The Violence of Travel


Disclaimer: I woke up at 3am and fought with a German security guy about duty-free and am now in the middle of a 4 hour layover and this is what comes out... plane

A friend recently referred to a flight as the “violence of travel.” We laughed at her consistent ability to transform the mundane into poetry. She is often surprising us.

Yet the phrase perfectly captures this modern-day thing we call travel, made worse by the anticipation and romanticizing leading up to the trip. We plan and dream. Pin the foods and sites and photo ops we want. We underestimate the effects of jet lag and minimize the discomfort of long plane flights. It has been long enough that we have forgotten...

But the trip comes and it is indeed violent.

We wake up at ungodly hours to get to the pre-dawn boarding. Security brutalizes us, instills fear, and often involves an argument. Am I alone here? By the time we reach our gate we are sweaty and sticky and our shoulders already ache because we’ve packed far too much in our carry on. Adrenaline pulses as we mentally will our bag to pass by the attendants and hope against hope for a slight seat mate or better yet, none at all.

But it is never so.

The seat mate is large. How is this possible? Either large or talkative or smelly or if indeed slight, lacking personal space. The leg touches yours or the arm is always on the shared arm rest. The head bobbles too close, keeping you awake and vigilant lest it roll onto your shoulder.

The cabin is full of gaping mouths and snoring slumberers. Surely, I am the only one who cannot sleep in this state. The private intimacies of our sleeping habits are displayed for all to see and this is normal?

We cross time zones and cram meals on top of each other. How is it that we are indeed hungry when the lights come on and the sun has risen hours too early? After sitting for far too long, our feet have grown a size and our digestive system is wrecked. It takes days to recover.

The coughing and sneezing echo through the economy section. There is illness yet you failed to notice any masks. Why aren’t these people quarantined? The germs are floating all around your air space. You imagine breathing them in, contracting something that will delay adjustment even further.

The landing is choppy. The plane tumbles onto the runway and fights to stop. It seems painful every time. We disembark and join the sea of bodies, rushing to be first off the plane, first on the train, first to baggage claim, only to wait and wait and wait, holding our breath that our bag indeed made it, untouched. It flies out of the shoot, violently.

Violently ending the violence of travel that you swear you are finished with. Truly, your hometown is so nice, so quaint. There are great vacation places a car ride away. Next time, you will drive.

Until you forget.

And you will underestimate and minimize and choose again to enter the violence of travel because the end result just seems so worth it.