There is something about airports that fascinate me. Yesterday, I made a very important realization and want you to take a minute and think about this… You spend months researching and planning for a vacation that sneaks up on you faster than you could ever imagine. Hours and hours are spent checking and rechecking that all the logistics regarding your flights, hotels, car rentals, attractions and dining plans are confirmed before you arrive. You pack way too much for your time away and try to justify every single article of clothes in your suitcase. “Yes of course I need my winter parka to go to the Outback, what if for some freak chance there is a snowstorm, I’ll need to be prepared.” You arrive at the airport 3 hours in advance to ensure you have a window seat for your long flight, and you have time to check your bags and go through security. You then sit in anticipation in the waiting area to eventually board your flight for your desired destination. Making sure you get to where you are going is the only thing on your mind.
But, have you ever taken a step back and thought about the thousands and thousands of people you pass by in the airport who are experiencing the exact same thing. Where are they going? What adventure will they be taking on? Where do they come from? What is their story? What stories do they have to tell?
I have been guilty of this in my past. I used to have a one-track mind when it came to airports and travelling. I would only be interested in what I had to do to get me from point A to point B. Arriving at the main attraction was all that mattered. I never appreciated or took a step back to take in the journey to that destination. “It’s not the destination, but the journey that matters most.” The journey is where I believe the majority of one’s learning and growth happens. The steps you take and choices you make to get to that desire destination, and most importantly the people you meet on the way.
Just as I was handing over my boarding pass and passport to board my flight from Detroit to LAX, a gentlemen behind me broke out into song. I instinctively turned around to see what was happening and he immediately stopped and apologized. I assured him that he had nothing to be sorry for and continued by telling him I occasionally break out into dance every once and a while as well. I then presented my boarding pass and passport and made my way through to my flight thinking I’d never see him again. As I was placing my bag under the seat in front of me, a familiar voice came from behind me and I looked back to see the same gentlemen placing his bag in the upwards compartment ready to take his seat right beside me.
What were the chances?! We both had a good laugh and settled in on the flight. In addition to a nice lady beside us, we made an anonymous decision to ditch sleeping and engage in conversation. It was astonishing to see what you can really learn from someone if you just ask, and are willing to really listen. Both of my row-mates had very different stories – lifestyle wise and travel wise, but they were extremely interesting to speak with. The gentleman was an actor from LA who specialized in theatre performance and was returning to LA from a family reunion in South Carolina. The lady had just returned from a vacation in a small town (which I can’t recall the name at this moment) that restricted the use of motorized vehicles. The population was less than 500 people, and the airport had only 2 gates. They were both returning home to LA after their adventures and my adventure was just beginning. I think this realization was when I began to appreciate that airports and flying was a very unique and special activity. Additionally, their interest and excitement for my journey ahead as such a young traveller gave me that extra push and drive to keep travel and exploring as a large part of my life.
I know sometimes as a young traveller it is difficult to approach someone unfamiliar and strike up a conversation with them. However, I have found it is extremely rewarding when you learn something new about them and the world. Everyone has a different story to tell and experiences that can be shared with the rest of the world. Sometime all you have to do is ask, and you will be surprised what you can learn.
With that being said, I challenge you this for the next time you travel. Take a step back from the chaos that sometimes comes with reaching your final destination and enjoy the journey and the people you meet along the way. Strike up a conversation with a random stranger either sitting beside you in the waiting area, airport Starbucks or in the seat next to you, and you may learn a thing or two.