TRAVELLING IN TIMES OF CORONA
The airport – usually a place of fluctuation, movement, life and, of course, human bulks. Despite the appalling thought of masses rolling over you, I do really like airport atmosphere. As soon as I set foot into one, a magical feeling of holiday and carefreeness washes over me, and I always feel like anything could happen. It’s like a funland for adults with everything you need to enjoy yourself, like shops, restaurants and cafes but no societal norms at all. A glass of wine at 10 in the morning while in joggers followed by a stroll through the designer aisle and topped off by a quick look through the sweets section to wonder at massive Toblerone bars? Absolutely no problem – you're actually doing this right! And since you're on holiday, where it's totally fine to treat yourself, the overpriced products offered in duty-free don't bother you at all. What a life!
What makes airport-funland actually interesting, though, are its citizens. The airport is a huge junction of different ways of lives, where hundreds of people come together and briefly share the status of being a traveller. Yet every one of them remains a little mystery in itself: who are they, where are they coming from, where they are going and what is the reason they are travelling? Imagine how many princes or famous authors from other countries or, you know, serial killers have sat next to you without you even realising! There are so many stories floating about in an airport, and even if everyone was willing to share theirs, I could never listen to them all. It’s a little like the vast number of books existing and the sheer impossibility of reading every one of them in a single lifetime.
When I travel on my own, I always try to read at least some of those books, which means I am that person, who is a massive pain the arse by trying to engage fellow passengers on the plane in a conversation. This is great to distract me from my nerve-wracking fear of flying, but mainly, I do this because these conversations often turn out to be very interesting. And what can go possibly wrong? If everything goes well, I will never see them again, anyway.
Here are some noteworthy encounters I've had:
A German who left his home country to follow a girl to California and, after an ugly breakup, just stayed there, which resulted in him speaking German (his native language) with an American accent. What?!
On my way to a weekend trip to Vienna, I set next to a fairly dodgy-looking Austrian, who was returning from his one-day visit to London with just a plastic bag as his luggage – I do not know what he carried with him in there and neither did I ask him, but I sincerely hope it was just some sort of tacky souvenir. Kindly enough, however, he provided me with loads of useful information about Vienna.
A cute old Israeli, who seemed equally afraid of flying as me. He spent the entire flight silently glaring out of the window, and when it came to the landing, he folded is hands, lowered his head and closed his eyes. I remember that though it was so wholesome, that I almost forgot about my own panic, and after the plane had safely touched the ground, we gave each other a very relieving look and a smile, and it was one of my favourite things to ever happen to me on a plane.
Flying amidst a global pandemic is strange, though. Normally, airports are packed with people, and the air is filled with excited anticipation, but right now, it is different. This is a good thing, of course, because it shows that people are taking the restrictions seriously and stay home, when they can. And going through security is only a matter of minutes, which is amazing. However, it does feel weird seeing a place, that is normally home to numerous nomads, almost being dead. The atmosphere is no longer jolly but actually rather gloomy. Everyone minds their own business and wants to get this over with as quickly as possible, myself included. The virus is an omnipresent threat, that makes it rather difficult to enjoy activities like travelling, which for me, include a happy-go-lucky attitude and, to an extent, socialising. To be fair, though, we shouldn’t be travelling at all anyway right now, and the depressing atmosphere is actually taking care of that in a way.