I believe I am going through travel withdrawal, and experiencing hardcore symptoms of detoxing from the routine travel experience. Between January 1, 2015 and August 21 2018, when I touched down at Paris Charles de Gualle — Roissy Airport, I traveled almost every single month, and very often multiple times per month. For 2016 I have the exact figures because I traveled exclusively with Delta or one the other Skyteam partners, so all my travel was booked via Delta. My 2016 travel stats were as follows:
- 36 different flights
- 26,338 miles flown
- I traveled to five states within the USA, and one other country, which was France
- I spent 57 hours in the air
- I had window seats 18 times
2015, 2017 and 2018 were similar, however I flew on multiple carriers during those years (Delta, Air France, United, Southwest, Virgin to name a few), and so I don’t have exact figures.
By far the airports I frequented most were TPA, ATL, LGA and JFK, and in fact I had my “regular spots” at LGA and TPA.
Since arriving in France in August however, I have not flown once, and there is no clear idea as to when I will fly again.
Initially this felt like a relief, however lately I have been feeling nostalgic for the airport, the experience of boarding, the thrill of getting a premium upgrade, the delight of a free drink and the intimate conversations with fellow travelers. When I really think about it objectively, I remember being kind of stressed all the time about having to prepare for travel, getting to a hotel, feeling crappy and grimy from the plane and then having to go to work in a strange environment, and yet, I find myself longing for the experience of an airport terminal.
Part of me misses the signs directing me to security, the extra long corridors lined with overpriced bars, restaurants and travel shops, and of course, the NYC taxi cab like waiting area chairs where I spent many many hours waiting for my late night flight that was delayed several hours because of a Thunderstorm 600 miles away.
So my question to myself is…
WHY? Why do I miss that? I used to pay $10 for a nasty Goose Island IPA out of a dirty tap at Champs in EWR, get a half baked version of Eggplant Rioja at TPA, and at LGA I would order a sub par $45 dinner via a dirty iPad, and have it delivered to me on a plastic plate.
Let’s not even get started on the quality of drinks and snacks on the plane.
When I traveled, I had “premier access,” skipped the long security lines and got to keep my shoes on. I boarded first, sat toward the front of the plane, had extra legroom, and skipped customs lines upon reentry to the USA. Despite all those perks, I still found traveling to be quite exhausting. The hotel rooms never felt like home, and the fitness centers were always an awkward kind of over-sized closet, with small TV’s showing highlights from sporting events that I didn’t care about.
So what about this do I miss? Did you guess? Escape.
The one true guilty pleasure from traveling was that I got to be anonymous, blend into the scenery, and forget about everything at home. I had no choice but to relinquish control to the authorities at the airport, and subsequently the pilots of the planes. Traveling is literally going along for the ride. We do what we are told (even if some of us complain about it), we have no control over the flights themselves. We enjoy our ration of food and beverage that we don’t prepare for ourselves, and the little moments of isolation can sometimes feel like liberation from all the stress of our lives.
The airlines call us guests, but really we are willing prisoners inside sprawling complexes and aluminum tubes, and I miss that. It’s bizarre to say it, but it is definitely true. The escape that I would experience by traveling I cannot experience in my normal life. When I wouldn’t respond to e-mails or messages, I could blame it on the fact that we were on the tarmac, taxiing, or under 10,000 feet. I used to love it when the WiFi wouldn’t work and all I could access was the in-flight movies and travel maps. I also loved getting a little buzzed from beer or wine and staring out the window at the world 38,000 feet below, listening to my music against the backdrop of the air rush and airplane engines, and now, I am going through withdrawal!
I have no answers or solutions, just commentary on the experience. Perhaps my take away wisdom to share with all my friends who are still corporate jet-setting or otherwise traveling frequently; be grateful! Enjoy the ride! When you finally get off, you might actually find yourself missing it! Lucky for me I am going through the withdrawal during a foreign adventure, and not stuck in suburbia watching CNN or FoxNews.