I first discovered the joy of minimum airplane leg room and uncomfortable seating on my flight from Barcelona to London, where I was studying abroad. Because of the airline’s strict luggage policy, I was sweating profusely in multiple layers, exhausted, and just ready to be back in my temporary home after a weekend of the craziness that ensues when you are in Barcelona.
My friend and I both fell asleep at the airport in the wrong terminal. When we woke up, we realized we had less than ten minutes to sprint to our flight before the gate closed or we’d be trapped in Barcelona. We thought we were rough but running behind us was a man, extremely sunburned and completely wasted, with a couple of bottles of Bombay in hand. On the shuttle from our gate to the plane, he told us (in slurs) how he had fallen asleep on the beach and his friends left him to catch their flight. To get them back, he planned on making them swig his Bombay the entire flight.
We met his friends once we were on the plane, and lucky for me, I got to sit in the midst of their group as they would take swigs, yell, sing, and participate in any other activity you would see at the local bar. After talking to them a little bit and indulging in a little swig myself, I realized how fun the journey can be. Bottles were being passed around, drinks were being bought, and music was being played off of low-volume iPods. An actual party was happening on the plane. When the plane landed and I reached in front of me to grab my bag, five or six mini bottles rolled out from under my seat. Thankfully, this was a small flight with people who weren’t disturbed by the Spanish frat boys. The flight attendants scolded everyone to calm down once or twice, but never really seemed to actually care.
I doubt the events I experienced that day will ever be repeated; I’m almost positive it was illegal. But, there are many other ways to make your journey just as fun and memorable as mine was. I realized I can find ways to enjoy everything I’m doing, even if I’m stuck in the waiting game of getting to my next location. If I have the time during a layover, I like to post up at an airport bar. Not only does the time pass a little quicker, but there are always amazing people with interesting stories trying to pass the time in the same way. I’ve never sat an airport bar and not met someone with a unique story to tell. If you’re traveling with friends, you can have your own party on the plane by bringing on 3 oz. containers of alcohol, while using the drink service as a mixer. Duty free, where you can purchase alcohol, chocolate, or even perfume without the tax you see in stores, is present in most international airports. Just don’t get as wild as the boys from Barcelona; that might get you in trouble.
If a couple of in-flight cocktails don’t sound appealing, bring along whatever it is you love. Whether it is a good book, your journal, or your companion, look at your 10 hours of being trapped in the airport as an opportunity to chill out and really do something with no distraction or obligations to be or do anything else. There are coffee shops, food, and hundreds of different people. When we go to a new country, we want to meet other travelers and locals. What better place than an airport? Personally, I can sit at a coffee shop and people watch for hours and be content. Even when traveling, there is no reason to waste any time in the monotonous waiting game – so find what you can enjoy and bring it with you.