It is, of course, quite wonderful when a long flight lacks excitement. The overseas segment is not too long today - a scant seven hours - and not only is it a smooth ride, but it is, as the one before it, an on-time departure and an early arrival.
Ah, but what about the flight? Is it possible to train yourself to look at it differently than just a handful of hours to endure?
To a point. It is a fine beginning: instead of zoning out, I chat to people before boarding and feel great empathy for a flight attendant who is looking to unload his exasperation with a passenger who had suitcase issues. I spend a while, too, thinking about my seatmate -- a woman perhaps in her forties, from Colombia, who sits down with a large cup of coffee (an interesting beverage to consume just before a night flight) and a thick (and I mean thick) text book titled Christianity.
A flight from Detroit to Amsterdam is inherently interesting because you can assume that most people are not from Detroit and the vast majority are not going to Amsterdam. (The city is a gateway not only to any number of European destinations, but, too, to a large number of African and Asian capitals.) I remember myself traveling this way to get to Japan, just because I was intrigued by the idea of going, for once in my life, around the world. And so today I make a good effort at imagining myself to be only on the first step of a much longer journey. Time passes differently depending on how much you've allocated to a given project. Was I successful? As I said -- to a point.
The most important hour is, in the end, the one just before landing. When I first moved to the States, I traveled to Europe as frequently as I do now. It was a frugal set of trips then -- hard earned by countless moonlighting jobs. And then, after marrying and after the girls were born, the travels greatly diminished. A half dozen years passed before we found the time and money to pack the family for their first trip across the ocean.
That first trip after a dry spell was thrilling. I truly could not imagine sleeping through the flight. And the final hour was indeed sublime, knowing that the adventure was now just a breath away from being real.
And so doesn't it make sense to concentrate on making those final flight minutes sublime again? To imagine all you've planned for your vacation, to think about the cultural shift that's about to take place, to finally realize this experience that had been only in the imagination thus far?
Dawn comes much later now in Europe. I haven't traveled in September for such a long time that I'd forgotten this. We land in Amsterdam just as the first wisps of light appear on the horizon (even though the landing time is 7:30 a.m.)
And I am, in fact, hugely excited to be here!
(posted while waiting for my final flight -- to Milan)
(Amsterdam airport breakfast)