Slowly but surely, the world is reopening for travellers. As you try to remember where you stashed your passport, there are, of course, the obvious things you might have missed. Like boundary-pushing experiences that take you out of your comfort zone, meeting new friends, or feasting on your favourite street food while weaving through the backstreets of Medellín.
But as you ease back into your stride after a spell when changing county seemed as exotic as changing country, you may also find some odd pangs of nostalgia for aspects of travel you didn’t realise you liked – or, gasp, missed.
I’m not going to pretend I miss airplane food or have a yearning for passport control queues, but some of the things I have been pining for did take me by surprise.
Hanging out at the airport
Unless you’re running late – when it becomes like a terrible episode of The Crystal Maze – just being at an airport is an excuse to switch off. You have one job – get on the plane – so you can ignore emails, grab a coffee and just sit there watching the surge of humanity come and go. Better still, you can gaze at the departure boards and plot your next adventure or try and figure out who is getting on which plane just by the way they are dressed and how stressed they look. And, if you do a good enough job of switching off, you can finish off your airport experience with an intense sprint to the boarding gate.
Read more: unmissable group-travel experiences
Watching bad films on planes
There’s no point watching a classic on a plane. You’ll miss half the dialogue, a heart-breaking Oscar-winning scene will be disrupted by the captain telling you to put your seat belt on and a key plot point will be revealed just as the passenger in the window seat decides to squeeze past you for the toilet – again. So, it’s the perfect excuse to watch something trashy – something you’d never admit to watching – and if anyone asks, you can say you enjoyed an Italian arthouse classic from the 1920s because you can be sure there’ll be no follow-up questions after that.
Getting confused by foreign currencies
My love of foreign currencies started as a kid watching my dad leaf through wads of Italian lira and Spanish pesetas on holiday, miscalculating the exchange rate and believing we were incredibly rich, until he handed over tens of thousands just for an ice cream. My grasp of currency conversion hasn’t improved much over the years – sometimes with toe-curling consequences – but nothing says you’re on holiday more than holding up a piece of paper with a picture of someone you’ve never seen before and trying to work out if tipping someone with it will be a grave insult or will buy them a new house.
Picking up passport stamps
There’s something incredibly satisfying about the clunk of having your passport stamped. Admittedly, it doesn’t happen as much as it used to, but some immigration officials seem to use it as a chance to let out their stress in a frenzy of metallic thumping. And leafing through your wrinkly old passport and seeing that neat Vietnam entry stamp, a mass of barely intelligible Central Asian nation squiggles, and the three smudged insignia that just about allowed you to enter the Micronesian island nation of Nauru is a nice way to stroll down memory lane.
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Losing track of time
When you travel long haul, you can pretty much give up on time until you arrive because it means nothing to your body clock. When you land at an airport where you’re in transit, you can treat the local time with absolute disdain, just as long as you get to the departure gate in time to carry on your journey. It’s basically the only time it’s socially acceptable to order a beer at 8am because that’s what you want, even if the other customers are tucking into croissants and coffee. I’m pretty sure that’s what Einstein meant when he said that time is all relative.
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