Screaming children? Fighting over armrests and carryon space? Headsets that work only if you hold the headphone jack with your fingers the entire 6-hour flight? Seats that don’t recline? Or even better – seats with touch screen TVs on the back of the headrests, so the person sitting behind you can jab your headrest the entire duration of the flight in the useless attempt to play solitaire on the lagging, failing screen, preventing you from sleeping at all and thus resulting in the dreaded JET LAG that you will experience for days into your precious vacation!
I mean, I suppose there are SOME aspects to flying that might deter people from its magic. But I guess I just don’t see things the same way that other people do. Put on your Jac glasses for a few paragraphs and take a look:
Walking into the central hub of your departing city, teeming with natives and foreigners alike. Heading to your terminal with your final destination lingering in your mind. Being so close to Mexico, or Fiji, or Florida that you can taste the salty ocean air and feel the tropical sun beating on your skin. Choosing a spot on a bench overlooking the tarmac, amid a crowd of people creating a sort of invisible bubble around you, from which you can silently people-watch. Knowing that each and every person is on his or her own personal mission. Observing parents crying as children head off to college. Teenagers hunched over their smart phones, rolling their eyes at the dad jokes they will be listening to for the entire family vacation. Intense hugs with the most sincere love and tears of immense relief greeting soldiers safely returning home. Blank-faced businessmen sitting at the airport bar, before sitting on a plane only to arrive somewhere new to sit in meetings. Each individual traveler has a story, interesting or not, and you can’t help but notice that you are but a grain of sand amongst billions of other grains of sand on the beach of humankind.
Traveling alone, you can be as anonymous as you want in an airport. You are an independent, powerful individual with a personal adventure ahead that no one in that room knows about. Whether you are there in that moment or you walk back out of that airport never to return again does not matter to anyone around you, but you. And yet, life all around you in that moment thrives on.
Flying is about the journey. The adventure. The excuse to splurge on a vanilla latte from Starbucks because your flight is early in the morning and you’re a little cold. The anticipation that within a few hours you’ll be having an unforgettable experience in a place that you’re so lucky to have the opportunity to visit.
Watching the sunset from the clouds’ point of view. Admiring the mountaintops like a bird just passing through. Moving at a pace that puts the roadrunner to shame. Hats off to technology and the advancement of mankind!
Free coffee, orange juice, soda. Free snacks. Extra legroom in the emergency exit row. Making friends with the inspirational world backpacker sitting next to you. Better yet, making friends with the flight attendant who you discover is about your age and only lives 20 minutes from you back home. Realizing that, as a tiny grain of sand, there is a lot of beach to explore and you never know what other sand grains are out there that will cause you to wonder if maybe that beach isn’t actually so overwhelmingly large after all.
The sensation created by G-forces as the plane takes off into the sky, until a rollercoaster drop in your stomach indicates that the initial ascent is over. Closing your eyes to the hum of the engine. Pleasantly waking up to find that a substantial amount of travel time has passed. Relief as the plane’s wheels hit the ground. Peeping through the window, desperate for a glance at the destination you have traveled so far to see. Anticipation as the plane taxis to the gate. The ding, followed by the clicking of seatbelts. The blissful stretching of your legs as you part from your seat.
Entering a new airport. A new beach. New sights, new smells, new people.
You have reached your destination.
I’ll admit to being the kind of hopeless optimist who takes positive thoughts way too far sometimes. But I will most certainly never regret having the ability to find the good and the beauty in almost any situation, and I believe that ability is a big part of my success in traveling the world. I find the joy in flying. I see the charm in the simplest airports. To me, flying is exhilarating, interesting, beautiful, fun. Sometimes there are unpleasant experiences, true. In which case I am lucky to have the ability to sit back, take in the unfortunate situation, and just laugh. Because if I didn’t have the experience of a terrible flight, it would mean I didn’t have the experience at all. And I am so thankful to simply be able to go where I want to go.