on flying.

i have taken 20 flights in the last 7 weeks, so flying has been on my brain a lot recently. below are some of the things i’ve been thinking.

how many of you out there remember when flying was the most exciting thing in the world? when you could wander all around the airport and in and out of every terminal. when you could meet a loved one at the gate, enveloping them in a hug as soon as they walked off the plane. when seeing someone off on a long journey was all part of the adventure, waiting with them at their gate until the very last possible moment.

en route to maggie! memphis, tennessee. november 2018.

there was such a wonder in flying when i was younger. part of it was being a kid and marveling at the size of the airports and the planes and trying to figure out how it all worked. landing in bombay and getting swept up in the crush of people all jostling for space. waiting impatiently in the little rock airport for ramesh and thara to arrive from houston, using all of our quarters to play the car racing video game by the gate. waiting anxiously to see what snack the airline would serve, because they always served a snack regardless of how long the flight was.

but part of it was also that there was less hassle. sure, you had to scan your bags at security, but that was the extent of it. no removing electronics and liquids and shoes. no “random checks” that often don’t feel all that random. no checked baggage fees, leading to passengers carrying three bags on board with them and taking forever in the security line. no overworked and underpaid tsa employees feeling undervalued and ignored.

i don’t fly a lot compared to some of my friends who travel for work, but i average about five or so air trips per year and i dread every single one of them. not because i dislike flying, because i don’t. i rather enjoy kicking back and letting someone else be in charge of how i get to my destination. i’m fascinated by the fact that i can get on a plane and be in atlanta in an hour, in chicago in an hour and a half, in new york in just under three. i hope i never get to a point where that feels mundane to me, because it is an incredible feat of engineering and science that i will never understand.

these two are the best. memphis, tennessee. august 2017.

i also love the people-watching: airports are an incredible place to see people from all walks of life and to wonder about their lives. is that person on their own embarking on an extended solo journey around the world? is that family with young children visiting relatives in a faraway land? did that basketball team win their tournament? has that group of friends known each other for years, or did they just meet a week ago and choose to experience their next adventure together?

no, i dread the lines. the impatient people who want everything to be done their way and who feel entitled to be the first served. the people who don’t pay attention to the lines at security and wait until the last possible moment to find their id, to take out their liquids, to remove their shoes. the long faces of everyone waiting around for a flight. the lack of information when a flight gets delayed or even cancelled, and the lack of customer service and transparency when an airline has to be on the hook for something. the fight to get space in an overhead bin, because no one wanted to check in a bag. the people who push to get off once the plane has landed, even though the door isn’t even open yet.

i want so badly for flying to be fun again. i try my best to find some small pleasure in it when i get to experience it, but so often by the time i make it through security i am exhausted and already disappointed in humanity [and that’s even with tsa pre-check]. and the sad truth is that the memphis airport is downright depressing. it’s been bleak my entire life, but at least when we were kids there was a mcdonald’s in the terminal lobby where we would always have breakfast before our trips to india. i hope the renovations make it a little better, but i do sometimes wonder if i would look forward to trips even a little bit more if my home airport were chicago o’hare or hartsfield-jackson in atlanta or even london-heathrow.

friends who travel. memphis, tennessee. january 2020.

i don’t really know what the point of this is, but these are the things i think about late at night when i have a trip on the horizon. i’m so excited for the adventure, but i dread the journey of actually getting there.

so here’s to a mental shift when it comes to flying in 2020. knowing that i have more flights booked for march, april, and may, i’m going to have to make the most of it.


note: i am fully aware of the privilege that is dripping from every word i have typed here. i am incredibly lucky to be able to afford a flight ticket and to have that type of access to so many locales across the globe. but i also know it can be better. that’s all this is about.

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