A tale of airports
"If we were meant to stay in one place, we'd have roots instead of feet"- is a moto that runs in my blood for generations. Traveling to all 64 districts of my country Bangladesh at a very young age with my father helped me to start thinking about exploring the whole world. I have to admit, for a girl coming from a middle-class family, it was a very unrealistic and costly dream. Luckily, I am one of the lucky people who didn't quit so easily. And the dreams did come true.
After 7 years of medical studies, I felt like, mentally I was completely drained. I needed to get away somewhere, anywhere actually. I wanted to be someone else for a while, anyone else. And it was time to pick my first destination. I chose Europe. Because it is like the basic textbook for history, culture, nature and everything else. Two-third of my bucket list was full of European touristic places. And of course, if you get a visa for one, you can travel to any of the 26 Schengen countries and some more. So, I started applying for overseas university and got selected for a great scholarship into a beautiful Swedish University. I booked a flight and went to the airport with the hopes to find who I truly am.
Sitting there for the first time, suddenly it hit me, that, every airport has its fair share of unwritten stories. The expressions of people whenever they are parting from their family and friends, the thoughts they are having while waiting for the flight. Are they scared of the changes while they are gone? Or that they won't be the same afterward? Will they find what they are looking for? Or they will realize that they left someone or something important behind?
This was the first time; I was taking an international flight. The first time while waiting on a 5 hours' transit in Istanbul airport, I felt like, every character from every book I read and every movie I watched so far, have come to live in front of my eyes. I saw a "Dumbledore" with properly trimmed beard and no robe, I saw some "Mother Teresa" walking around, different versions of "Michel Jackson" playing with their instruments. And every time I went to an airport afterward, it was the same. Not to mention the kids, all of them somehow try to pull off a "Baby's day out" adventure by running away from their parents or throw a temper tantrum in failure to do so. And young backpackers spending the night sleeping at the airport lounge or in a corner of the floor to save some hotel costs. It's a really strange place.
When I went to the airport to fly back home from Iceland, I looked at the flight information screen to check my flight information only to find out that all the flights have been Cancelled. Now, when you have to wake up at 3.00 in the morning to catch the flight, the first logical conclusion that comes to mind behind cancelled flights is that you didn't wake up at all and having the usual nightmares of missing your transportation. But then you pinch yourself and it hurts! Being a huge fan of Hollywood movies, my second interpretation was, the producers must have rented the whole airport for a bit to shoot one of those cliché romantic movie scenes where the hero-heroine reunite at the airport after a huge misunderstanding- the hero runs and runs towards the airport because he can run faster than any vehicle only to find the plane just leaving the runway, but then, he turns back and sees his girl standing there because she didn't take the flight. Honestly every time I see this happening in a movie, I literally find myself shouting to the screen like "Girl, you definitely didn't pay for your own air ticket! Otherwise, you would at least take the flight and come back a few days later with a fresh perspective about life. Not like you have to decide it right now. What a waste of a plane ticket!" Anyway, at that moment, I told myself- "well, finally the time is changing! Now the scriptwriters are making the character's poor life choices more realistic by delaying the flight or in this case, by cancelling it. It took me a whole cup of coffee to make my brain fully functional and I realized something is wrong. It's not one flight, but all of them. And there is no email regarding any reschedule or what is happening or anything. Then the actual story came to light. The Wow air, a major Icelandic budget airline went bankrupt and they just abruptly shut down just in one night without any announcement! So, all the people had to stay at the airport for a long time and buy the next available flight with other airlines at a very high price.
But this kind of massive airport mishaps are very rare. There are few happy stories as well. Last time I travelled back home; my boarding pass was suddenly declared invalid giving me a panic attack. Then a person from the management came to me and handed me another boarding pass saying," Mam, you have been selected for an upgrade from economy to the business class!" I mean, I am always all about saving money to travel moreover some extra leg space, but that experience was something! Now, even though I stand by my budget travelling decision, I can understand why some others prefer luxury tours. It's also widespread to walk out of an airport making new friends. In one of my flight, I was sitting beside an old lady and when she came to know I am a solo traveller from Bangladesh, she told me that she volunteered in a mission and visited Dhaka after our liberation war. She was so happy that Bangladeshi women have come a long way. I could not be prouder.
Wherever I went, people were mostly welcoming and helpful about a brown girl travelling alone. But I have mentioned the airport security people for their extra attention to check my belongings due to my brown skin tone! But when you are doing nothing illegal, you don't need to worry about it.I really can't count the hours I have spent in my last 2 years of Europe looking for cheap flight deals on many websites. My friends would joke about this becoming my major way of procrastination. But, honestly, when you see a return plane ticket from Stockholm to Paris costs less than the bus journey from Dhaka to Rajshahi, you have to buy it. This is like a sacred law among travellers!
Even after travelling around 25 countries in the last 2 years, airports are still one of the most interesting parts of the journey for me. Many people talk about the ultimate destinations. But they seem to forget the journey, and mostly where they started. So, when I was asked to share my Europe experience, I felt like I want to start at the very beginning. Because I wanted to be the girl who went on a trip to come back entirely a different and much better version of herself- someone more brave, bold, confident and daring. And it started right there at the airport. There was this realization that we don't have many journeys left. How much I enjoyed my destinations is a story for some other day.
I would recommend every single person to take a trip on their own, no matter what part of life they are in. Start something on your own that terrifies you. See who you become when you are the only one you have to rely on. You will be amazed. I promise.