Call me Crazy, but I Love Airports
Most people I know despise airports. They would describe them as a complete pain in the ass, and understandably so- the torturous waiting in lines, the often times aggressive security staff that do such a remarkable job at making you feel like a potential terrorist that you actually start questioning it yourself, dealing with pushy crowds from all walks of life, and being forced out of a fit of hunger pains to purchase a 7 dollar muffin that tastes like it’s been sitting in the display case for three days.
Not too ideal, right?
I agree that there are a lot of annoying things you have to deal with when being in an airport, often while battling exhaustion and dark circles beneath the eyes. But, despite these nuisances, I personally love airports. For me, being in an airport conjures up a battlefield of memories of being in transit, both physically and emotionally. They are reminders of where I’ve been, what I’ve felt, what has inevitably passed, anticipation of what is to come, and that sweet spot that you only get to experience when in transit, that sweet spot of being “in between”. Neither here, nor there, but in between. No responsibilities or debts to either party. It smells like stale cold recycled air, but tastes like sexy freedom.
A certain wave of calmness always washes over me at an airport- after I successfully prove my innocence and get through security that is. I love sitting on a comfy chair where I can simultaneously airplane watch and people watch, wondering where others are coming from and going to, or just tune everything out altogether and read a book or do some writing.
As I sit here again, in an airport, on my way to the other side of the world in an hour, I can’t help but notice that this feeling has once again overtaken me, and my mind falls back to all sorts of sensations and memories I associate with being in this same situation through the years. Some pleasant, some not so pleasant, but all which have come and gone like waves of the ocean, leaving gentle marks. And here I am, still okay, still excited, still hustlin’, and feeling stronger than ever.
I think back to one of my most amateur hours of when I made the move to London with two huge rolling suitcases, a backpack, my lap top bag, and two large purses. I was so laden with luggage I could barely move, and two lovely British guys helped me with my bags and ushered me into a taxi on the other end.
I think back to the two and a half days I spent stuck in a Bolivian airport, because there was a fuel strike and no planes could fly. I met a terrified English girl and the two of us took turns sleeping while the other kept an eye on the bags. I must have eaten five subway sandwiches during what felt eerily like a cheap scene from Tom Hank’s movie The Terminal.
I think back to my big move to Bangkok, and that harrowing taxi ride I took from the airport by a Thai Buddhist driver who dropped me off at a whore house. In a case of mistaken identity, I thought it was a hotel, so I booked myself there for three nights. Enough about that. (see previous Bangkok posts for more details on this classy mishap)
I think back to the anxiety I felt before leaving the relative safety of the Delhi airport and walking out on the streets to face the music of India for the very first time.
I think back to when I had food poisoning in the Hong Kong airport and had to keep darting out of the Security line to gracefully puke my guts out in the trash can.
I think back to my 4 a.m. flight I took when leaving India, filthy and exhausted, and decided to treat myself to a fancy foot massage 30 minutes before boarding.
I think back to when my “tainted” backpacker girlfriends and I got stuck in the El Salvador airport on the way to Costa Rica, hungry, thirsty, delirious, but overflowing with excitement about our first big trip overseas. I think back to when these same backpacker girlfriends and I were mysteriously upgraded to first class on our way to Argentina because the airline had accidentally overbooked coach. Seriously- when does that happen? We indulged in champagnes and warm nuts like it was our first and last stint in First Class (which has regrettably turned out to be true).
I think back to being shoved up against the plane window for 8 hours because the obese man next to me, who just so happened to be missing an arm, couldn’t fit in his seat.
I think back to all the interesting, wonderful, and sometimes annoying people I had the joy of sitting next to on an airplane, exchanging stories, sometimes over a glass of bottomless wine (thank you, Virgin Airlines).
I think back to bittersweet goodbyes, exciting beginnings, what-the-hell-am-I-doing moments, and heartwarming returns. Feelings of nerves, anticipation, humor, fear, acceptance, and courage all mixed together. I think back to my family intensely watching me navigate through security, waving and jumping until they can no longer see me. I think of that feeling of suddenly being alone, but realizing I am okay with that, and that being alone is not nearly the same as being lonely. I think of my beloved Paulo Coelho and his books that have made hanging out in airports worth every minute. I think about wonderful moments of solitude and un-interruption as I peacefully relax in an airport cafe during a layover, sipping a caramel latte and writing my heart out.
So yes, airports can be a pain in the ass in many ways, and of course they come with their frustrations. But for me, airports represent so much more than that. They represent all the places I have been, the people I have met and experienced this with along the way, the unexpected humor and ridiculousness, the ways in which my patience and courage have been tested, and the transient nature of it all. And here I am, about to hop on a plane to Bali with a layover in Taiwan, filled with anticipation and those old familiar feelings that make me realize how impermanent they really are, but at the same time, how much of a beautiful mark it all leaves.