Why, For A Traveler, An Airport Becomes A Kind Of Home Away From Home

by Christy Piña

The thought that — with the purchase of one ticket — you can go anywhere in the world is baffling. Can you imagine walking into the airport one day with only your carry-on and passport in hand, randomly choosing somewhere to go, and just going? Something that amazing is only possible in an airport.

I’ve been traveling —statewide, nationwide and worldwide — my entire life. It’s something my family has always done. My dad comes up with these random ass places to travel to, and well, that's what we do. It’s what we spend the majority of our money on.

When you’re in and out of airports as much as I have been, they become somewhat of a happy place. The white surrounding walls with tacky, yet comforting designs, the sound of planes taking off and landing from the same strip of concrete and the multitude of things to do in all in one place are all staples of my childhood.

When you’re an avid traveler, your early morning drives to the nearest airport are second-nature. The night before you set off is always a sleepless one because you’re too busy last-minute packing or bidding people adieu. The hour-long wait in security on really busy travel days are simultaneously annoying and (somewhat) inviting.

While most people go home from school or take time off from work to spend the holidays with their families, I spent winter break in Japan with my family. My trip to Japan started with an 18-hour flight day, which included five hours to LAX, and then 13 hours from LAX to ITM (Osaka International Airport).

In those 18 hours, I slept maybe a total of seven. In between flights, my family and I went into the airport lounge and ate everything in sight. We had to get all the food we could because we didn’t know when the flight attendants were going to be serving food, and a 13-hour flight is daunting.

Throughout that nearly day-long endeavor from the US to Japan, and all the hours spent in the airport leading up to our flight, I never felt one pang of homesickness. I was home.

Spend enough time in an airport, and you'll begin to memorize its details. After some time, you'll have your favorite restaurant, shop and bar picked out just to ensure your next stop at the airport is equally as thrilling. Air travel is daunting for some, but to me, it's as comforting as crawling into my bed after a grueling day of classes.

Airport familiarity comes with the territory. You travel, travel and travel, and at first, it seems like a nuisance. But, the memories you create at these destinations make all the travel worthwhile. That's what I love about airports: the promise of adventure.

I’m 20 years old, and I’ve been to 20 countries. I've been to 20 countries in my 20 years of life. I've had 20 years worth of adventures with my family that I won't soon forget, and they all started with an airport.

It’s a shame that science hasn’t figured out a way for us to live until we’re 196 years old because if that were the case, I could visit the other 176 countries I have left to visit. I'd visit one each year until the day I die.

That’s my crazy, far-fetched goal in life. I want to visit every country in the world, even the ones that don’t seem appealing at first glance. Each country in the world has something for someone, and I’m determined to find out what that something is.

One day, I’m going to walk into the airport with just my carry-on and passport in hand, pick a destination and go. And while I wait for my flight to board, I’m going to wander around the airport that has now become my second home.

I'll shop, eat, read and maybe even get a massage, and then I'll go on my adventure. And you should, too.