Could it be that why we look forward to traveling goes far beyond our exploration of a new or favorite city or culture? What I believe we subconsciously or secretly crave and anticipate are all the ways the less glamorous aspects of travel make us feel coddled. The nuts and bolts of our journey—the routine packing, commuting, hotel-staying—are all a series of seemingly perfunctory steps in which, in actuality, our comfort and all our needs are attended to. Like having a personal travel genie, our wishes are fulfilled on a magic carpet ride.
The irony is that we lament these logistical aspects of travel. But as I find myself traveling back to Europe, I’ve come to realize that I—and wonder if you might too—secretly take pleasure in:
Packing. Is it drudgery? Or a dreamy and intimate capsule in time? Well most definitely it’s a skill. To choose which few pieces mix and match so that various looks can be created for day and for night is not so simple when every jacket, coat, shoe, pant or dress calls for a specific silhouette and color palette. But the process of choosing is a curious exploration and can give us a dreamy sense of anticipation of our dinners out and the people we’ll see. And then there is the desperate need to keep some airy space free in our baggage… For all our new findings, which always somehow feel exotic no matter how accessible they may be back home. And that free space makes us giddy.
Airports: I hate them, I love them. I never get over the ridiculous irregularities among the security checks of different airports. Some require that we take off our sneakers and watch, take out all our liquids, and open and take out all our perfectly organized personal belongings from our perfectly stuffed carry-ons (avoid Heathrow at all costs). At other airports, none of the above is required. Makes no sense to me. But really, a part of me secretly loves to huff and puff and express my annoyance over the whole bit. And once it’s all packed up again and my shoes and belongings are all back in place, my content re-emerges and I can happily march on to the duty-free store and newsstand.
And on my merry way, how happy I am to then lose all responsibility for direction. Even for just a moment as I wander off, towards or away from my gate.
Waiting at the gate: People watching. Mindless, relaxing, therapeutic people-watching, and maybe even some story-telling about them in our curious heads. Leafing through glossy fashion and gossipy magazines, and Vanity Fair. And Sudoku. Things I only do while waiting at the gate.
Flying. Long hours. Short hours. Either way, sitting in a confined space for hours can be a relief. A fresh break. We are out of the context of our daily lives, and exceedingly limited in what we can do, so pressure to do anything vanishes completely. The relentless need to check messages and emails, to call, to talk, to move, to do…. Poof! Gone. What a glorious excuse to disconnect, unwind, and sit with ourselves—quietly—or even (unheard of!) zone out, for longer than we ever would in our day-to-day routines. Ah and the call button. This is luxury. And our endearing rituals? Rituals are important. One of Javi’s and mine, every time: a Tito’s vodka and V8 bloody mary, with a squeeze of zesty lemon. The only time we ever drink a bloody mary is up in the air. Cheers/salud and onward to….
Cabs/ubers. Riding in a cab or uber in a different city feels like being chauffeured around. Looking out the window, interested, fascinated or perplexed. And even if we’ve visited the city multiple times, it always feels exhilarating.
Living out of a suitcase. Living days, or weeks, with only a minimum of clothing, accessories, toiletries, and things is an ultimate luxury, actually. Having all the belongings we need (for a short period of time) packed into one or two suitcases is so relieving and refreshing in this age of clutter and having way more than we could ever need. Less choices to make. More time to discover and feel free, yeah baby.
Hotel lobbies. There’s also something about traveling thousands of miles—to finally sit in a hotel lobby. We might sit as we wait to check in, wait to check out, wait for a taxi. But it’s so damn nice. We prepare hours in advance—reserving, booking, packing, waiting at gates, flying, taxiing—and it all comes to a gracious halt when we find ourselves finally serenely sitting in the hotel lobby. If the same hotel were just down the block from us back home, we might not enjoy plopping ourselves in the lobby so much or think it’s so great. But after all the preparation and travel, it feels like a reward.
The luxury of room service, breakfast buffets, and—yes—plane food, as it inches slowly down the aisle. We can’t deny the eager longing and titillating 45-minute anticipation of the knock on the door when room service finally arrives… or rushing to get ready in the morning to see what hopefully delightful (despite many times disappointing) offerings we can indulge in at the breakfast buffet… and yessss as Ellen Degeneres pointed out long ago in her stand up comedy, plane food as it finally comes time to be served and finally reaches our aisle is (strangely) delightfully tormenting. On any European airlines, the catering is usually quite impressive, given that it’s…. But so illogically I’m also always excited for the food offered by an American airline, knowing all too well that it will bring a grimace to my face. In either case, there’s always happy fizzing cheap champagne and sparkling water. And let’s please not deny the pleasure of the nonservile service at our beck and call. With only a simple press of a button, water, snacks, answers to our flight questions and solutions to any of our discomforts are all immediately attended to by a magic carpet genie.