Traveling Just Isn’t What It Used to Be

I’m trying to remember if I ever really enjoyed traveling other than when I was a child and rode in Pullman cars from New York to Chicago and back again. I did enjoy those trips, but the trains were all I knew. I grew up on the railroad, which was my father’s world. It never occurred to me that travelers would abandon the rails for the friendly skies. And, as I recall, they were friendly way back when, and the airports were kind of glamorous. We got dressed up to fly in those days. It was as if a travel day was a special event.

Fast forward to 2023. Going to the airport is no longer a special event; it has become something I would prefer to avoid if I could. Of course, a lot of years have gone by since the early days of air travel. Many things have changed. Now, there are more people, more planes, and more lines to stand in …. more security and rules meant to protect us … more delays and cancellations …more charges for just about everything. And as a testament to our aging population, more wheelchairs pushed at warp speed through the concourses and then lined up against a wall to wait for boarding

At the other end of the spectrum, there is less legroom, no meals, and often not even a snack. It’s a sad state of affairs, at least from the perspective of this older person. I will admit that I never did much traveling except for one period of my work life. Other than the airline losing my luggage every time I flew to Philadelphia, it wasn’t too bad. In fact, I loved the places I got to visit, including New York, Washington DC, the Poconos, and other locales that were new to me.

Perhaps if I had been a seasoned traveler as my sister was, I would take the inconveniences and discomforts in stride, but each time I plan a trip I am more aware of how the whole experience has deteriorated. To be fair, the weather is crazy and wreaks havoc on any attempt to make a plan and see it through. Add to that the difficulty of getting around an airport in a wheelchair, which is my current mode of transportation, and one can understand my reluctance to fly.

Security is my undoing. The good news is that I am pushed to the front of the line by a solicitous red cap and I no longer have to take my shoes off; the bad news is that something about me always necessitates a complete pat down by a TSA agent. I cannot imagine what this person is expecting to find. I always pass, but it is such a hassle.

Then, of course, there is the plane, which is often too hot or too cold. The seats seem to get smaller with each flight, or the person who sits next to me seems to be larger. Putting my carry-on in the overhead bin would be an impossibility were it not for my ability to stop a healthy-looking man in his tracks with a helpless look on my face. Since Covid isn’t over and I am in every risk category, I am still wearing a mask, which renders me breathless for more than two hours. There is more to the list but I already sound like a crotchety old lady, so I will stop.

Traveling alone is difficult, and since there is no particular place I want to go, I keep whatever wanderlust I may still have safely tucked away and fly only when I must.