Home to America

Airports are interesting places, don't you think? Flying home to America from Perth, Australia the other day … half way around the world … through four different airports … afforded me lots of opportunity to observe and ponder. My first thought … air travel is definitely faster than traveling on Nine of Cups. It has taken us 14 years to get to Australia and I got back to America in just 34 hours.

Layovers, within reason that is, don't bother me all that much any more.When I was traveling for business, it was a pain and a waste of time sitting in an airport for hours, but now it's less of an issue. I use the time to observe what's going on around me and check out the displays and wares that airports offer to lure bored, captive passengers into eating, drinking and buying things at escalated prices they probably wouldn't consider under other circumstances. I especially like “Duty Free” shops that charge no tax, but end up being significantly higher priced than if the tax was included. Go figure! I kind of resent the fact that they make you walk through these shops in order to get to the gates.

duty free shop

Sydney Airport is always a good place to lay over. I had five hours to check it out, so I was pretty thorough. Yes, there were all the usual upscale shops like Victoria's Secret, Coach, Ralph Lauren, Burberry and Godiva. I gave them all a pass. I prefer to browse in shops with more unique products and approaches to selling their wares. I enjoy National Geographic and the Discovery store. The Merino Shop, offering the finest in all things wool, had a great display with a bronze sheep shearing statue out front. Truth be told, I wasn't interested in the woollen products in the least, but the the bronze was pretty classy and elaborate for an airport shop. They must do okay.

sheep shearing

Australian Made featured a big kangaroo at the front entry which got my attention. They sold classic Aussie akubra hats and sheepskins, Aussie t-shirts and the usual souvenirs, but the place had a sort of kangaroo-ish flare that distinguished it from all the rest of the souvenir shops.

australian made

Beyond the shops, I love to eavesdrop on conversations as I'm walking along. Snippets of different accents, different languages drift in the air. Sometimes I pick up a word or language I recognize. Other times, I'm at a loss. Women in burkas, guys in shorts and thongs (that's flip-flops for Americans, not skimpy underwear), men in turbans and one in colorful African dress all heading somewhere.

I'm fascinated with the Departure boards that change constantly. Flights to Nadi, Dubai, Delhi, Ho Chi Minh City and all manner of exotic places including Los Angeles, which might be exotic to you if you've never been there. I want to visit them all. I wonder where everyone is going and why. Business, pleasure, home for some emergency?

departure board

Though I didn't buy any, I did see both kangaroo and crocodile jerky on offer. I preferred some Australian licorice for the trip.

kangaroo jerky