The Traveling Experience

I recently went on air travel that brought out some thoughts on why it is that I both love to fly and loathe it at times as well.

Heading out to the airport is exciting isn’t? Unless one has a fear of flying, I’m guessing it’s an enjoyable feeling inside as the arrival at the airport happens. Unfortunately, there is so much that has changed at the airport these days because of security that has caused some of that enjoyment to be curbed for many.

First there are the lines that one must endure to wait to check a bag, change a seat, or speak to an agent for any other reason. Sometimes those lines are short and the the wait to see the agent is quick. But in other cases, waiting an hour or more could happen. For someone like me who has trouble standing for long periods because of my current ailments, I generally try to arrive at off times to avoid that, even if it means waiting several hours or more for a flight.

The next hurdle is the baggage weigh in. Please stay under 50 pounds. Please!!! That is what my thoughts generally are saying when I place my heavy suitcase on the scale. If one is lucky enough to fly JetBlue or a few other airlines that allow for the first bag free, staying under 50 pounds will not incur any extra costs. The downfall is when the suitcase is 51 or 52 pounds and the agent asks if you can remove something within it to bring it down to the maximum limit. If I’m lucky enough to have a carry on bag, sometimes that’s possible. Most of the time it’s not and a cost of $20 to $40 happens. Add in the cost for the “non free bag” airlines, and suddenly, one might pay $50 to $60 before they even leave on their trip.

The biggest hurdle for many is going through security. With heightened measures today, it just seems that every one is looked at like they are a potential terrorist and often I feel that those same measures have become invasive. I understand they are for our own security reasons but sometimes I see that it can go overboard and cause more fear. When I was a kid, I remember thinking it was exciting to go through the security. That was before one had to take off their shoes, their belts, their sweatshirts, everything in their pockets, be x-rayed, wanded, and scrutinized by several agents. In my last security screening, I was scanned twice because of my belt which then held up a vast number of people patiently waiting to go through the same process.

The last hurdle is the boarding process. Some airlines have people hoarded in like cattle and it’s a first come first serve basis to get a seat. And in the boarding process for most airlines there is a priority of who gets to get on the plane first. Some are even charging extra if one wants to board early. It seems like unless one is disabled, the more money one has to spend, the more they will get the privileges that used to come for everyone many years ago in the flying experience. What’s even more difficult, is that by the time some board, there is no storage left in the over head compartment because people bring as much as they can on the plane to avoid paying the fees for the baggage at the gate. Lately with the disabilities that I am going through with my sciatica and numbness, I pre board because I am unable to stand for long period of time.

And finally there’s takeoff, after everyone is boarded and seated, after watching the airline attendants show the safety procedures, and after any potential delays on the runaway. In worst case scenarios, there is also the potential of delays in the air to land, delays to get to the gate upon landing, and delays to pick up any checked bags at the carousel. Then, and only then, one can take a breath of fresh air and relax that they are at their destination (that is unless they are waiting for in a cab line, or have to get a car rental, or a friend is running late to pick them up, or they have to shuttle out to find their car in a sea of other cars parked in long term parking.)

In my new place in life, I try to look at the positive experiences with everything and focus on them instead. Upon arrival at the gate, I generally like to talk to the agent and smile and make them feel like they are important. Because they are as they do a lot of hard work and have to deal with unruly people quite often I’m sure. At the security, I usually get to talk to someone interesting while I’m waiting to go through the screening. This past trip I met a young woman on holiday travel from a journalism study program at her university in Vienna, Austria. Once the screening is done, I enjoy the wait for my flight because I get to watch people and see how their lives are playing out. I look forward to eating something and just relaxing while I watch the planes arrive and take off outside. And on the plane, I almost always get to know who is sitting next to me and in some cases, I’ve even make a long term connection and exchange contact information like I did a few trips ago with a former pastor and his wife who have been praying for me and my healing ever since.

I believe everything in life can be viewed from positive or negative perspectives. As much I can list out what I struggle with on the flying experience, I have to say that the good outweighs the bad, and I’m grateful to God that I’m even able to go on a trip and fly in the first place.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson