Reflections on Airports

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I’ve spent a lot of time at airports this year.  Be it JFK, CDG, MXP, I’ve become a bit too familiar with the security procedures and short codes that tell you where you bag goes.  While I have a few more airplane trips in my future, I’m glad that the majority of my plane travel for the year is finished.

Back in 2010, when I began university, I hated airports and detested flying.  I may have done it frequently, but my mother was always by my side during the flight, helping me get through the turbulence.  I still loathe take-off —  my row-mates always ask me if I’m okay once we’re up in the air and my eyes are open — I’m such a better traveller than I was as a fresher.

We’re not here to talk travel tips today, we’ve done that already.  I want to chat about one of the most fascinating parts about travel: the airport.  Despite the fact that we spend a strangely long time there, they’re regarded as mere speed-bumps of a trip.  They shouldn’t be.  Airports are fascinating places.

My favorite part of the airport is arrivals.  Spend an hour or two in the arrivals wing, watching people be reunited with loved ones, meeting new faces or wandering into a new city and you’ll be amazed.  Despite just coming off a long flight, a slightly harrowing experience and being folded up like a piece of origami, everyone is in shockingly high spirits.  The arrivals hall is feel-good central.

The departures hall, while a bit more hectic, is nevertheless inspiring.  People are nervously dropping off their bags, hoping to see them again.  Families are tearfully parting, with hugs and promises to call soon.  Friends are meeting up to go on trips, people are getting ready to explore.  Others are getting ready to go home, they may be sad their adventure has come to an end or thrilled to go back to the comfortable rhythm of their routine.  They may be meeting up with others or traveling solo.

Even the security line is a point of amusement.  There are those people who don’t want to take off their shoes with a million laces or walk barefoot on the questionable airport floor.  Some people have just one bag and walk through cool and casual.  Others, like me, are trying to juggle all their wordly possessions, wondering how they’ll ever manage to fit that laptop into their carry on now that it’s out.  Watching people assume the awkward position for the full body scan is hysterical.  Even more so if you’re now an unfortunate pro.

After security may be amusing as well, if you know what to do with that aimless time.  You could walk in and out of stores, hoping to find something different than you saw on your trip.  You could get one last coffee or buy the world’s most over-priced bottle of water.  You could look through every single magazine in the news stand.  There’s the possibility of sitting and watching planes take off and land and taxi.  If there’s a plug or wifi, you can use your computer and get some work done.  Sometimes the most fun thing to do is people watch because, trust me, there are some surprising people you’ll find at the airport.

The airport is the microcosm of our journey.  It packs everything together into one surprising package that is too often overlooked.  Instead of thinking of the trip beginning when we arrive at our hotel or in a new city, let’s think of the trip beginning from the drive to the airport, from the moment we get our boarding pass from the airline.  The airport may seem like a no-place, but, I would argue, it’s really an every-place.

Do you like going to the airport?  Do you have a go-to or, dare I say it, favorite airport?

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