and get a serious workout the day before the flight. I mean a 2-hour, sweaty, intense workout. Get the endorphin rush, the lactic acid release, and you’ll possibly sleep more on the flight.

4) Don’t set an alarm. For the week before the trip, I go to bed as early as possible and sleep as long as possible. I won’t try to realign my sleep with Sri Lanka because it’s like a dozen time zones away. That would be futile. Instead, I will go into the trip well-rested.

5) Pre-hydrate. In spite of the warnings to avoid alcohol on flights and to drink only water, I will drink some booze. So I’ll make sure to drink a bunch of water in the 48 hours before the flight to compensate.

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