Screaming babies aren’t the ones who bother me most when I fly. It’s the people who don’t look out the window. The people who lower the shade as soon as they get on and never raise it. The people who bury their heads in books and don’t glance up for takeoff or landing. Don’t be that traveler.
Between wanderlust taking hold from a young age and choosing to attend college on the complete opposite side of the country – Spokane, Washington to Washington, D.C. – I fly a lot. Most people want an aisle seat, but I inwardly groan when I see “C” or “D” on my boarding pass. I’ll take being squashed any day if I can look out a window.
Forget about legroom, I want ample opportunities to gaze. Airplane views have a way of putting life into perspective. They can make you feel so small- one human, on one plane, so high up over such a vast expanse of land. They can make you feel invincible for the very same reasons. Sometimes city sprawl will greet my eyes. Other times, I’ll see frozen lakes, sandy beaches or invitingly deserted mountain ranges. What doesn’t change is the happiness I get from seeing something, anything, out the window. When else do you get such a bird’s eye view? Even if you’re not a hopeless romantic like myself, you can’t deny that these views are unique. They are special. They are thought provoking.
Flying into a new city for a trip is exciting, but what really gets me is flying between the two places I call home. Looking out the window reiterates that I’m caught between coasts.
Going home is familiar. I know the progression if I connect through Seattle: I’ll see glimpses of the Cascade mountain range, endless wheat fields and suddenly, trees. That’s when I know I’ve made it. I’m almost there. The skyline—if you can call it that without giggling—brings a smile to my face as we swoop over downtown. If I’m coming from Minneapolis, we fly over the lakes where I spent my summers. We fly over memories of best friends and a boy. We fly over parts of my life that I want back and other parts that I’ve already left behind. I always end up reflecting on how much can change in a year or two. Looking out the window makes me confront these feelings. Going home can be bittersweet.
Going back to school is jarringly unfamiliar. The states we fly over are still so unknown to me. Unless we fly right over Georgetown or the Potomac River, I’m embarrassingly lost. I gawk, watch the ground get closer and hope that we’re actually about to land in D.C. and not some other random city. Did I get on the right flight? Why is my “home” still so unrecognizable? The elation I get when I see the monuments and the White House mixes with a pit in my stomach. I’m getting closer and further from what I love, all at once. Looking out the window makes me feel very adrift. Going back to school can be unsettling.
No matter how I feel as we land, I’ll always look out the window. Next time you fly, you should too. Don’t brush away the unease or the confusion. Embrace the perspective. Crane your neck for a peek at the sky. But please don’t just snap a shot out the window, throw a filter on it and put your head back down. Open your eyes and really see. There are too many pictures of wings and not enough people who truly love looking out over them. Appreciate getting lost in a view. Be that traveler.