Earlier this week, I trekked up a hill. From the peak, I gazed down at the view, and then I felt like I was flying.
And mind you, I wasn’t even on a real hill.
I was merely standing on a relatively high slope in our subdivision, the highest I could be without needing a swab test, a health pass, and a confirmed hotel booking. To be honest, I’ve probably forgotten the feeling of actually flying — economy class, window seat, body squirmed into the tiny blanket provided by the airline. All I know is that I miss it.
I miss flying.
I even miss the boring hours pre-flight: the time that stretches into endlessness, the period of walking back and forth the airport, spraying on expensive perfume samples, and ordering overpriced coffee and hotdogs. And I miss the cold metal benches of NAIA, and the freedom to splay out on them by the third hour of flight delay.
Pre-pandemic, I hated the nuances of travel. I hated the struggle of getting my passport out of its pretty (but otherwise useless) cover. I hated proffering eye contact with immigration officers. Sorry to admit this, but I also hated passengers who took their time stowing their overpacked luggage into the overhead bins.
But now, I miss everything about flying — and sometimes, this includes the passengers who elbow through armrests and kick seats from behind.
The last international flight I took was over a year ago. Thankfully, that flight entailed two layovers; but for full disclosure, I can only be thankful about the generosity for airports now that I’m officially robbed of the experience until who knows when. In my ignorance back then that Such A Pandemic could truly happen, long-haul flights were something I dreaded. Nowadays, I would kill to step foot in an airport again, even just to grab a cup of coffee, read a book, and
pretentiously patiently wait for my plane to arrive.
I really miss boarding planes.
I miss the sound of suitcases trundling along the jetway floor. My nostalgia has even led me to miss the struggle of lifting luggage up the airstairs, while in a dress, on a particularly windy day. I miss looking out the window and gazing into the clouds (or the aircraft wing, if I failed to pick a good seat). I miss fumbling with the plane’s safety brochures and magazines. And smiling at flight attendants and other kind-looking strangers. And ordering wine and coffee and ginger ale (and then antacids to combat all those beverages).
Yes, I also miss airplane food. I miss ordering fish or beef or chicken, and then receiving a packed meal that I would proceed to open with too much excitement. I miss walking like a drunk on my way to the aircraft bathroom, panicking on my way back to my seat as the seatbelt sign turns on too early.
Safe to say, I just really miss flying.
We live in a time of travel desperation.
The thirstiest of us frequently scroll through our old travel photos, trying to relive the days where spontaneous flights and budget trips were actually feasible. Now, we see our incapacitated passports and long for the day that we would finally stop using them as mere valid IDs.
Weeks before lockdown, I was granted a multiple-entry visa to Japan. I applied for it on a whim, with my colleague who had never had a visa granted before. We both got approved: me, my first multiple-entry visa; him, his first visa ever. It was an overwhelming feeling, as all visa approvals are. We were on top of the world. And we immediately splurged on hotel food to celebrate the occasion (not knowing then, of course, that we wouldn’t see each other again in the year to come). That hefty lunch was, sans our knowledge, a despedida. After that, we flew into this apocalyptic parallel universe where travellers were no longer allowed to travel.
All this said, I know that yearning to travel is a privilege.
In the first year of COVID-19, I had realised that my missing travel was, so to speak, a first world problem. And while this still holds true, I still miss travelling; the misery of our world doesn’t mean I have to dismiss my grief.
Also read: Amid COVID-19, We Still Believe in Travel
Most days, I’m heartbroken over the pandemic and that alone. But some days, like today, I just really miss the little things of the Before Times, like booking flights and boarding planes. And I guess expressing the distress is necessary. So you can expect that I will continue to talk about missing airports and airplanes and airplane food, until we go back to normal and I can finally move beyond trekking makeshift hills and posting #throwback travel photos. You’re welcome to do the same, too.