Travel Angels

The holidays are a challenging time for a plethora of reasons, but one of the most stressful situations this time of year is travel. Just thinking about security lines, short tempers, heavy luggage, and people coughing and sneezing in confined spaces is enough to make anyone draw the blinds, turn on Netflix, and cancel the festive season.

For those of us who have to temporarily relocate our lives for family contentment, I’d like to share a little tip that always helps me get through the trying travel hustle and bustle. It’s not ground-breaking, and some may find it to be a bit cliche, but when I want to tear my boarding pass in half, I try to remember to practice gratitude. One story, in particular, comes to mind when I’m ready to throw in the towel. 

Although I am an avid traveler, I also harbor an intense fear of flying. It doesn’t make sense, nor is it fair, but flying freaks me out. I’ve learned to breathe through a take-off, and landing comforts me because we’re about to be on the ground, but turbulence has me reeling like Bruce Willis in 12 Monkeys. I honestly think that we’re all going to die, and nobody knows it but me. It’s a lonely feeling.

On one holiday flight, flying home to Houston from LA, we hit a patch of turbulence. The pilot warned the flight attendants to take their seats, and the cabin grew silent. I hate that silence – the quiet before the storm. I gripped the armrests, my knuckles turning white immediately. I tilted my head back, closed my eyes, and started the Lamaze breathing. I looked like a fool, but this wasn’t the time to be vain. I was a mess.

My seat neighbor, a sweet middle-aged man, began to talk to me. He introduced himself as Jose and asked if I was OK. I told him I was not. He continued to tell me a story about his son who needed a new kidney, and they luckily found a donor. He was on his way back from visiting the family whose child had died and was a match so Jose’s son could live. The story was so moving and made me forget about the turbulence and my mortality. As a matter of fact, by the end of the story, the bumps had subsided, and I had made a new friend. 

I always thought that Jose was so kind to share such a personal story about his family while this dramatic woman was hyperventilating beside him. He could have ignored me, rolled his eyes, or thought that I was overreacting, but instead, he shared a part of himself that helped me get through a traumatic experience. 

So if you’re like me, and you have to deal with complicated holiday travel, remember to take a breath when things get aggravating. Whether you’re stressed, scared, or tired, be thankful for the things that you do have, and if you see someone else going through a hard time, maybe you can be their travel angel – like Jose was for me.

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