Other than the fact that I'm going somewhere new and exciting, of course.
  1. Top-notch people watching
    People watching is at its best when there's a wide range of people-- from world-traveling professionals to novices who can't find their gate-- but airports offer a common theme. You can see the anticipation in every face you pass, whether they're anxious about making their plane in time or uncertain about the miracle of flight. Even the decidedly unruffled businessmen crack from time to time, and a flicker of uncertainty is the kind of honest moment and people-watcher craves.
  2. Airport employees
    Generally desensitized to the thrill of travel, mostly unimpressed by your efforts to seem effortless, these justifiably jaded travel stewards can still make an airport experience with their kindness. This morning my shuttle driver and my tsa agent both surprised me with their attentiveness, which was remarkably not trampled by the volume of people they encounter every day.
  3. Windows and light
    Having massive observation Windows at every gate serves a very immediate practical purpose, but when they're combined with numerous skylights (like the ones at Buffalo Niagra International Airport), they create a bright, airy space that distracts from the claustrophobic cabin to come.
  4. Luggage gawking
    A sub-category of people watching. I am still pretty new to traveling, and I relish an opportunity to steal some new ideas about creative or stylish ways to make my personal items more compatible with an overhead compartment.
  5. Boarding group 0
    I love watching the pilots and flight attendants board planes. The routine-bordering-on-boredom vibe they give off (even when we're taking off amid the remnants of hurricane Patricia) always provides me with a crucial reminder that people do this every day. Willingly. They get paid for this. Breathe.
  6. The descent
    Clunking down the tunnel towards the plane, between the onset of the plane-smell nausea and the flutters of anxiety, there's always a brief moment where I feel the familiar tingle in the balls of my feet and the tips of my fingers. That small taste of adventure hasn't gone away yet, and I hope it never does.