When does a journey truly begin? Does it start when you’re sitting at your computer, buying plane tickets and researching hotels and restaurants in faraway cities? Or is it when you’re trying to decide how many outfits you can cram into your suitcase and still have room for five pairs of shoes? For me, any journey, whether business or pleasure, begins when the automatic doors of my home base airport open and whisk me into a world of excitement, anticipation, and yes, sometimes frustration.
Like bookends on a shelf, your home airport is both the launch pad of your next great adventure and the first glimpse of return when that journey has ended. Whether you travel occasionally or you’re George Clooney in “Up In The Air”, the experience of a home base airport can be a constant and a comfort. You know that after you snake through the security line, there are familiar restaurants, bars, and gift shops awaiting you. You know just where the comfortable padded seats are, the ones with charging stations and prime views of the planes taxiing and taking off on the tarmac. You’ve located the clean bathrooms, and you know the best place to buy your preferred plane snack (trail mix with M&Ms, of course). If your flight happens to become delayed, you might grumble but now you have time for a burger and a beer at the bar of your favorite restaurant. And when you see the twinkling lights of your airport’s runway from the plane window on your return journey, you know you’re finally home.
For the past ten years, Laguardia has been my home airport. I was a New York City schoolteacher, so air travel to me meant winter breaks to visit my mother in Florida and epic European summer adventures. I lived only ten minutes from the airport, so I really considered it a beacon of home. I had my pre-flight routine: Post security in Terminal D, I’d load up from the surprisingly tasty Food Court Salad Bar and Buffet if I was attempting to be healthy, or order a decadent Custom Burger by Pat La Frieda with a fried egg on a potato roll if I was not. After my meal, I’d buy a sweet snack and some gum for the plane. Well stocked, I’d settle in at my gate, updating my Facebook announcing the start of my travels.
But life has a way of surprising you, because now my new home airport is Austin-Bergstrom International smack dab in the middle of Texas. Six months ago I followed my heart and the love of my life to Austin. I’m now a journalist and my business travels take me near and far. Adjusting to Texas was one thing, but I find myself also taking in my new home airport. There’s no Pat La Frieda but there is Salt Lick BBQ, which a girl can certainly get used to. There’s also live music “keeping Austin weird”, local favorite Thundercloud Subs, and gift shops selling up bottles of hot sauce and dry rubs. I’ve even found the comfy seats from which I can enjoy my trail mix with M&Ms, which I now buy in the largest size because hey, everything’s bigger in Texas.
The world is changing and air travel is no longer a luxury but the norm. As such, airports have upped their game to become exciting venues filled with top-notch restaurants, quirky bars, and specialty shops with local food and beverage gifts. In many ways, airports are ambassadors for the regions they represent, offering their own flavors to those who are passing through. Come along with me on this journey as I explore the food and fun of not only my new home airport but all home airports around the world. Wishing you tasty travels!
Image credit: Top Image -Joe Mabel [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0), CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Bottom Image: Lara Pasternak