THE PSYCHOLOGY OF TRAVEL
When you spend as much time in airports as we do, you learn a few things. The arrivals gate is a powerful place. Full of emotion that’s so fierce, it’ll bring even the toughest to tears. You become acutely aware of how psychology affects people when they’re traveling. Everyone. No one escapes it.
Physical exhaustion takes its toll on the human body, and getting through it in tact takes some pretty serious energy and mental strength.
Recently we saw two elderly ladies reunite. Sisters, friends or other relatives? Sister-in-laws it turns out. We got the feeling a brother had just been lost, so it was a bittersweet greeting that left us all choked up. They just quietly hugged, tears rolling down their cheeks until one had the strength to take an elbow and guide the other out.
When it comes to travelers, whether they’ve been up early for the first flight out or they’ve been on the move for the past thirty-six hours, it’s easy to spot those who could do with a fluffy pillow and some shut-eye. Or a valium.
Here are just a few types of people that we see all the time.
THE BUSINESS PEOPLE
They’re usually the first through the gate, a benefit of only traveling with carry-on luggage. Dressed impeccably, they saunter through the terminal. The daily newspaper, compliments of business class, under the one arm that’s also holding a coffee, and in the other hand is the cell phone on which they’re discussing business, um, things. They’ve made this trip a thousand times so they head straight outside with their pre-booked shuttle driver who met them at the gate. No messing around. They have important things to do today.
Barely through the arrivals gate and they’re all over each other. Blissfully unaware of the awkward smiles around them, they put on a show that’s worthy of awards. It’s hard to tell how long they’ve been apart. It could be days, it could be months. But it’s obvious that sleep is the furthest thing from their minds. Maybe tomorrow. They waltz out of the terminal on cloud nine, ready to take on the world.
They’ve spent a few, much needed, rejuvenating nights away from their babies. It has worked. The bags under their eyes are gone (for now!) and they really do look refreshed. But their eyes dart around the hall; they’re bursting at the seams to find the little people in their life. An enormous grin gives the game away, as they spot them and scoop them up for a tight hug. It’s mostly grandparents there, more than ready to hand back their little sweethearts and restore order to their home.
THE PARENTS TRAVELING WITH CHILDREN
Vastly different to the parents traveling sans-kids, these parents look like they need another holiday, just to get over this one! They’re into the last hour of wrangling kids that started the trip as sweet little angels, and who are now more like gremlins. The evil ones. These parents will try, and do anything, simply to make it home without losing anyone, or losing the plot. There are kids riding on trolleys, kids on leashes, kids on shoulders and kids with all manner of edible items. There are kids on the run, usually away from the parents. And this involves the quick decision of whether to ditch luggage to chase the kids, possibly resulting in a stern chat from security about leaving bags unattended. Or let the kid go, and see how they fare on their own. I’m sure this is what parents would rather do, but usually, it’s the luggage that’s left behind.
Whether they don’t speak the language or they’re just out of their comfort zone, they’re the ones that walk very slowly, dragging their too-many bags. It’s as if leaving the safety of the customs agents terrifies them and each step forward is one step away from calm. Eventually, the crowds behind force them to shuffle forward. Usually, they’ll find a nearby seat to wait out their stress before they make a decision about what to do next. They’d really rather be anywhere than right there.
They arrive wearing boardies and flip flops when it’s below zero outside. In their own chilled out way, they don’t seem to care what happens next. They’re just happy to be right where they are, in whatever state they’re in. These folk almost always have big grins on their face and say g’day to everyone they pass. They’re happy chaps who will camp out in the hall until they figure out what the plan is. Coffee? Rental car? Fleece? Beer it is! One thing at a time folks. This could take a while.
They’re barely through the sliding doors. Their lighter is twitching in one hand while the other fumbles to get a cigarette ready. Their gaze is firmly on the roofline, looking for exit signs. They make a beeline for the designated smokers area and by the time they get there the cigarette is well and truly alight. You can actually see their shoulders relax as the nicotine is inhaled deeply. Now they’ve had their fix, decisions can be made about the rest of their day.
THE TRUE TRAVELER
You’ll know when you see them. They look the part and they’re prepared for anything. They love being somewhere new and you can tell it excites them to feel a little out of place. A big grin as they take in everything they’re seeing. They travel light and efficiently. A backpack with all sorts of things dangling from it. Water bottle, sneakers, travel pillow. Everything they have on them is probably all they’ll have on them for quite some time. They head right for the public bus queue that’s headed to the centre of town.
They’ve been traveling for a while, possibly days. Their eyes are bugging out, they’re caffeinated and a bit on edge. Adrenalin is really what’s keeping them going at this point. The moment they stop it’s game over. Their steps are steady but slow, fatigue obvious in their eyes as they struggle to see in the harsh lights of the terminal. They stop to ask for directions, but their face goes blank as tired brain cells simply say ‘no’. They move along, hoping for the best.
All sorts of different folks. All reacting in their own way to the demands of travel. Even frequent flyers have bad days when they’re on the move.
And whether you’re greeted by the residents of an entire city, or no one at all, there’s no disguising your state of mind when you walk through those doors. And you can guarantee there’s a friendly driver there somewhere, watching your every move.
So when you’re next heading to your local airport, go a little earlier. Find a good seat, grab a coffee and enjoy the show. You won’t be disappointed.
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