I remember the excitement of my first Business Class flight - the embarrassment I caused my more experienced colleague by exploring all the bells and whistles and secret compartments within my seat and my delight at being handed a chilled glass of champagne and hot face cloth before take-off. I was a newbie. And a convert.
Over time it became less fun and I understood the “over it” expressions on the faces of the comfortable travellers around me. What started off as fun adventures with a friendly colleague became solo journeys across the globe with only hours in country, or week-long missions with strangers.
On one occasion I left a black tie event in Shanghai, got a car straight to the airport, changed out of my gown in the toilets and jumped on my plane with about 20 minutes to spare.
Another time, I collected a bowl of dumpling soup in the lounge waiting for my flight home and cried quietly into it from sheer loneliness and exhaustion. I felt so very far from home.
Compare this to travelling with the kids. On the cheapest seats I could buy for our little family of five. Picking up some Maccas or sandwiches in the main airport concourse. Wrestling with airport loan strollers and hoping everyone has left their pocket knives at home. Little fingers and noses pressed eagerly upon the terminal glass, looking out to the 737 on the bay and saying “Mummy, is that OUR plane?”
When you are with your kids, holding sticky hands and downing cheap caffeine, it’s okay to jump up and down with glee while peering at your plane. When you are dressed in a Cue suit, with your boss, it’s not.
Whether travel has been glossy, or sticky, lonely or surrounded by love, it has become an integral part of who we are, how we live, love and do business. We might have become used to Zoom for the time being, but it lacks the emotional highs and lows that make a life.
It is the contrast of the dark that helps us appreciate the light. It is hugging our kids at arrivals after a week away on business. It is doing the miles and having, in the end, a win. It is a cup of tea in the comfy old lounge at home. It is when a moody teen sneaks up to you for a quiet cuddle. It is a team celebration in the lobby bar. It is wishing the family were there with you. It is celebrating when they are.
Here's to aviation. I’m looking forward to doing it all again.