Twelve things I have learned from frequent air travel (August 2009)


1. That there are always people crying in airports. They are ignored because we think we know the reason for their tears.

2. That there are always nuns too.

3. That the nuns are not crying. (They are neither about to meet nor be separated from Jesus. Barring incident.)

4. That the Spanish love the sandwich for its ready-at-hand convenience but seem determined to eradicate any other potential it has for joy or nutrition.

5. That middle-aged German tourists always clap once their flight has landed safely. Whether this is out of politeness or relief is unclear. Maybe it’s the latter, as they crowd the gangway and attempt to barge their way to the front of the plane paying no regard as to whether anyone ahead of them wants to leave their seat.

6. The ability to sit for 12 hours straight without moving (apart from to shift my weight from one buttock to the other).

7. That tiny Spanish swallows, like DJs, make their homes in the rough concrete buttresses of Ibiza airport. They arc and swoop, bickering in mid-air, tracing petulant little dog-fights amongst themselves, unwilling it seems to rest or to pause for even a moment. Again, like DJs.

8. That if you travel frequently enough, home becomes a moot point. You can learn to feel as content in a transit lounge with a coffee and a book as on your own sofa, sometimes more so.

9. That Fernweh (wanderlust) can be as powerful as Heimweh (homesickness); it’s possible to feel homesick for the road, for the liminal, for momentum, for borders, for trajectory for its own sake.

10. That everything you need to know about American foreign policy, xenophobia and empire can be gleaned by spending an hour in the non-residents queue in US Customs and Border Control, JFK.

11. That the opportunity cheaply and frequently to see the blue sky above rippling banks of cloud, always different, always beautiful; to float over patchworks of fields, deserts, ice-floes, steppes, rivers, glowing matrices of streetllights makes us the luckiest of generations on the planet.

12. That this can’t go on.

7 Responses to “Twelve things I have learned from frequent air travel (August 2009)”

  1. The middle-aged tourists you’re referring to, could be the Dutch as well. I find that very irritating, as if it’s a miracle the pilot did his job correct for once.
    Great columns by the way, i read them with much pleasure!

  2. colin nagy says:

    On behalf of America, I apologize for JFK airport.

  3. id rather sit on rusty nails than go thru jfk airport

  4. Jules 'the Donk master' October says:

    im flying to JFK soon – im scared now!

  5. nasty midnighter says:

    JFK is a bleary hellscape. And just a cut above Newark.

  6. erlend øye says:

    hey. this is fun to read. erlend.

  7. “erlend øye says:
    January 22, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    hey. this is fun to read. erlend.”

    > ya. thanks for writing it 🙂

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