I have a total love/hate relationship with flying. It’s stressful and inconvenient and uncomfortable, except when it’s peaceful and beautiful and honestly one of my favorite things in the world.
Getting ready to go on a trip sucks. Airfares change without any rationale, so you pore over half a dozen websites daily trying to figure out when the price is the lowest. You scour the airlines for the magic combination of flights that gets you the cheapest airfare without any ridiculous layovers that have you zigzagging across the country for a full day for what would be a four hour trip if you could just find a bloody direct flight. You have to figure out how to actually get to the airport; when I lived in the city it was just a matter of flagging down a taxi for the 10-15 minute drive to LaGuardia or JFK, but now that I live in the boonies it involves calling multiple car services and then sucking it up to just pay for damn parking at the airport. And then it’s a matter of figuring out what time to leave the house so we don’t get bogged down in rush hour traffic but still have plenty of time to get through security and grab lunch before the flight.
Packing sucks, too. Getting all your liquids into tiny bottles and plastic bags. Digging out the extraneous lip glosses from the depths of your purse lest they be confiscated as contraband. Trying to figure out rules that aren’t explained very clearly (I currently think it’s OK to bring a juice box for my 3-year-old to drink on the plane, but haven’t the faintest clue if I can put an ice pack in her lunchbox to keep it cold). Figuring out what kind of clothing you need when your destination will have a high of 70º on Friday (yes!) but lows around freezing the rest of the trip (son of a bitch!). Finding toys and books to hopefully keep the kiddo occupied on the plane, but convincing her that she really doesn’t need to bring all of her favorite stuffed animals.
And all of that is before you get to the airport! I’m still trying to figure out if we have to bring the kiddo’s birth certificate as ID. Going through security is a right pain in the ass. There’s the logistical juggling act of trying to actually haul around all the carry-ons while keeping track of a rambunctious kid who will hopefully think it’s fun to pull her own tiny Dora bag around, but will probably demand to be carried at some point (or more likely, that’ll be the only way to keep her from wandering off). Airport food choices suck, especially at LaGuardia since most of the options are outside security and just mean one more damn bag to keep track of at the X-ray machines. For some reason, the airlines have decided to board people in the most illogical fashion possible. It makes more sense and things move more quickly if the people seated at the back of the plane get on first! Fine, let the dozen people in first class on before everyone else since they paid five times as much for their tickets, but the aisles get clogged when you board front to back! And don’t get me started on the tiny-ass seats.
But somehow, it all becomes worth it. I’ve flown enough over the years that I’ve developed comforting routines that make me feel better about hurling through the air in a metal tube. I always touch the outside of the plane as a good luck charm as I step from the gangway into the cabin. I get an adrenaline rush at that magic moment when the wheels lift off the ground at last. I make a game of trying to spot people walking around on the ground before the plane gets too high and even the cars turn into tiny dots (parking lots and construction zones are your best bet for this). Even when it gets a little turbulent, I absolutely love flying through clouds. I love looking down on the landscape to see all the features you just don’t notice the same way from the ground – oxbow lakes, tree-lined rivers and streams, the patchwork pattern of farmland, the way cities glow at night. And then a few short hours later, you land in a different place, ready to start on whatever adventure you have planned. There’s really nothing like it.