I fell in love with airports when I was 15 years old.
It was spring break of my freshman year of high school and my grandma was taking me on a trip to Washington D.C. The trip came after a particularly hard year mourning the death of my grandfather, in which I’d reached out and spent time with my grandma in the months that followed. She’d taken both of my sisters on cross country trips when they were younger, so as a sort of “my turn” and a “thank you” she asked me where I wanted to go.
I loved history and the idea of big cities so I eagerly requested Washington D.C. and my grandma made it happen. The entire trip was a wonderful experience I’ll never forget, but what my heart fell in love with most was the airports; the experience proceeding and succeeding actual travel.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore travel. That trip absolutely helped make it so, along with a wandering heart, and a childhood spent mostly in one place. But there was something about watching all these people head to the ticketing counters, all with completely different destinations in mind, all with completely different stories of why they were going and how they got there that left me mesmerized.
Fast forward 7 years, and I have experienced more emotions in the middle of airports than almost anywhere else on earth. I have cried until I could barely breathe and smiled until my face hurt. All entering and leaving airports. It was in the open-to-the-outside Kahului Airport in Maui where I took a deep breath with my best friend and smelled the ocean and flowers standing next to baggage claim – just like my grandparents years before had promised me I would. It was in the Miami International Airport where I left a piece of my heart after meeting what would become my future husband. It was the Minneapolis Airport where I watched the love of my life descend the escalator when I still barely knew him. It was in the Mobile Airport in Alabama where I left him the third time and could not stop crying my entire flight to Dallas. At the Minneapolis airport I welcomed him what felt like a final time the weekend of our wedding with a sign asking if he was ready to get hitched, and a glow that probably told the whole room of people I was a soon-to-be-bride. In an airport this past June I said goodbye to my sister, my brother-in-law, my niece, and what felt like a piece of myself before I moved to Alaska permanently.
Airports and I have an interesting relationship, and yet I couldn’t love them more. Any excuse to travel, whether it’s to see a new place or old friends, I countdown the hours until I leave for the airport and never the hours until I arrive at my destination. Isn’t it the journey and not the destination, anyway? I know most people consider airports a nuisance, a hassle, an invasion of privacy (is it reeeeally such a big deal if the TSA makes us stands in the full body detectors), and a congregation of everyone’s germs…but I get too excited about the act of traveling and the reasons why.
Everyone at that airport has a different destination and a different reason why they’re going and what an amazing job it would be if I could just sit down and ask everyone to tell me about it. Tell me why you’re here and where you’re going and what excites you. Have you ever fallen in love or had your heart broken in an airport? Have you ever embraced someone so tightly you promised yourself you’d never let them go? Have you ever been so exciting about your destination that you found yourself smiling at strangers, and still managing to be polite to the airport staff when your flight is delayed? Have you shared a smile with a tired mom or made a silly face for a baby in the off chance it might make either of them laugh instead of cry? Have you looked at your neighbor and wondered where they were going, and wished you just had the courage to strike up a conversation and ask instead of continuing to bury yourself in a book or your cellphone – and not because you’re interested in a romantic or even a platonic way, but just because?
And I get to do it all over again in just a few short days.
“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends…”
– Love Actually