A lot of skiers hate travel days. First there’s the packing [moreover, the paying for what you’ve (over) packed]. Then there’re the lines, the expensive-stale food and the constant, creeping anxiety that the baby/chainsmoker/grandmother next to you is going to get you sick. If your seat-mates don’t, then the stress of sprinting through tight connections, shoving “carry on sized” duffles into the overhead bin and dealing with ski bags lost into the Czech/Kazakh/Houghton oblivion will cause you illness.
I get all that.
But I LOVE travel days. After years of traveling for business, I’ve gotten down the details–I’m now contained to a duffle and a ski bag, know the layouts of most travel hubs, and FINALLY made it into boarding zone 1. With those stresses aside, I can enjoy traveling in itself, rather than as a means to reaching another destination. I can embrace anonymity, revel in the silent roar of a plane and enjoy the feeling of movement.
First with the anonymity. It’s not so much the act of being anonymous (I’m used to that) but, rather, being invisible. Airports, like major cities, pulse with stimuli. Screens, TSA announcements, advertisements and boarding calls invade every corner. Thousands of people flow through terminals like salmon, conditioned to ignore any distractions–lights, words or sounds–that will detract from their journey to their destination. Oftentimes, that means that they ignore fellow travelers, which gives you an excellent opportunity to do pretty much whatever you want without notice (barring that you aren’t posing a safety threat, then you’ll be super noticed).
In airports, I’ve sprinted across moving walkways, danced through boarding lines, downward-dogged across waiting chairs and burst into tears without so much as a passing glance from a stranger. In places familiar to bustle, the individual is indistinguishable from the flow. You’re simultaneously crowded and alone, loud and quiet. You are the line between the two. That way you can stare at people and they won’t see you.
Next comes the containment one feels while actually being on a plane. I always have high expectations for myself on travel days with respect to getting outside work done. In the morning, I expect to write 500 pages, read just as many and analyze a great deal more by my third leg. In reality, I flip through a few pages of a magazine, listen to music, organize my photos (again) and maybe chat with my seat mate. In the first few minutes of my first flight I always have a moment of surrender, where I allow myself to release my work ambitions for the day and doze into takeoff.
There’s a certain freedom to that surrender. After all, if you’re trapped in a metal tube for 2-7 hours, bereft of internet* and therefore work-oriented obligations, you might as well take advantage. You get to disengage from the outside and enjoy what’s going on around you, whether it’s a movie, a new friend to your left or your own thoughts. Gloria Steinem says that travel taught her the difference between media and reality, and I agree with her. When you’re forced to evade the noise of the outside, you can explore what’s going on inside. Sometimes I feel like the only time I’m really in the moment is when I’m on a plane. But let’s not get too deep here.
*[Ok, you can pay $16 for internet, but let’s not put a price on freedom.]
Finally, there’s the excitement and value of being in motion. This is perhaps the most shallow perk of travel, because you don’t do anything (see above) but you still have an overwhelming feeling of progress. The fact that we can go from Albany, New York to Almaty, Kazakhstan in one day (with change) is a miracle, how can you not feel that you’ve done something incredible when you’ve done that? Maybe it’s the pressurized air talking, but I always feel a sense of potential when I look out a plane or car window.
Additionally, according to physics, high speed air travel keeps you young (re: relativity/twin earth. It may only be microseconds, but I’m taking everything I can get).
So, let’s get going, shall we?