It's all about the bubbles. They make everything better. They make it all more enjoyable.
You might be having the worst travel day of your life. You might have had to rush out of work to get to the airport, or have just realised you completely forgot to pack any socks, or have had your deodorant confiscated at the x-ray machines, or been stuck in a security queue that looks like the ticket line for a Justin Beiber concert.
But still: bubbles. Champagne. I've figured out the key to making travel enjoyable, to make it a celebration, and it comes in the form of sparkling wine.
This is a new travel ritual. My old one used to be a little less refined. Before, I'd always eat at McDonalds before a flight, because everyone knows that the calories don't count when they're consumed in an airport. I used to make a point of arriving at the airport with just enough time to grab a bacon and egg muffin or a McChicken. It wasn't classy, but it was fun; a little something to mark the fact that here I was, about to jump on another plane and go somewhere amazing.
Other friends of mine have had different rituals. An ex-girlfriend would always buy a copy of Vanity Fair to read on the plane. A mate would buy a paper and drink a beer. These are the habits you get into that make travel what it is, a comforting ritual to mark the experience.
Recently, however, my airport ritual has changed. The new one: a glass of sparkling wine, or champagne. It doesn't have to be good quality. It doesn't have to be drunk in fancy surrounds. It just has to be there.
This little ritual serves as a reminder that travel is something to be celebrated. There's a Pavlovian response to bubbly wine that puts you in the mindset of good things about to happen.
This ritual of wine drinking is also about stopping to remember that what you're doing is something great. Getting on a plane and flying to another part of the world? That's an amazing thing. This glass of bubbly is about taking the chance for a miniature celebration of one of life's most exciting acts.
Otherwise, it's easy for travel to become monotony. It's easy to regard it as a chore, with all of the queuing and the hassle and the expense. Not every trip away is a fun one, after all. For every long-awaited holiday there are hundreds of work trips and forced journeys that don't seem that enjoyable.
So here's the deal: pause for 10 minutes or so, and order a glass of champagne. Even if you're on your own. Toast the world and experience you're about to have. Relax and people-watch. Enjoy a nice experience in a place where everything can seem bad.
There's usually at least one decent place in any airport where you'll be able to do this (with a few notable exceptions – if you happen to find yourself in Tunis-Carthage Airport in Tunisia, for example, you'll struggle to find somewhere to purchase a bag of chips, let alone a glass of champers).
My ritual now in both Sydney and Melbourne Tullamarine airports is to head to Movida for a glass of cava and the classic Movida tapa: a Cantabrian anchovy on a crouton with smoked tomato sorbet. It costs $5 for a couple of bites of food, but it's more enjoyable than some dodgy fast food and a large Coke.
It's also the perfect way to put the rest of the airport experience behind you: the check-in queue, the line for security, the grumpy customs and immigration guy, the people everywhere who are always getting in your way.
This notion of celebrations is something you can extend, too, throughout your entire travel experience. Wherever you are in the world, whatever your reason for travelling, take a bit of time out to do something small that you enjoy. Make every day a celebration. Sit down, relax, take it in.
Stop for a glass of wine in France. Drink a coffee at a pavement café in Argentina. Go to a teahouse in Morocco. Eat something amazing in Singapore.
Make it a ritual to do something like this every day you're away. Even if you're travelling alone, even if you're there for work, do something that brings you joy, at least for a small amount of time.
Maybe it's drinking champagne, maybe it's persuading yourself you're eating guilt-free at McDonald's, or maybe it's just stopping and staring at the world.
Whatever it is, just remember that travel is fun – so you might as well celebrate.
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