The Story of My Passport
I’m not going to say that my passport is a record of my travels, because it’s not. My passport was never stamped during my frequent travels in the Schengen Area, so at best it’s an incomplete reminder of some of the places I went to. However, because I always hold my passport either in my hand or in my pocket when traveling by air, it is a powerful visual-temporal token that reminds me of the airports that I’ve been to.
Keflavík International Airport (KEF), Iceland: I’ve always flown WowAir here, and I found Icelandic people to be well-composed. As for the airport, it is beautiful, well-organized, modern, and well-designed. I once went from the front door of the airport to my gate in less than seven minutes. Food is way too expensive though.
Copenhagen Airport (CPH), Denmark: I passed here frequently each weekend when I traveled in the fall. I remember being totally unorganized when first arriving and was saved by other international students at DTU (Technical University of Denmark) that I met. I didn’t draw any cash so I couldn’t pay for the bus to school the first day, but the driver let me on anyways. I think this is because it was clear that I was a unorganized, lost foreigner, and scandinavians culture is tends to value hospitality.
Istanbul Ataturk Airport (IST), Turkey: I flew through here when visiting my friend Orkan, who is from Istanbul. The place is an absolute madhouse. The free wifi only lasted for 2 hours and you needed cell phone service to use it, so I couldn’t really use my phone to contact anyone. I waited in the customs line for more than 2 hours, and it was so hot from all the people I was sweating from just standing there, even though it was fricken December. I wasn’t aware that I was supposed to get a Visa, which was careless of me, but somehow they let me in anyways. My guess is that the security wasn’t strict or well organized, which I saw as a reflection of the Turkish administration; it probably also helped that I had a US passport. Leaving the airport, I had to go through two fricken security lines (one just to get in the airport), where there were guards with automatic weapons walking around.
Vilnius Airport (VNO), Lithuania: Lithuania is a small country, and VNO is an appropriately small airport. But is literally designed like a mansion. The building was clean, fancy, high-tech, and well-run. It is absolutely my favorite airport.
Overall, I found that airports tend to reflect the countries that they’re in. KEF and CPH were well-organized and well-decorated with great infrastructure, which is consistent with the scandinavian focus on design and their wealth. IST was hectic, crowded, and older, much like the streets and buildings in Istanbul. VNO was small but clean, much the city of Vilnius. I think often (not always) you can get a good feel of what a country is like just through your experience at the airport. In writing this piece, I felt that reminiscing about these locations made me start to daydream about my times there.