What airports need

Yesterday I flew from Amsterdam to Valencia. After check-in and security, I had another 45 minutes to spare before boarding. I sat down in a comfortable chair and looked around.

I wasn’t travelling to go on holiday. I wasn’t travelling for work either. Here I was, moving to a new country, with a backpack full of clothes and notebooks (and ok, five pairs of shoes), but without a home, a job, or money.

Enough reasons to worry, you’d say. And I did. Obviously I’m looking all cool and collected on the outside, I am living the location-independent-feel-at-home-everywhere-millennial-dream after all. But I was terrified. So, I looked around for comfort. All I saw were shops and overpriced coffee.

Travelling can be a stressfull experience, even when you’re not moving to a new country with only the barest of safety nets. Any trip can induce anxiety. Fear of the unknown. Worries about logistics. Did I forget anything? But what if…? And you’ve just said goodbye to your loved ones and miss them already. Or you’re about to see them at your destination, but what if they’re not there? And then there’s all the tension surrounding air travel itself too. Security checks and pat-downs. Being locked up in a pressurized cabin for hours. And oh, the dreaded conversation with your fellow passengers.

It is safe to say that most people in an airport are in need of some comfort. Yesterday I would have really liked to walk up to someone, a professional, and tell them Hey look I’m doing this thing and it’s awesome, I know, but I’m just really scared too. Can you please tell me that everything will be ok? And that someone would have given me a one-minute motivational speech and a pat on the shoulder. Or, of course, they might have told me What the fuck are you doing?!

Other people might need a shoulder to cry on, a hug, a last minute call with their loved ones, or just a soothing space where it’s comfy and quiet and where they can collect their thoughts. Or write them down. Or make art. Or a sandcastle. We need to connect with the strangers around us, to know that we’re really not the only ones feeling like this, whatever this is.

Yesterday I wanted to get up, browse the shops and maybe buy some chocolate. I wasn’t bored (as if that’s a good reason) but I was uncomfortable just sitting there with all my thoughts and worries. Of course, chocolate would help a little, but it is not what people at airports really need.Nor do we need another pair of expensive sunglasses, a fancy watch, novelty gadgets or clothes that don’t fit in your suitcase anyway. If we do need them, we don’t need to buy them at the airport. And really no one needs overpriced coffee, ever.

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