Published on January 13th, 2011 | by Charu Suri10
The “Glass Half Full Traveler”
Remember Laura and John, who were "checkmated" by the blizzard of Boxing Day?
Their canceled AA flight left them stranded in an airport hotel room for a full week, and they patiently rode the coattails of the tempest by drinking Black & Decker coffee and honing patience.
I'm not sure what I would have done. Much like every American who lives in this era of instant messages and instant gratification, I would probably have settled for a Faustian bargain in exchange for teleportation. As in, "Get me Out of Here!"
But that's the glass half-empty traveler. You see, Laura and John were really happy to get the extra time to spend with each other and to help less fortunate travelers out. As she told me over email, "I can think of worse places to be stuck in."
The poet Rilke wrote, "If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches." That quote has been stuck in my head for a while, like footprints on wet cement.
I remember my reactions when I've been stuck in airports because of canceled or delayed flights. Usually, they involved huge amounts of exasperation and shopping mindlessly for books I'd never finish in Hudson News stands.
Sometimes, when the airports are Buckingham-palace nice like the Dubai or Singapore Changi Airport, I would try to squeeze the living juice out of every minute. In Dubai, my husband and I used the airport gym (the G Force Health Club)during the two hours of transit time for just $13. At Changi, we sandwiched a movie and a city tour in between flights (we had a six hour layover).
But these were airports where there were really fun options.
Of late, I've been thinking about how importance ATTITUDE is when we travel. A good attitude is one of gratitude: we see the opportunities, the situation and no matter have pessimistic it may be, we have the power to turn the memory into a positive indelible.
Example: My Trip to the Caribbean, Circa 2000
A long time ago, I was living in London and working as a banker. The hours were long, and I felt quasi vampiric when I left the office building because it always seemed to be midnight.
European vacations being extremely generous by American standards, I managed to get two weeks off — continguously –each year. In 2000, I was scheduled to go to Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenada in my attempt at Caribbean domination, and to meet my then boyfriend (now husband) who was flying from New York City.
Well, the Gatwick Express train that I chose seemed to be jinxed and a man ended up throwing himself on the track, Anna Karenina style, and it delayed my entire airport journey. In short, I missed my plane.
I had to skip Barbados altogether, because the next flight to Barbados from Gatwick Airport on Virgin Atlantic meant I would give up four days of my vacation. Stick a fork in it, Virgin! I almost wanted to scream because after burning the proverbial midnight oil all year, I so badly wanted to end up on a nice, sandy stretch of beach in Barbados and all the galaxies had conspired to give me a negative reply.
I suppose I cried. Just a little. I mean, even in my worst case scenario analysis, I imagined that I would be stuck on the tarmac for 45 minutes or not have my morning coffee, but I didn't for a minute think I'd miss my flight because of a corpse.
Glass Half Empty situation, right?
Well, over the years, I've actually learned to look upon that incident quite fondly. Yes, fondly.
You see, I didn't know it at the time, but Matthew was burning a diamond ring in his pocket, and he was just about ready to pop the question in Barbados. But my favorite island in the world is St. Lucia, which is where I caught the next flight to.
And yes, I got engaged on Derek Walcott island, among the lush greens and sculpted Pitons. Of course, in the whole scheme of things, getting engaged in Barbados or St. Lucia seems like a very minor difference; but to someone who knows and loves her islands, it's a pretty big deal.
I ended up thanking the stars because obviously, they had a reason.
Glass Half Full Traveler.
I'm sure, in the mysterious fabric that is the world and life, we've had our ups and downs with travel (mostly ups, of course). But I'll take the positive side of life any day, because I guess I just want to have happy memories.
- Charu Suri