Our team at Passported loves to travel, but we universally despise airports. So we were surprised to read this love letter to DC’s Reagan National from Mindful Return founder Lori Mihalich-Levin, who admits to spending time at the airport simply for fun. Has she lost her mind? Or is she seeing something we’re not? We say the latter: thanks, Lori, for putting a positive spin on one of our least favorite aspects of family travel.
Having recently returned from work travel, I’ve got airports on the brain. But not because they help you get from here to there. Rather, because of their magical power over my children (and ultimately, over me). Unsurprisingly, my two- and four-year old boys are into all things transportation. So we basically present them with nirvana when we: (1) Drive to the metro and park our car. (2) Ride the metro to our local airport. (3) Ride the (free!) shuttle bus around to all the terminals at the airport. And then (4) spend hours watching the planes take off from the area outside of security.
What could be better for the little-person crowd? Free entertainment (okay, so sometimes we drive there and pay some hourly parking, and National Airport now has Ben’s Chili Bowl, so a hotdog might be part of the deal, but pretty cheap at any rate), long hallways for running on rainy days, friendly people at the information desks, rocking chairs, people-watching, the list goes on. And this fun activity doesn’t have to be an outing reserved for stir-crazy weekends at home. You can take this show on the road. A few months ago, we were visiting family in New Jersey. We were driving from our hotel to visit cousins one morning, when we found ourselves remarkably early. (This was the phase when our then-1 year old woke up at 4:30am ready to go for the day, without fail, so getting anywhere early in the morning was no problem.) Where to kill time, we wondered? And then immediately asked ourselves, “Hey, is there an airport around here?” It turns out there was a small, local airport nearby, with tons of little private planes ripe for the watching.
But what about for YOU? Doesn’t the airport conjure up feelings of stress and hassle? Not if you’re not getting on a flight! Think about it—no luggage, no tickets, no security line, and most importantly, your flight can’t be delayed, and you can’t be late. And what does this have to do with a mindful return to work? I’ve discovered that our family airport adventures are a perfect time and place for me to be truly, fully present. To leave the chores at home and my work to-do lists behind. And to camp out in a rocking chair at Terminal A while watching my kids be mesmerized by those giant flying machines. These trips have also changed my perspective when I do have to travel for work, because I can now appreciate the airport for the good memories I’ve associated with it. I also approach them with more calm, because I know the layout better and feel more at home.
My oldest son and I have a ritual of asking one another what we like best about the other person, as I put him to bed at night. Without fail, every single night for the past few weeks, his answer is: that you take me to the airport. If you have little people in your life, and you’re in need of a break for both them and for you, I commend to you the airport. Just don’t pack your bags.
Lori is the founder of Mindful Return, aimed at supporting women in their transition to work from maternity leave.