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  >  Blog   >  Who Needs Therapy When There are Airports?

Published: April 29, 2016

Author: Marie Elena

Everyone has a happy place somewhere. Whether you picture yourself sunbathing on the beach under a palm tree, lounging in bed watching Netflix with a glass of wine in your 9 year-old pajamas/barely recognizable cloth formation, or holding a contortion happy baby downward cat cow dog yoga pose, everyone has “that place.” I, for one, have mine in the airport.

Mostly anyone you ask would immediately correlate airports with chaos, which bring a typically “mild-mannered” soul to experience frantic behavior, copious amounts of stress, and unusual exercise patterns causing one to resent not bringing along the Fit Bit and back pain medicine. As in many other aspects in life, I happen to disagree with this common perception. Airports, to me, are representative of familiarity yet estrangement, excitement yet serenity, and journeys within themselves. One doesn’t just “go” to the airport. Everyone has a reason for being there. In that moment, we might cross paths or engage in brief conversations with complete strangers whom we will never see again. But that is the beauty of it! I travel FOR those in-the-moment moments. I travel to meet people I will never see again and drink coffee from that coffee shop that  I will probably forget about ten minutes later. Everything we do in an airport is for that moment and for once, is unplanned and not premeditated. We are once again, living life in the present and not by the scheduled itinerary as we so often do.

This was in the Fort Lauderdale Airport last year when most flights back to Ohio were cancelled due to storms. We had to up and buy new tickets going elsewhere at the ticket counter and had an unexpected layover for a few hours. A perfect opportunity for local beer and food! I will never remember where this restaurant was.
This was in the Fort Lauderdale Airport last year when most flights back to Ohio were cancelled due to storms. We had to up and buy new tickets going elsewhere at the ticket counter and had an unexpected layover for a few hours. A perfect opportunity for local food and beer! I will never remember where this restaurant was.

​​ Early mornings are one of my favorite times of day in airports. There is something peaceful about getting a large coffee and a muffin, plopping down on the floor against some bare wall (because I’m finally somewhere where this is acceptable) and just pulling out a good book or my journal. I sit there watching planes slowly back out of their designated terminals. I watch maybe one or two planes from the very beginning until they completely disappear from view. In the background, all I see is an orange and pink sky as the sun begins to rise. I become aware that I don’t know a soul around me. I’m traveling alone and there is not one person I know within thousands of miles. All I have is my coffee, the beginning of a caffeine buzz, a crumb-filled lap, a blank page of a journal, and a a pen full of ink. This is the life! ​​

My childhood giraffe Butter Scotch patiently awaiting an evening flight to Boston

Almost as much as I love mornings in airports, I love evenings. I’ve always loved watching the sun set. There is something about an airport runway horizon that is different. I suppose that has something to due with the lack of tall buildings in the vicinity! I love nothing more than awaiting my flight in anticipation of my next destination. Maybe I have a lay over and I’ve found a local pub with an important sports game on, Maybe I’m eating dinner at some local chain I’ve never heard of. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to work in an airport. How many interesting people would you meet during your everyday job? What kinds of stories would you hear? You know everybody would have one. They didn’t just come out to an airport Chili’s on their lunch break from the office. I think the reason I find it so fascinating is because nobody anywhere near me is “permanent.” Everyone is “temporary.” Everyone is going SOMEWHERE and we all share this temporary time together.

Landing in Reykjavik, Iceland. Believe it or not, this is at 1am. The sun doesn’t set here at certain times during the year. En route to Germany, we didn’t see nighttime for two whole days!
Middle-of-the-night dinner in the Reykjavik airport. Not much was open at midnight!
Typical meal in Iceland and many places around Europe

You know what my next favorite thing is? People watching! Seriously, check out peoples’ faces next time you fly somewhere. Sometimes I just want to offer them a chill pill and a little reggae music! Were we trained that we must require a Xanax every time arrive within 5 feet of an airport? Chances are, despite your mad sprint to your gate with that 100 lb mass you call your bag, you’ll arrive before they’ve even called priority seating. Ah! A personal record sprint time rewarded by a personal record stand time…in line!

 I was 20 here. I was about to board my first Ryanair flight to Dublin with a friend of mine. I was trying to study the map ahead of time! Amateur! Little did I know I would soon fall asleep on the plane and a drunk man would be placing skittles in my open mouth. Long story for another time!

Moving away from airports themselves, my next happy place is on the plane itself. It’s time to get past the “my legs are cramped and the food is terrible” complaints I so often hear. Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that you are on a giant machine that is going to literally transport you from where you are to a completely new place within a few hours? It’s sort of like hating to spend time in a car because you just don’t have access to your refrigerator! Gosh darn it! What if you get hungry?! Aside from being wedged between two 500lb men 30,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean for a 10 hour flight, it really isn’t THAT bad. By the way, that did actually happen to me….twice. The perk? You get to find out how strong your bladder is!
As you soar above the clouds, it begins to put things into perspective for us (literally). All unresolved problems, fears and worries are down below. They are below the clouds on the ground and right now, they are nothing larger than microscopic ants. You’ve left the gray clouds and cold drizzle below and now see nothing but blue skies, white fluff and the sun’s rays. There is nothing more relaxing than listening to your favorite song while watching this. Absolutely nothing! As you relax, you then begin to hold conversations with those sitting around you. This, of course, is assuming your neighbor is not glued to a book, in which case, you rotate your eyes to capture single sentences to determine what they might be reading about ( You? Nosy? Nonsense!).
You make friends for the duration of your flight and only for that time. If you’re compatible you might wish them a good luck in their journey as you depart from one another. I believe that every person we meet, even if just within that second, we were meant to meet. It’s part of life! It’s a part of life that is new and unplanned and soon forgotten, but it is a collection of those forgotten moments that end up shaping who we are!

This was actually a time Dan was learning to fly a plane. In this case, there was only one other passenger besides me; the copilot!

When you arrive in the next airport, you’re faced with a new layout but the same familiar signs, chain food restaurants, beverage stands, and shops. You are once again, faced with familiarity yet unfamiliarity, but somehow, you always find where you are going. Ok, maybe not ALWAYS if you’re me!

All in all, simply existing at an airport is my therapy. It is a chance to take a step back from the daily scheduled routine in life and simply exist. You feel a sense of autonomy, adventure, nirvana, and just BEING. Off you go back out into the world…except you’ve somehow accidentally wandered in a circle back to your gate…a few steps in the wrong direction. But who’s counting those?


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