I hate to fly.
Take-offs are especially nerve racking for me.
Yet, airports are my sweet spot.
I drop my responsibilities, doubts and burdens at long-term parking, give a slight nod of acknowledgment to the sliding glass doors that part to welcome me, and breathe a contented sigh as I waltz into the terminal.
Standing off to one side for a moment, I absorb the racket, watching people dash off or saunter home. Families of five lugging sturdy Samsonites and minute wheeled versions of Sponge Bob and Dora the Explorer. Serious suits rushing to make a deal, backpackers bounding off on a solo adventure, couples escaping on a romantic getaway. It’s a travelers soup full of flavor and just a hint of a mystery ingredient.
I am free.
Free to wander. Free to dream. Free to eavesdrop on languages of which I can only guess the origin. Free to imagine what others are plotting.
That man striding towards check-in a floor-length tunic splashed with purple and gold? He is heading to a world peace convention in Jakarta. The gray haired lady waiting at gate 41? Visiting grand kids in Flagstaff, with a pit-stop in Vegas. That couple canoodling at the bar? A honeymoon for marriage number two in Barbados.
I am filled with the power of possibility.
I can be a writer. A small business owner. A full-time traveler. Maybe I’ll open a charming B&B on a beach somewhere and spend my evening chatting up guests over fruity cocktails and blazing sunsets. Perhaps I’ll take that three-month overland safari from Cairo to Cape Town.
I relish my final hours on land, where I pop in for a ten-minute massage, then grab a snack that is certain to be better than whatever they are serving in the air. Oh, and the magazines I will soon crack open! Fashion, politics, gossip, economy.
But the real pleasure rests in the final hour before boarding. I curl up in a quiet corner at some unused gate, juice up my electronics, settle in with my magazines… and watch the departure board’s continuous scrawl.
MAASTRICHT. MUSGRAVE. MILWAUKEE. MADRID.
Famous cities I remember fondly. Capitals I still long to discover. Names I scrunch my forehead at as I try to will their locations on the map into memory. Will I listen to melodies in Maastrict? Take in flamenco in Madrid? Draw a draft of Pabst or Miller in Milwaukee? And where in the world is Musgrave? Why in Western Australia of course!
I think back to my last flight, when I soared above clouds so blindingly white and inflated they appeared to be solid… until a break in that bright, powdery mass revealed a new discovery below. Be it Akron or Aswan, both are equally filled with hazard and hope, opportunity and risk. A junction between the places I’ve absorbed into my consciousness and those still on the waiting list.
Soon I will be strapped into my seat and on my way to my own destination, exhilarating and exclusive all on its own. But until then, I can fantasize about the names climbing their way up the screen.
ZANZIBAR. ZURICH. ZACATECAS. ZLIN.
The possibilities are endless.
About the Author: I’m Fran, a New Yorker who recently left the Big Apple to take a bite out of a more balanced life. I left behind a 17-year career as a TV news producer to quench my thirst for travel, food and writing. I currently spend most of the year teaching and writing in Brazil and the rest discovering different cultures and lands. Find me on Facebook.