I’m not sure that many would consider their airport experience to be “fun.” It is either boredom or panic, layovers so long that you forget what the outside world looks like or connections that are made by the skin of your teeth. It is the decision between buying expensive food and starving; it is hunting for outlets (because the airports I’ve been in seem to have about five); it is the stress of making it through security without being that person who holds up everyone else. In short, it is stressful and time-consuming.
And yet, I’ve always loved airports. For starters, they’re so busy; they seem almost like mini-cities. They’re crowded and chaotic, full of people moving busily back and forth. The busyness makes them exciting, and the people make them interesting. You rub elbows again with individuals that you’ll never see again; in that brief time, you have something in common with complete strangers. It’s interesting to think about their stories and their destinations. Are they traveling for fun? For work? Are they going or coming? How often do they travel? Do they enjoy it?
My favorite thing about airports, though, is the utter lack of judgment. Everyone is tired, sick of airport food, sick of lugging their bags back and forth and desperate for a shower. If you look a little the worse for wear-- if you look a lot the worse for wear – no one cares, because they completely understand. In fact, they’re not even paying attention, because they’re either racing across the airport to catch a plane that is about to taxi or so far gone from airport languor that they wouldn’t notice if you ran them over with your suitcase. Plus, you’re never going to see these people again, so if you make a complete fool of yourself – who cares? This realization is quite freeing when you’re lugging an overstuffed duffel bag around and would rather just drag it by the strap (I’m not speaking from personal experience, obviously).
I have visited a handful of airports, and they all have a very distinct flavor to them. Some airports are homey, others industrial-looking, others run-down. Some are small and compact, some are large and sprawling, and some are just plain confusing. Some are pared down to the essentials, some have every shop imaginable. A few that I’ve been to even include a nod to history with a display or a statue. A short layover in a new airport is stressful; a long layover in a new airport, however, is a chance to explore and to soak up this new flavor.
At the end of the day, flying is what it is. I’m thankful for it, because it is faster and more convenient (in some ways). The flying itself no longer holds the excitement for me that it did when I first flew, but I will never cease to enjoy visiting yet another new airport and checking it off my mental list. It isn’t the same as traveling to another country or even to another state, but it has an appeal all its own.