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My Secret Love Affair with Airports

Coming out of the closet with joi de verve

I stepped off my flight to Chicago – a quick layover – unprepared for the crush of people surging toward the train to another terminal. I scooted onboard the train and immediately realized my mistake. Packed in the train like crayons in a box, only our clothes separated us from each other.

When’s the last time you got excited about spending time in an airport? Have you ever drank in the beauty of humanity on the move? If you can’t answer those questions – or think they’re silly – maybe it’s time to ask yourself when travel ceased to amaze and delight you.

It’s an important question…

The press of bodies and the answers they deliver

people-watching in airportsThe last person to board that train in Chicago, I squashed my breasts into the woman standing in front of me as I tried to shrink my backend so it didn’t impede the closing door. I could either get off the train or stretch my spine out and make myself as thin as possible. The door grazed my jeans as I pushed closer to the woman standing in front of me, stone-faced and staring at out window inches beyond my left shoulder.

A giggle started to bubble up and I bit my lip, forcing it back down while I eased back a hair. But the train lurched and I glanced out the glass door caressing my backside. We had left the terminal and were racing high across the airport tarmac, the area directly below us protected by barbed-wire.

The boob-pressing would continue.

As the train lurched and swayed, I forced my mind to my meetings ahead to keep the giggle safely ensconced in my gut, where it wouldn’t earn me a slap from my new friend. Of course, the train ride ended quickly and so did our relationship...

Take a deep breath

magical airport momentsMaking my way to my concourse, I began to notice the vastness of life pulsing and thriving around me. Children communing with parents, couples canoodling while waiting for their next flight, solo travelers seeking solace on social media or solitude in a good book they finally have time to read. I was traveling thousands of miles to meet with people. But airports are filled with people and ideas and dreams – a moving map of humankind.

I slowed my pace and started to look into people’s eyes as I passed them. Some looked past me, their minds on their worries and concerns and stresses – or maybe a flight they were minutes away from missing. But some glanced back and the moment of connection was palpable. “You looking at me?” their eyes seemed to question. “Yes, I silently answered back with a half-smile.” Most times the smiles were returned – a beautiful, momentary connection.

All of these people I’d never talk to, never share ideas or tears or laughter with – and here they were smiling back at me.

On any given month, I travel more than my parents, grandparents or great grandparents ever dreamed of traveling in their lifetime. They rooted themselves in their lives, constantly in-touch with the people they loved (and drove them crazy in equal measures). I envy that connection to the earth, to their lives – but I’m forever grateful of this wonderful life of travel.  

How can you love travel if you don’t also love airports?

airport moods and attitudesI’ll be honest. I’ve taken travel for granted – and I’ve cursed it as well. When my luggage has been lost, when I’ve been stranded overnight or my phone stolen or fought my way to get home because my homesickness was so strong, it took my breath away and hurt my heart. I’ve missed birthdays and special moments that will forever be lost to me, simply because I wasn’t there when everyone else was. I’ve cried and bargained and sometimes walked away in frustration – only to cry some more. I’ve seen another person die in the air and felt sadness in a way I’ll never be able to explain. 

But I’ve also shared a laugh with airline employees, commiserating that no matter how hard we try, we can’t control the weather. Or mechanical errors. Or stupid people who throw temper tantrums.

And I’ve done amazing things my grandparents could never have imagined. I’ve ridden a hot air balloon across the Grand Canyon and a helicopter over an active volcano, sipped tea on the top floor of the Time Warner building, shook hands and shared meals with ambassadors and hitchhiked at midnight in the desert. I’ve swam with dolphins, danced with Native Americans and a million other tremendous and trivial things simply because I love to travel.

My list of travel experiences is long and glorious and I’m thankful for every single one. Even the ones that confined me to airports and made me question my sanity.

Talking to people on planes

meeting beautiful people everywhereDespite the cramped train, my connection in Chicago was uneventful. I buckled into my window seat and waited for my seatmate to arrive. Sometimes I just want to get on the plane, put my headphones in and close my eyes. Sometimes, I’ve got nothing left to give this world and I just want to go home. But sometimes, I’ve pushed my selfish needs aside and looked over at the person sitting beside me. I’ve made friends and found new clients. I’ve looked through a hundred pictures of grandchildren and smiled at each and every one.

My seatmate didn’t look at me once this flight, preferring our kinship to involve only our elbows, I’m assuming.

On one flight, I met an animator for Disney who was traveling to Vegas to speak in front of hundreds of people – he was terrified of flying. As the plane lifted off the runway, I watched his nails sink into the armrest and his breathing growing shallow. But then I started to talk and he started to talk and I learned the most amazing stories about how it felt to bring the characters in his mind to life on screen.

On another flight, I had my palm read but in retrospect I think he may have been making a pass at me. I had more fun on that flight than he did.

I sighed and opened up my tablet. This would be a quiet flight home, one that would give me time to unpack the stress and worry of my trip so that when I landed, I’d be fresh and ready to give to the people in my life who love me more than anything – and who always forgive me for leaving them. Because I always come home. To them.

How do I love airports? Let me count the ways…

Tell me about your airport adventures and the fellow travellers you've met and wondered about? Drop a comment below or join in with me on the conversation via Facebook or Twitter!

Where do you want to go next ???



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I love the excitement of an airport. It's the anticipation of going somewhere that make them addictive. Whether it's away from your home base or too your home base. But I do have to say Los Angeles has the most uninspiring airport of all time. I do love London Airports and of course Amsterdam's...

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