When I used to think about air travel, the first phrase that would come to mind was “necessary evil.” Air travel is stressful and chaotic, even on good days. Baggage is cumbersome and carries an ever-present threat of being mishandled or lost. Traveling by yourself is a feat on its own, not to mention traveling with others. Security is never synonymous with “easy,” and in no part of the experience did I ever find myself feeling calm. Not many people do. I was always envious of the ones who slept on the plane or those who were blissfully lost in a book: unaware of the boarding announcements, the beverage cart, or the noisy and often unhappy children around them.
And then somehow (but regrettably, not overnight), I became one of those people I had found myself envying for years. I found myself dreamily sipping coffee in my seat at the gate, intermittently people watching and then diving back into the latest novel I was reading. At one point in the last year I even found myself on the tail end of a trip, speeding down I-93 towards Boston-Logan International Airport, and actually looking forward to spending the last few and precious moments of my vacation in the airport. Moments spent locating new and promising fiction, a hot cup of coffee, and a cozy seat, before heading back to the daily routine. I had found a way to enjoy my entire vacation from start to finish and it included my time spent traveling. How did I accomplish this feat?
This is how I feel once I have my coffee and my book.
It started with a simple routine, begun while I was traveling in college to be with my family over school breaks. I was always traveling alone, so I would call the house and check in. Every time I called, my father would tell me the same thing, without fail: “Go get yourself a cup of coffee and a good book and go settle into a comfy spot at the gate. And call me when you land.”
In the beginning, I would nod at his sage advice, ignore most of it, and call when I landed. Usually I would grab a cup of coffee and try to get comfortable at my gate. I would find myself people-watching or chatting with a friendly stranger or their kids. Then, sometimes, I would go browse the bookstore in the terminal, contemplating my internal and ever-shifting list of “need to read” and “want to read” books. Occasionally, I would pick up a new one. Then it became a ritual—a new book every time I took a new trip. And that little airport purchase became a treat that I looked forward to because I could immerse myself in that novel when I had absolutely nowhere else to be during that 4-hour flight.
There is a sense of being centered, grounded, even at 30,000 feet, because you are stuck in that assigned seat and you have a destination that is hours away, so you have two choices. You can be anxious, stressed, angry about the chaos at the airport, and constantly letting your internal 8-year old self think “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” Or, you can find the parts about air travel that you enjoy. You can create a small ritual that allows you to enjoy your experience. The last time I travelled, I was calm, I was enjoying myself, and my vacation had started before I had even left DIA.
Rachel Mincarelli is a first-time resident of Denver. She enjoys writing because it connects her to communities and their stories while simultaneously allowing her to express her own interests.