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Business Class Backpacker (13/05/12)

May 14, 2012

“Where are you going miss?” the WH Smiths cashier at Heathrow airport asked me as I handed over my passport.

“Cape Town” I replied. That was it. That was the moment when it finally hit me that I was about to board a plane all on my own and head to South Africa to do something I’d been dreaming of doing for years. I was going on a two-week volunteer project where I’d be cage diving with Great White Sharks and assisting with the field research into these amazing animals.

So now that I’d experienced my first goose bump moment and accepted that yes, this was actually happening, I headed to the bag drop with my luggage. I had so wanted to travel to South Africa the proper way – with nothing but a backpack on my back. But my original plans had transformed from a simple two-week trip to South Africa, into a two-week trip to South Africa followed directly by a week of work in Korea. As a result I ended up needing a bigger bag, on wheels, with a handle…effectively a squashy suitcase and a far cry from the humble backpack that I’d envisaged.

Anyway, once I’d checked in my ‘bag’ I went to find my friend who happened to work for the airline that I’d be flying with and who’d happened to get me a business class ticket! However, there was a problem. One look at me and my denim jacket, flat shoes, shorts and tights and my friend looked worried – I had completely forgotten to dress for anything other than economy class and as such would probably not get my business seat after all.

I started weighing up my options – should I panic buy an outfit at the airport where my choice of shops were all top end, designer stores with price tags to match? Or should I just admit defeat and accept an economy class ticket? I’m useless at decision-making (and clothes shopping) at the best of times but today I had a very serious time limit, one hour to be exact and it wasn’t looking promising.

Five outfit changes and £600 worth of clothes later (not bought but tried) and I still hadn’t found anything and to be honest I found myself wondering what all the fuss was about. I knew that I’d be perfectly happy in economy with a good book and my iPod and that although it would be nice, I wasn’t overly fussed about the added extras an upgrade would get me. But upon delivering this verdict to my friend I was met with a disbelieving stare and the words ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ echoing in my head.

So it was on to Ted Baker and Reiss with my friend in tow to continue the upper class costume hunt. Eventually we found the perfect solution; a pair of cream, Parisian style, cut-off trousers that when teamed with my black top, fake pearl necklace and flowery pashmina, looked just right. We also got two huge REISS carrier bags to hide my ugly laptop bag and WH Smiths carrier in. I have to admit that as I was striding towards my gate clutching two massive designer bags I did wonder what had happened to my aspirations of playing the humble backpacker! But I quickly reminded myself that I was only going to do this once…for ‘journalistic purposes’.

As I got to my gate I saw that my seat had yet to be called so I made some last minute phone calls (the ones I had meant to make instead of panic shopping). Then as I hung up I realized that my ticket would let me jump the queue, so I picked up my bags and went straight through.

My seat was on the upper deck and as soon as I sat down I was offered a glass of champagne, which of course I accepted. Sat opposite me was a lady who I later found out spent half of her time in London and half in South Africa. We wasted no time and got chatting about our destination and she gave me hundreds of recommendations of places to visit – many of which weren’t typical tourist hot spots.

There were so many suggestions that I knew I’d forget most of them, but after only chatting for a short while she gave me her contact details and offered to meet up and show me around – I was extremely grateful and I was sure I’d be in touch, as a friendly and knowledgeable guide could be a great comfort in a country where you know no one.

So, business class treats. Well, the menu was amazing and I enjoyed a crab terrine and salad for a starter, four cheese gnocchi and bread for main and a lemon meringue pie and chocolates for desert all washed down with drinks from the free bar. After indulging on all the food I discovered that the seats could tilt back all the way into a reclining position and I found myself drifting off for most of the flight.

In fact the eleven hour flight felt so quick that I was shocked when we were told it was forty minutes until landing and I found myself thinking that I could very easily get used to flying business class. That is until a passenger tapped me on the shoulder as I was looking through my bags and kindly whispered to me that there was a price tag hanging out of the back of my trousers. That brought me back to reality pretty swiftly.

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2 Comments
  1. pau1ie permalink

    I hope you made an effort to ‘step’ out of the plane like a celeb! 😉

  2. Haha if only I was important enough to get ‘papped’…although considering the long flight probably best I wasn’t!

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