Open Ticket An Ode To Airports Stephanie Spitler

I was inside a cloud today. No, not that computer thingy, but a real, honest-to-goodness, mass of frozen liquid crystals in the sky. And I didn’t have to do anything more exceptional than board a plane.

I know some people will think I’m crazy for professing my love of the airport. I know it’s not all complimentary soft drinks and pretzels. And there are some things I don’t love. I do not love the baggage carousels (mostly because they mean waiting around, and the possibility of having to continue my trip minus my flat iron and carefully-chosen clothes). That is why I love my carry-on.

I also do not love taking off my shoes and following in the sketchy footprints of millions of other people (I have a thing about germs).  But these are small annoyances when you consider what being at the airport means. It signals a shift in your routine, the promise of adventure, the unknown.

I love that airports are essentially giant hubs of possibility. I may not be heading anywhere exotic, or even necessarily exciting, but as I walk (or run) past those other gates and read destinations like “Paris” and “Shanghai” and “Sydney,” it’s comforting to know that planes are going there, and people are going there, even if I’m not going there (yet).

I even love the flip side of that sense of possibility: the reality of leaving behind places and people I love. Because the best kind of sadness invites reflection, and those terminals and waiting areas offer a unique place for it. The scenery is constantly changing. It’s just as easy to park yourself in a chair by a floor-to-ceiling glass window and contemplate the meaning of life as it is to grab a seat at a restaurant and people-watch like it’s your job. Sometimes I need that window to think about where I’ve been, and sometimes the people-watching gets me excited about where I’m going.

I love that I’ve cried both kinds of tears (hello and goodbye) outside of airport security.

I love the distractions found in newsstands stocked with bestsellers. I love the random assortment of food on offer (gelato! hamburgers! bagels!) and the “local” store selling whatever-city-you’re-in branded goods.

I love the vast stretches of hallways and expansive straightaways; I love the energy and bustle of people-movers and the insistent beep-beep of cart drivers.

But as much as I love the airport, the best part is leaving it.

I love the whisper of outside air against my cheeks as I step from the jetway through the open cabin door and into the giant machine that is about to hurtle through the sky.

I love the anticipation as the engine noise grows louder and I’m racing down the runway with nothing to hold onto but the armrests and my faith that this miracle called “flight” will happen one more time.

Then…there it is…the moment those wheels leave the ground. My stomach drops. I close my eyes. Whether the journey is beginning or ending, I’m finally on my way. And how can you not love that?

Photo via Shutterstock

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  1. I love flying! Both my parents worked for the airlines, and I almost went into it myself, before I got into business writing. I seriously miss those flight benefits!

  2. I’ve loved airplanes and airports since I was a kid for the same reasons. I recommend reading Alain de Botton’s “A Week at the Airport: A Heathrow Diary” and “The Art of Travel”! Actually, any of his books are great, but these two coincide with the theme of your post.

  3. I love airports too! For years I could fly standby thanks to my mom and even though I flew every other week to visit my BF, it was always a great escape! I love the feeling of rushing through the terminal, grabbing a coffee, finally getting to read a book and being whisked away!

  4. Agree with every word of this article! I see it as the gateway to so many possibilites, and whenever I embark on a trip, I wonder, the next time I am in this building, what will have changed in my life, or in my hometown? And it’s a place where you get to see so many different kinds of people, both pleasant and unpleasant kinds. I love it when the plane takes off and leaves the ground, and you can feel your bottom sinking into the seat as the air pressure in the cabin changes.

  5. I love this article and feel the same. Airports can be a hassle, but I always get a little sinking feeling in my stomach being in one, because it means something big is happening!

  6. I enjoy reading all of your travel articles!! I love traveling, I wish I could travel every month and explore different places and of course eat different types of foods!

  7. AGREE!