The North Terminal at DTW and I have spent some quality time together recently. Perhaps I’m not used to flying out of that terminal, but with it’s bare bone offerings, waiting leaves me feeling stranded. A strong temptation always pulls me in the direction of the McNamara terminal instead to hop on a one way Delta flight across the Pacific. Short side trips have allowed me to cruise through with just a carry on, bypassing everyone in line checking luggage and gliding through security. Such painless experiences of navigating through an airport leave me wondering if it’s time to travel the world with just one small backpack that I could keep on me at all times. My next jaunt across the ocean may call for even more minimalism.
Early one Wednesday morning, I thought nothing of my long day of travel from Detroit to Dallas, ending in Albuquerque. With a queue of books on my kindle, long flights and layovers have become the least of my worries. I’m at home in the airports, people watching, and wondering what they’re lives are like. Sitting next to a young girl and her mother on the flight from DTW to DFW, there was nothing I enjoyed more than toggling between reading and eavesdropping. It was the girl’s first time flying, and in her own untainted and unfiltered curiosity, she talked her mother’s ear off the entire flight. Nothing went unnoticed from the clouds lined with sunlight to each small motion of the plane. Listening to everything she had to say made me long for that naivete and cherish her sense of wonderment. At the end of the flight, her mother asked what her favorite subjects are in school. The girl’s response? Science and recess. With that, I was grinning from ear to ear, and I thought to myself “this girl has a bright future ahead of her.” I can only hope the world doesn’t squash her innocent curiosity.
Arriving at DFW, I was pleasantly surprised at how well equipped it is for travelers from all walks of life. It may be one of the best airports in the United States to have a layover. The people seem really happy and are extremely nice, there’s free wifi, spacious napping spots, free travel lounges, the Skylink to take you between terminals seamlessly, and plenty of modern restaurants including my personal favorites, Red Mango and Jamba Juice. Macha Green Tea Smoothie? Um, yes please! On my 3 hour layover, I curled up (literally) in the corner of the travel lounge with a book and a hefty plate of orange chicken from Manchu Wok. It was in-transit bliss.
From DFW to ABQ, I was in the aisle with an older woman, Laurie, and a young man my age, Sam, in the window. For the 1 hour flight, they bonded over their experiences in religious environments both professionally and personally. It was a conversation I was reluctant to join in on, as religion is not my strong suit having not grown up with it in my house. So I decided to practice writing Japanese to keep the characters fresh in my head. At some point, Laurie turns to me and says, “that’s an interesting game you’re playing.” I explain that I’m learning Japanese to which she replies, “Oh, my son is learning Arabic,” and promptly returns to her conversation with Sam, without another word to me. One eyebrow raised and confused, I turn back to my “game,” uninterrupted for the remainder of the flight.
Shuffling out the door of the ABQ Sunport, my shuttle awaits to drive me closer to the city center. I listen quietly from the backseat to the driver who is a New Mexico local that lived abroad in Italy for 5 years and has an intense desire to travel. As he drops off customers, he keeps shooting off tips for things to see, places to eat, and gives us all a complimentary, mini tour of Old Town. Of all his suggestions, the one that makes my ears perk is his recommendation for a restaurant called Seasons. He goes on and on about how good the food is and how the manager always sends him coupons. I wonder if he has “friends” at this restaurant that have kindly asked him to promote, and naturally, the answer is YES! As we approach my stop, I roll my eyes at his spiel, get out of the van, tip the man, and settle into my hotel for the night. After showering and force feeding myself mediocre takeout, I crash on the bed, drifting off to episodes of Long Island Medium in the background.
In transit may not be the most glamorous part of traveling, but in limbo between here and there, I’ve learned, is where the most gems can be discovered.