The challenges of international travel

This week, I am having the opportunity to participate in an international meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It’s a great opportunity and I’m learning many things. I am also experiencing the challenges of international travel.

First of all, it is a LONG trip from Tokyo to Buenos Aires. The first leg of my journey began at Tokyo’s Haneda airport – just a short subway ride from the area in Tokyo where we live.

I left Tokyo on Sunday afternoon bound for Frankfurt, Germany. A “short” 12 hours later, the flight landed on time in Frankfurt. Did I sleep on the plane? Well, I had my eyes closed part of the time, but I wouldn’t really call it sleep.

The connecting flight was just a short walk away, and I had about three hours to wait. The terminal at first seemed strangely vacant of people, particularly given it was early in the evening, Frankfurt time. But people slowly began to arrive, and soon the departure lobby filled.

The next leg was the long one – nearly 14 hours from Frankfurt to Buenos Aires. That’s a really long time to sit in an economy seat on an airplane. Fortunately, the seat next to my isle seat was vacant, so I had a little more room to stretch. I watched a movie and some TV. The cabin was dark and I was a little more successful in sleeping. Still, I wouldn’t consider it a very satisfying rest.

A coulple of hours before scheduled landing, we had a surprise. The pilot announced that there was bad weather in Buenos Aires, and we were being diverted to Sao Paulo, Brazil to refuel. Not the plan, but guess I would prefer they make sure there is plenty of fuel to get where we are going. The stop was brief – we stayed on the plane for about 45 minutes while it was refueled. Then we were back in the air, and on the way to Buenos Aires.

I didn’t mention the airline food. There is a lot. They do their best to make it edible. Some is pretty good, some not so much. But breakfast on the last leg was welcome and included some much-needed water and juice.

Arrival at Buenos Aires was uneventful. Fairly long line to go through customs – it took around 45 minutes to wait. But once at the customs agent booth the process was quick and effortless.

My immediate impression of Buenos Aires is that it’s warm – it is summer in the southern hemisphere! So my cold weather clothes are not needed. The leaves are on the trees, the air is wonderfully mild, and we enjoyed lunch on the patio outside the hotel.

Unfortunately it is also 12 hours behind Japan time. I was just about to adapt to Japan time zone after moving from Atlanta. My body is now trying to adjust to going back in time again. Probably the bigger issue is just getting used to thinking about the time difference. In Japan, home in the United States is 14 hours behind. Here, Japan is 12 hours ahead…so if I call my wife at 2 p.m. here, it is 2 a.m. in Japan…oops.

All in all, this is a good experience. I feel like I am an experienced traveler, having traveled internationally many times. But the magnitude of this trip is different, and I find that just keeping track of everything — cell phone, passport, wallet, backpack, etc. — is surprisingly challenging. And since I have two more trips before returning to Japan, I have to keep track of those travel plans, hotel arrangements, schedules, and the like. The logistics seem harder than I would expect. I’m assuming that will get easier as I travel more frequently.


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My husband and I were both born and raised in Kansas, but for the past 20+ years we have been living in Atlanta, Georgia. Now, with our children grown and out of the house, we have the opportunity to spend two years living in Tokyo. My husband will be working with the Japanese counterpart to his American company.

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