While waiting to board a flight, I never read or listen to music. I people-watch. I get nervous about becoming engrossed in my distraction and missing my flight – it happened to a friend of mine, so don’t laugh! Besides, it’s fun.
Flying has become more commonplace at the same rate as it’s become more terrifying. People-watching in an airport is akin to watching a bride in her final private moments before walking down the aisle – there is a heightened intensity of competing emotions in travelers, and it brings out all of their nervous habits and ugliest obesessions.
My favorite people to watch are ignorant rich people. I love how they’re incensed about being among the riff-raff, and privately ashamed that they’re not rich enough to have their own plane, or at least to have Richard Branson on speed dial.
They make up for this, though, with ostentatiously expensive carry-on bags, preciously luxurious wrapthings lest they catch a chill, and pretentiously foreign magazines and peach-flavored financial publications used like treasured baby blankets.
The travelers closest to my heart are those my parents’ age and older. They’re retired, and they are traveling like mad. At first glance, they look like amateurs, typical American travelers – sturdy travel sneakers, matching luggage, sensible travelwear. You feel bad for them, or perhaps you write them off and glance elsewhere. But you get to talking to these people -and man, do they love to talk – and you learn that they’ve been EVERYWHERE. Places you can only DREAM of going. Sure, they go with a tour, and they ask you about a place as if they discovered it themselves – but these seniors have been around the world, and they’re SO EXCITED about it. They have my respectful envy.
The one type of traveler that confuses me to the point of obsession are people who travel with REALLY young children. Why? Why do you put yourselves through that? Why do you put the rest of us through it, as well?
I completely understand the need to go on vacation. I can guess that after a year or so of dirty diapers and sleepless nights, this need would become overwhelming. But for the love of all that is sacred, can’t you find SOMEONE to take those kids off your hands for a week? Do you really have to drag them, literally kicking and screaming, through airports and down Europe’s biggest boulevards?
They look like they realized this was a bad idea from the second they got in the minivan – but they can’t back out now. You just know they are going to spend a FORTUNE on their trip, and come back exhausted. This is not a vacation; this is torture. I’d feel bad for them, but I’m too busy blocking out their children’s screams.
Business travelers – I’m sorry, but as a whole, you annoy me. NO ONE CARES to hear about your busy life conducted by cell phone. No one. Sure, there are those business travelers that are quiet and unassuming, just trying to get from one place to another. But most of us are traveling to get AWAY from work, not to bring it with us. Listening to you schedule meetings and delegate to someone invariably named Carol only serves to remind us of our overflowing inboxes that await our return.
Backpackers are another annoyance. Hey – I know you’re seeing the world on a shoestring budget, and that’s admirable. You’re gaining experience and making memories that will last a lifetime. But airport lounges are not bedrooms, and water fountains are not mini-showers. What you see as resourcefulness learned in a bus depot in Prague looks to actual grown-ups like you’re being cheap with Daddy’s money so that you can have more money for beer in your next city. Plenty of broke people manage to look and act respectful – I’m one of them.
And stop city-dropping. You’re not impressing anyone with your tale of sleeping on a beach in Phuket. You’re trying really hard to sound jaded about smoking pot in Amsterdam, but you should just go ahead and be excited about it, because you sound like an amateur anyway.
I honestly started this post wanting to write a few observations, and now I’m ranting. So, Miss Expatria will stop now. But I want to hear from you, gentle reader – who do you love, or hate, spying on while traveling?
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