Every year, I get the travel bug. Everyone must, right? It’s normal to crave a change of scenery, a break from your typical routine and new encounters with friends and people. Normally, I love the journey. In other words, the process it takes to get from point A to point B. Stick me in an airport for a few hours with a notebook and I’m a happy camper. When you’re in transit, you’re in this weird state of limbo where time dictates everything, like when you’re supposed to depart, but your normal sense of time is totally disrupted. Your personal schedule becomes basically irrelevant. It’s kind of cool. You’re pretty much at the mercy of the travel gods (aka airline booking agents) to make sure you’re good to go, leaving you with nothing to do but be still and pass the time.
This, of course, is easier said than done. I was reminded this past weekend how the very soothing thing I just described can become the most frustrating, exhausting task in the entire world. Travel can suck, big time. Especially when Operation Freeze Indiana Forever takes over just as you’re boarding your plane. Here are some reasons traveling is great and miserable all at once.
1. You want to feel glamorous, and sometimes you do (usually when you bring matching luggage and the inside of your purse could look like one of those “What’s In Your Carry On?” spreads the celebrities do in Vogue with oils and spritzers and shiz.. so yeah, it’s rare). But most of the time you just feel icky and smell like recycled air.
2. Everything is out of your control, which can be relaxing… until it’s not anymore. It’s amazing how the airport can go from calm, quiet oasis to that scene from Mean Girls when “the girls go wild”. That’s sort of what happened to me last Friday. I boarded the tiniest plane ever to connect in Chicago. I got on, no snow happening. I sit down in my seat, oh crap, it’s snowing. We pretend like we’re going to take off. Oops, bad idea. We turn around and head back to the gate. I kid you not I walked into a different airport than the one I had been in just moments before. Sides were taken, no one was smiling, it was loud, babies were crying, people were scared. Wild, I tell you.
3. Napping is appropriate. Where else (except for college) can you just fall asleep in the middle of the day and no one even thinks twice?
4. If you’re like me and have trouble napping, there are plenty of coffee shops, bars, markets, whatevers to keep you occupied, caffeinated and entertained.
5. The problem with #4: so. damn. expensive. And I’ve noticed the longer you have to sit and wait for your flight/train/bus the more you’re willing to spend and the less you care. I was at the airport for nearly 10 hours on Friday. By about hour seven, my budget plan hit the fan and died. $4 SmartWater? Sure. $6 magazine? Worth it. $3 bag of gummy bears? But I need this… It is a vortex people and it will suck you in.
6. People watching at transportation hubs is superb. If you’re solely an observer, usually no one will bother you. If you’re more forward, you can almost always strike up an interesting (or at least time-consuming) conversation with a fellow traveler. Of course there are moments when you might not feel like chatting. Flying home on Monday was one of those days for me. I was exhausted, I had a bad cold and had just about had it with anything airline-related. The 68-year-old doctor from Nigeria sitting next to me, however, felt quite the opposite and looking back, I’m glad I took the time to learn a little bit about his life. Be nice to everyone, it’s what makes the world go ’round, as they say.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts about travel?
In my opinion, the annoyances are always worth enduring in the end. By the time you arrive at your destination, any snags you ran into previously have faded away into the backdrop and you’re eager and ready for a new adventure.