When I took my first solo flight at the age of eighteen, I discovered that I loved airports. Now, before that fateful trip to San Francisco, I had made several tense journeys in the company of various family members, none of which could possibly be considered peaceful. There was a period of time when no one had ever told me that it was possible to actually enjoy the process of arriving, traversing, and leaving the airport.
The person who introduced to me the idea that airports can be wonderful, magical places was a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh. When he casually remarked that his practice of arriving two hours early to the airport allowed him time to practice walking meditation, I felt something click. The image of a gaggle of brown-robed hairless monks walking through JFK just positively thrilled me and I was forever changed.
The widely held belief that flying must be an uncomfortable, stressful hassle perpetuates itself in the collective unconscious; because so many people expect the experience to be tiring, the self fulfilling prophesy makes its way into a hectic reality most of us are familiar with. When my teacher proved to me that it needn’t be so, I felt a protective bubble begin to vibrate around me and I vowed to manifest my own, positive experience the next time I was in an airport.
On my way home to Philly, I had already been charmed by one stress-free cross-country journey and I was so giddy at arriving early and without hurry once again that I actually volunteered to give up my seat on the overbooked flight. One layover became two and I was rewarded with four extra hours of people watching, a detour through Detroit, a nap in a generic airport hotel room, an interesting conversation with a shuttle driver, and a $300 flight voucher which got me to Frisco’s vibrant streets again the following Spring Break… when I did the same thing again and secured a third visit to my favorite American city. Expecting the best from my airport experiences literally could not have turned out better. I didn’t know it then but this was my first experience with the power of positive manifestation. Later I would use the same creative power to manifest travel grants, the perfect apartment, and a dream job here in Madrid but would still doubt my own ability to personally create such experiences.
The interesting thing about airports is their nodal nature. If you want to travel to a certain region, more often than not you and every other visitor, regardless of origin, will end up at the singular airport in the area. They aren’t like cafes, you can’t just choose whichever appeals to your tastes for there is often only one per country, and so they act as giant hubs for every kind of person you can and can’t imagine. This melting pot/watering hole typology is the kind of environment that is full of infinite possibilities. The collection of people that one can find in an airport is unlike any other, which is a lot more fun to focus on than the scary reality of hurtling through the sky in a tin can.
The interesting thing about people watching is that even if you don’t think you like it, you probably do. I’m not one of those creative visionaries who can come up with a story for every random Jack and Jill, but I do love patterns and observing nature at work. Few things are more natural than a person unaware that they are being observed. Few places bring surly grandparents and grimy backpackers in such close proximity as an airport does.
So that’s why I love airports, they can be some of the most peaceful places on earth if you let them. The sensation of surrendering to the flow of security checks and boarding groups is totally unique and I would even venture to call it relaxing. Best of all, the only thing necessary to enjoy that feeling of flow is a little preparation.
Here is how to win the airport:
– Smile at everyone worker you see. Chances are someone has screamed or will scream at them today for any number of reasons, deserved or not. Your glow will make their day, and happiness has never decreased by being shared.
– Put all your liquids in a bag and pack away all your belts/jewelry/metallic hair do-dads. Security is easy and painless if you are prepared ahead of time.
– Bring a water bottle but make sure it’s empty. Don’t pull a Veronica and fill it up like usual before you leave the house; do that just before you get on the plane and save some money on inflight service or risk a forty ounce water chug.
– Bring a meal. Seriously, a meal, unless you like spending $12 for a slice of bad pizza. Get to your gate an hour early, kick back with your feet up and start your vacation before you get on the plane. Snacks are also never a bad idea. Ever.
– Pack light, checking bags is the absolute most dangerous thing in the world for your peace of mind and should be avoided at all costs. This will also make last-minute terminal changes way less traumatizing and turn cross-airport sprints into revitalizing jaunts.
– Don’t bother waiting in line at the gate. If you already have a seat number, it’s not going anywhere. Chill. If you get separated from your travel buddy, chill – you’ll be sick of him after a day of tourism anyway, savor the solitude.
– Bring headphones. Especially if you’re flying low-cost; otherwise, you’re in for two hours of nonstop advertisements, a screaming baby and seats that don’t recline.
Now, I am sitting on the tarmac of Madrid’s Barajas Airport inside a Ryanair plane filled with bright yellow and blue non reclining seats bound for the Canary Islands. The drizzly winter outside will soon be replaced by sunny skies and warm beaches for a much-needed weekend of rest and relaxation. And how did my airport skills treat me this time, you ask? Well I arrived with more than enough time to casually eat my homemade macaroni and cheese, write this long post, and find out that I had been accidentally promoted to priority boarding, so pretty well I’d say.
I’ll not be keeping myself to the daily posting schedule since I have been averaging two posts a day since I started my 365 Day Creativity Challenge but that’s not to say I won’t find a nice landscape or two to share with you, friends. Much love, dear ones, may you enjoy safe travels and sunny skies.