The best laid plans

In Just Add Passport on May 16, 2010 at 4:54 pm

I read in a magazine recently that people are happier and more relaxed anticipating a vacation than actually taking one. The one exception is for tropical island vacations–in that case, increased happiness is supposed to last for up to eight weeks following the trip.

I suppose this is because so many people (particularly Americans, on whom I assume this study was focused) feel a need to get the most out of every trip, not to waste one second with a lazy few extra minutes in bed. Inevitably, at the end of the trip, there will be the moments of regret: how could I have missed this? Why didn’t I make time for that? I know this well. So often the need to maximize every moment of a vacation, fearing that another one may never come, overtakes the relaxation and sheer bliss that should come from being away, being somewhere new. Not that there aren’t those blissful moments too–it’s not as if my trips (and those of my soulmates in industriousness) are all gloom and doom. It’s merely that the need to savor every moment can quickly take on a life of its own and become an unwieldy tour guide, waving the yellow umbrella, shouting to keep moving, keep moving, there’ s more to see.

I’ve got two-and-a-half weeks in Fiji coming up and I’m doing my best to keep my inner tour guide at bay. I’ve done my research, I’ve mapped our island hopping plan and now I just want to be and imagine the moment when I wake up to the sound of the ocean and go back to sleep, because it’s vacation and because I can.


I love airports

In Just Add Passport on May 8, 2010 at 4:15 pm

“Up in the Air” aside, no one seems to romanticize flying—airports in particular—anymore. Not that I’m shocked—it’s not like strategically shoving mini shampoo bottles, lotion and toothpaste into an unfairly small plastic bag, paying way to much for someone to potentially lose or damage your luggage and stripping down before the angry gaze of a security guard all before paying too much for a sandwich and then finding out the flight is delayed, is a pleasurable experience.Really only a sadist would say that going to an airport these days is fun. Or the CEO of Spirit Air, now that he’s joined FedEx in charging for “shipping”. Or me. Yes, it’s true. I still have a lingering fondness for the atrocity that is an airport.

It’s not really the atmosphere that gets me. After a certain airline named after a warm and dry region of our country lost my bag and never found it despite the fact that “99.9% of bags are eventually found” according to unpleasant customer resources man, I became paranoid about checking bags. Digging through bank statements and memories of past shopping trips trying to piece together when I bought this pair of black pants, size 4, made of cotton and something I probably can’t pronounce and which brand they were and at which store they were purchased, is not something I want to repeat. So whenever possible, I carry on. This requires the aforementioned shoving of liquids into an unforgiving plastic bag. And the squishing of clothes, the sitting on suitcases and the mad dash past the ticket taker at the plane gate so they don’t question whether my personal item will indeed fit under the seat (for the record, yes it does). Nor do I appreciate the stripping at the security station, the removal of shoes (especially as I often forget socks) or the fluorescent bathroom lighting that always makes you look haggard, washed-out, malnourished and pretty much every other unpleasant adjective to describe one’s looks.

So why do I love airports? It’s simple. Airports mean freedom. Airports mean possibilities. Airports mean that pretty soon, you get to leave where you are and try somewhere else for a bit. They mean that even though it’s entirely unnecessary to buy 5 magazines for a 2-hour flight (especially since you could have brought your own book or if you’re technically inclined/paper adverse, a Kindle), it’s ok. Sundry purchases at the airport don’t count. Time spent at the airport goes into a special zone of “not real life”. So you can have a cocktail at 11 am because your flight is delayed or you got there early in a fit of missing-the-plane paranoia, and because hey, the bar’s right there. What else are you going to do? If you’re at an international airport, you can wander into duty free and wander out with a “duty free special!” makeup kit that is also entirely unnecessary but likely helpful in combating fluorescent life death syndrome. There is a plethora of useless and overpriced items that you can load up on to accompany you on your adventure. Which brings to my next point—adventure. Airports connect you to an insane amount of random and interesting places that you likely haven’t been yet.  Airports mean that even though you’re going to Omaha, there’s the slight possibility that you could run to the gate boarding for Iceland and get a last-minute ticket. I’m not actually sure if this works but it seems plausible and sounds exciting so I’m sticking with it. And even if you don’t get on that flight, you’re left with a whole list of places that you can visit next. Another thing that’s great is the people watching. Except for the extremely rich with their private jets and the old-school types who prefer traveling by train or ship, most travelers end up at the airport at one time or another. You see ugly people, pretty people, freakish people, people you hope you get to sit next to and people you bargain with your deity of choice not to sit next to.  The gate area is the best place for eavesdropping too. No one seems to care that they’re packed in and within earshot of possibly 50+ strangers at any given time; they’ll go on about their boyfriends, their girlfriends, that stupid bitch who calls herself their friend…it’s great. It’s like a daytime talk show sans the “I can’t believe I’m watching this crap” guilt. I guess you could also get that at a bus station but when was the last time a Greyhound attendant delivered cute little bottles of wine to your seat? Think about that the next time you moan about getting on a plane.