“You’re going to D.C. ?” a coworker of mine cheerfully asked after she overheard me sharing the news with our boss.
It was an otherwise quiet day at the office and the entire team was finishing up projects, looking forward to the start of the weekend. As the afternoon sun filled the narrow hallway separating two rows of workstations, as if on cue, we left our seats and gathered by the window to take in the warm rays. “You’re always jetting around! Didn’t you just travel somewhere?” she added with a laugh. The others nodded in agreement, then went on chatting about their own weekend plans. I stood there, looking at the street outside and squinting in the sunlight, my coworker’s words echoing in my head. “Jetting around… ” She was referring to a few recent trips I had taken, but to me the phrase meant more than that. It brought back childhood memories of traveling with my family, including that of sitting on a plane minutes before takeoff, patiently waiting for my first flight to begin. I was less than 3 years old.
We were on our way from Poland, my home country, to Iraq, set to spend winter holidays with a family member who worked there on a long-term engineering assignment. I was about to experience a country much different from my own in terms of customs, language and food, and yet, I can’t recall feeling any anxiety caused by the trip. I was able to remain so calm because, most likely, at such an early age, I couldn’t have known exactly how unfamiliar my surroundings were going to be, and therefore had nothing to fear. Adding to that, I sensed that everyone at home was in good spirits leading up to the departure, and it was natural for me to feel the same. Consequently, each element of the trip engaged me.
At the Warsaw airport, I watched without complaint as our luggage was being searched at customs, eagerly waited to go through a metal detector, wondering if it would make a sound as it did for some, and curiously observed other travelers as they were boarding the plane, muscling with large carry-ons. Then, on board, I was hypnotized by the sight of buildings, people and trees quickly shrinking below, and delighted in flying through clouds that separated the drab weather below from the blue sky above. One of my favorite parts of the air journey was watching flight attendants bring out meals and then eating out of fun containers, followed by playing with airline logo-ed napkins and sugar packets. Back on the ground, I marveled at carousels carrying suitcases, and once we claimed ours, I was ready to leave the airport and see what Baghdad looked like. I had been told that it was much warmer than back home and that I would get to see palm trees. I could hardly wait to find out.
The excitement remained with me throughout the trip and, as it became apparent years later, had evolved into a perpetual drive to explore places, cultures, and cuisines. It also turned me into an air travel enthusiast and has allowed me to stay positive when faced with travel-related hassle, including crowds, schedule changes and extensive security checks. And each time I arrive at a destination, I still look forward to the moment when I get to step outside the terminal (or a train or bus station if I do not travel by air), my senses sharp in anticipation of new stimuli. Little by little, I blend in with my new surroundings, first by becoming aware of the temperature, scents and sounds, then by gradually taking notice of architecture, landscapes, cityscapes, and the way locals dress, speak and go around their day. By walking the streets or taking public transportation, visiting bookstores, boutiques, cafes and restaurants, I become linked to the place I have come to see, a tiny part of its mechanism. And while the journey may be time-limited, the connections and countless ways in which travel experiences can stimulate and enrich, are long-lasting. For these reasons, traveling has long been my hobby, a way of life, and sometimes an escape. It has also resulted in this site.
Some time after the Washington, D.C. weekend, I began to consider name options for the website and happened to recall my coworker’s playful comments. And while I enjoy traveling by various means of transportation, and stories from those trips will likely be featured here, my particular fondness for flying was a decisive factor in selecting the site’s title.
Welcome to Jetting Around.