When I first decided to travel to all of the cities that Jeff saw during his European adventure last year, I was pretty excited that Prague was on the list.
Some time ago, Jeff’s dad and step-mom decided to do a once-in-a-lifetime trip with their sons. When they asked Jeff and his brother, Greg, where they would like to go, I am told that Jeff was immediate with his response: Prague, Vienna and Budapest.
So, a little over one year ago, they walked mile after mile through those three cities, with Jeff often insisting on long walks rather than trains or cabs. (Greg long ago nicknamed Jeff “the Yeti” for his long strides and love of fast-paced walking.)
When I booked a one-way ticket to Europe, I thought I would write and write and write. And, while I have written, it is not, as expected, a slew of blog posts that I’m putting on paper. Instead, it is the book that I have talked about writing for years that is suddenly pouring out of me. In the meantime, this blog is getting a bit dusty.
The fact is, fiction is easier for me than the real stuff right now. So, instead of staring at an empty page, I’m going to skip the beginning of this story and the reason that I am here in Europe. That will come later.
For now…I’ll write about the joy of connecting with one of my best friends in one of the greatest cities in the world: London.
When my best friend says she needs a weekend away, I immediately pack my bags.
It’s not often that Marlena can get enough time away from work to do laundry let alone travel, so it was understandable that – on this rare getaway weekend – she just wanted to do nothing. That meant no planning or logistics beyond when to go to the spa.
I’ve thought a lot about what I love so much about airports, and I think it’s that airports suspend three things: expectation, time and judgement.
We are pleasantly surprised when we get through security fast, find a place to sit at a restaurant and take off on time. Because expectations are low, patience is high. This tends to create an environment where people go with the flow, shrug off minor setbacks and laugh a little easier. Also, expectations from the outside world are diminished. While in transit, coworkers, family and friends expect little communication or results from the traveler.
The only time that is relevant in an airport is individual boarding time. Otherwise, 8:00 in the morning local time could be 5:00 in the afternoon according to the internal clock of the people seated at the bar. It doesn’t matter what time it is outside and, while in the airport, it doesn’t usually matter what time it is at the destination. In those airport hours, time is postponed.
Because both expectation and time are suspended within the airport walls, we are easier to approach and harder to annoy. Grabbing a quick coffee leads to conversations with people we might not otherwise talk to. A drink at the bar at an early hour is greeted with a “cheers” rather than a raised eyebrow. A delayed flight is answered with a shrug and knowing smile with fellow passengers.
The suspension of expectation, time and judgement opens up endless opportunities for unique exchanges, new relationships and great stories.
On a recent trip from Fort Lauderdale to Chicago, I stopped by a magazine stand and snapped up a New York Times and started for the checkout stand. A woman stood between me and the register, so I slowed my pace while she carefully analyzed the covers of US and People, finally settling on a different magazine with something on the cover about Prince Harry and his new live-in girlfriend.
She wore a large sun hat, a leopard print shirt and carried a cane. She peered at me from under her hat and started to shuffle sideways to make room for me to pass. I assured her that I was in no hurry. She broke into a large, unexpected smile and – in a conspiratorial whisper – she confessed that airports are her place to catch up on all the celebrity gossip.
She gave me all the dirt, and I picked up that magazine about Prince Harry, because airports do seem like a pretty good place for some juicy gossip and for a chat with a lady in leopard print. #TrueAltitude