07 May 2014

How to enjoy the longest birthday - The funny side of the Intl. date line

In the summer of 2012 I took on a 2 month sabbatical in the Pacific. That trip changed me for life and also taught me a very interesting fact about crossing the date line: You can celebrate your birthday twice.

How is that possible?

Simple. But not easy to get to ;)

First, travel to Samoa, a lost country in the Pacific. To get there, chances are you will be flying either via Hawaii, New Zealand/Australia or Fiji as these are the only ways of getting there.

Fales, traditional accommodation in Samoa

Then, make sure that you spend the most wonderful birthday. In my case, as I was travelling solo, that meant that, the evening before, I treated myself to a wonderful Indian take-away dinner with my also Spanish dive instructor who was living in Samoa and then had a night out in town featuring lots of beer - the ones everyone was drinking - and lots of rastafari themed music and dancing in a hot steaming packed club with live music. Then, on the day, travel to Savaii, the second largest island in Samoa which is much more laid back and has lots of pretty beaches and sleeping under the stars without walls accommodation. The fale type which is communal way of living which involves houses without walls where you pretty much live in synch with nature.

After spending some relaxing time in a hut 5m from the water, I returned to the main island to a wonderfully laid lei or flower necklace by the pretty ladies at the B&B I was staying at. 

Me, touring Samoa on the days aroundmy birthday
Then, on the day after my birthday, when my birthday was officially over this side of the date line I took a flight to American Samoa, a US territory only 20min plane ride from Samoa ye an entirely different country as you technically land in the US.

But surprise surprise!

As you just crossed the date line it is AGAIN, the day before so you relive your birthday one more time. Yes, it is true, no tricks. 

Samoa and American Samoa used to be on the same side of the date line then in 2009 Samoa decided to move to the other side to be aligned with the other islands it trades more with.

The international date line topic is quite a confusing and interesting one at the same time. A quick check on wikipedia will tell you that for two hours every day there are three days being "lived" around the world.

"For the two hours between 10:00 and 11:59 (UTC) each day, three different days are observed at the same time in different places. For example, at UTC time Thursday 10:15, it is Wednesday 23:15 in American Samoa, (UTC-11), and Friday 00:15 in Kiritimati (UTC+14). For the first hour (UTC 10:00–10:59), this is true for both inhabited and uninhabited territories, but during the second hour (UTC 11:00–11:59) it is only true in an uninhabited maritime time zone twelve hours behind UTC (UTC-12)."

In practical terms:

When I took off from Samoa it was already 10am on the 15th of August and when I landed in American Samoa it was 10,30am on the 14th of August again, the flight was 30min long. Therefore, like in Groundhog Day, I relived my birthday once again.

The date line

This is particularly fun if you are planning to repeat Christmas Day, New Year's Eve or a particularly important celebration for you. For example, this Christmas I am planning to spend it in Auckland yet on the 25th evening we will travelling to French Polynesia and will land in Tahiti on the evening of the 24th ready to spend Christmas Day in the tropical island one more time. 
But be careful when you make bookings travelling East because you may catch up with the Date Line and mess up bookings. If you do like me above, make sure to have two bookings for Christmas Eve or you may find yourself with one reservation on the 24th evening in Auckland and no reservation on 24th evening in Tahiti! 

Have you experienced funny date line situations before? Share them with me!