I figure I’ve been in about 80 airports around the world.  That’s a lot of time spent in airports.  I started out at 7 months and just kept going.  As a typical TCK, I learned to fly before I walked.  By the time I was 11 months old I had been in a car, on a train, on a plane, on a boat and up a funicular.  All those “at what age” questions in my baby book were full in no time.

I know some people feel at home in airports, or love being in airports.  I hate them.  For the most part, they are just boring.  I have spent hours zoned out, jet lagged, and sleep deprived on hard benches waiting for the weather to clear or the congestion to ease up or to make up for a lost connection.

Some of my life’s most terrifying experiences happened at airports.

When I was 14, I was in boarding school in Austin, Texas.  In the fall my parents had moved from Mexico City to Bogota, Colombia.  That winter break I was due to fly to Bogota, someplace I had never been.  My route was Austin, Houston, Miami, Bogota.

I got through Houston okay.  I had never been to Miami airport before and it was a very long way from the gates to the ticket counter.  For some reason I thought I could get my boarding pass at the gate so I just found the gate I was leaving from and hung around there.  When they called for us to board the plane, I showed them my ticket and they told me I did not have a boarding pass.  I didn’t understand the problem.  They told me I would have to go to the ticketing counter to get the pass.

Now, they were already boarding the plane and the ticketing counter was miles away.  I freaked out.  All they said was, “you will need to hurry so you don’t miss the plane”.  I ran as fast as I could down to the ticket counter, I barged to the front of the line in a panic.  They gave me a boarding pass and I ran as fast as I could back to the gate, sure I would miss the plane and wondering what I would do.

It seems that whenever I was in these kinds of situations, I never had much money and I never had needed contact information.  I just got on airplanes and expected everything to go okay and didn’t worry about it.  Had I missed that flight, all I had was my parent’s address in Bogota.  No phone number, no other contact info.  I suppose I could have called my brother but I’m not even sure I had his contact info.  After all I was 14 years old.

But I was lucky, I made the flight and my parents were at the airport to meet me at the other end.  There were times when things didn’t go that well, but somehow I always managed to get where I was going.  Over the years, I learned there were times when you really could depend on the kindness of strangers.

Do you have any airport stories?


  1. return trip from TASIS 72 XMAS Break…I too knew my way around airports…but not like you….Had exactly one Nickle in my pocket….had spent the “cake” the old man sent for safe return on who knows what….but you can figure it was decadent….had to switch at JFK to connect to O’Hare…..There was a m inor mishap at O’Hare…A North Central plane clipped the tail of a Delta plane and they shut the port down….Will never forget this…Had to borrow a Nickle….to have a dime…to call collect home…The “Old Fella” said…no problem…get a shuttle to a hotel and use the emergency money to get a room and fly in tomorrow….well….my explanation caused him to%^&**#$%^&*,,,,then compose…and said calll me from hotel and we’ll handle it…Thought I had it wired to return with only a nickle in my pocket….caught a “little” flack for that 1 !!!!!

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post.. I found it surprisingly comforting, and I’m not only a recovering agoraphobic, but I’m not someone who likes to fly. I think your last sentence summed it up: somehow you always were able to depend upon the kindness of strangers. That belief manages to calm any fears or nerves a person might have when traveling, I think.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I was usually pretty lucky but it all depends on the circumstances. I think some of my best luck with strangers came along when I had a small child in toe. 🙂

  3. So many!!! Probably the most classic was when I missed a flight that left late, even though I was there two hours early. It left without announcing and I was getting a coffee!!!

      1. Actually, I was annoyed when it happened, but was going to a wedding with a bunch of childhood friends who thought it was hilarious. And then suddenly, it was! 🙂

  4. Loved this post!
    When I was 14, my girlfriend and I traveled to Norway alone. We were suppose to land in Stavanger where my grandmother was waiting to meet us, (for some reason) we landed in Bergen instead. The year was 1973, we didn’t speak Norwegian, no one spoke English (at least we didn’t find anyone). We missed our flight… long story short – my grandmother flew to Bergen to find us! (is it any wonder I loved her so much?)

  5. I fly a lot as well, but I’m more at peace with airports now. You do meet lots of interesting people that’s for sure though. 🙂

  6. I’ve had my share of missed/diverted flights, but the story I remember vividly was flying back many years ago from spending the summer studying Spanish in Mexico. Let’s just say that light-eyed blondes received far too much attention there, most of which was neither welcomed nor particularly pleasant. My aunt lived in Atlanta, and unbeknownst to me, arranged to meet our flight so that we could spend a few minutes together before my next flight. She was calling my name as I approached, but I was so hardened to unwanted attention that I walked right by. It summed up the many crosscultural moments I’d experienced during my time in Mexico, the good and the decidely less good.

  7. I have done most of my traveling in my adult life. I have tons of travel stories-but I always find that if I just relax and don’t worry about the things going wrong, it all seems to work out! I don’t love airports, but I love to go places, so I guess you could say I view it as a necessary evil!

  8. Great post! I liked airports better when I was a kid – I don’t think it’s just that when we’re kids, it’s more fun, but the whole experience was better 10-15 years ago. But maybe that’s just how I remember it…

    I still love to fly, and I like some aspects of being at the airport, even if I’ve had my share of not-so-fun moments! My favorite part of the airport though is the arrival zones. I’ve even written a blog post about it ( There’s just something so wonderful about reuniting with loved ones and seeing others reunited too, even if the arrivals could also be daunting, as it meant we were in a foreign and new place, with no familiar faces to greet us!

    Really enjoyed this post, and I’m happy it all worked out for the best then – it must have been quite an experience!

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