This morning as I was reading the news I came across an article entitled: Why Do So Many People Hate US Airports (here’s the article if you’re interested) As I too have often wondered about this widespread phenomena I clicked on the article in hopes to gain some insight. I mean, sure, there are long lines and security checks that aren’t the most fun things in the world to go through. And if your plane gets delayed or cancelled then that’s not the greatest thing either. But in general it seems our traveling experience isn’t really that terrible, so what’s the big deal? Why do so many people gripe and complain so much about airports and flying?
The article poses reasons such as outdated terminals in need of upgrading and overcrowding but I think the real dissatisfaction comes not from our lack of shiny new buildings or the inability to boast butterfly, cactus, and orchid gardens like the Changi Airport in Singapore or an ice-skating rink and golf-driving range like an airport in South Korea. Don’t get me wrong, being able to visit a garden with 1,000 butterflies and a waterfall during a long layover sounds pretty great – and while I don’t ice skate or play golf I think it’s equally great to have those options available as well. However, I think our constant fussing and frustration has more to do with something much more ordinary and simplistic. I think we just aren’t used to stepping outside of our comfort zones often enough. Airports and airplanes toss us forcefully into an area we try with a great deal of force in our everyday lives to avoid at all costs: discomfort. We’re sitting super close to strangers in tightly crammed seats, standing in long lines actually having to wait for something to happen, and have limited food choices (gasp!). We’re also solidly transfixed on arriving somewhere else as opposed to being present in the moment, which doesn’t help matters.
I also think our weakened sense of gratitude plays a factor, as does our shirking of personal responsibility for our own quality of life. We’re so used to putting blame onto people, places, and things for our lack of well being when really it’s up to us to generate a good attitude and a sense of connection. Most of us don’t know how to be happy in the here and now in our everyday lives so why would our airport/flying experience be any different? It’s not the airport itself creating feelings of hatred so many people have. The airport simply gives us a concentrated opportunity to put on display how truly discontent we really are. Chances are if we loathe the whole flying experience we loathe a whole lot of other things too.
When our seeds of gratitude, flexibility, and connection are strong our flying experience has a great potential to be full of joy, ease, and wonder. It is within our capacity to direct our focus in the direction of:
- How the ability to take part in the miracle of flight is beyond amazing
- How our energy affects those around us and can cause further upset to airport workers, flight attendants, and fellow travelers when we’re being crabby and impatient
- How with our thoughts we make the world (as the Buddha stated) and
- How big of a convenience and luxury it is to be able to fly somewhere in a matter of a few hours
In the article, our US Vice President Joe Biden was quoted as saying, in regards to New York’s LaGuardia Airport, “feels like it’s in some Third World Country.” I’ve been to LaGuardia – and Mr. Biden, I think you’re being a tad over dramatic. Mr. Biden’s statement makes me wonder how sheltered his life must be in order to say such a thing. I kind of hope he later regretted having had this quote make its way into news outlets where the masses would encounter it, as in my humble opinion his remark speaks volumes about our spoiled, out of touch American tendencies.
If we have upcoming travel plans around the holiday season I urge us to practice mindfulness and compassion when shuffling about with our rolling luggage through airport terminals or filing onto our designated aircraft. We are not separate, independent beings as we might like to think. Every thing we do and say ripples outwards into our environment affecting those around us. May we learn how to smile, walk with lightness in our steps, and breathe deeply amid our fellow travel companions as we embark in the awesome adventure of flight. Happy travels dear friends.