Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The Airport Sleeper

Sleeping in BRU Airport in July 2019

I used to sleep at airports quite often. Once, In 2013, I flew from Stockholm to Lisboa and had an overnight layover in Zurich. Since it is night, I realized I could not do anything if I go to the city. I had a flight in the morning anyway. So I stayed at the crowded airport and witnessed it turned empty as shops started closing by midnight. Lisboa (LIS) and Brussels (BRU and CRL) are the other airports I have spent more nights. LIS is because the last metro arrives at the airport around 1 a.m, and the first one arrives around 7 a.m. So earlier flights, I had to leave the night before. Due to my frequent travels, LIS airport even felt like a second home to me. I mean, that was the location second to my house where I had spent most nights in Portugal. 


I intentionally spent some nights in CRL and BRU in 2017 when I did not have a proper apartment amid several short stints, back and forth between Lisboa and Brussels. With COVID19 spreading rapidly, sleeping at the airports has become a distant reality. But I believe we will eventually go back to the normal, and then I can consider the airports my second home again.


When I spent one night camping for the first time, I was quite confident that it should be a piece of cake. If I can sleep literally on the airport's hard floor or weirdly shaped chairs with my head resting on my backpack and feet on the suitcase, sleeping in a sleeping bag in a tent should be a piece of cake. Although both sleeping at airports and sleeping in a tent both give you discomfort, they are different.

My tent in the camping site
First, airports have electricity and closer access to the water, with hand soap (usually). The campsite we went to had a nearby washroom with a shower, also with hand soap. So it was similar in that aspect - although I was prepared for it to not having running water. On the positive side, though, if you find the right spot, especially in a good airport, you may have access to electricity and strong wifi. Some airports offer better sleeping arrangements for free, although sometimes you may end up sleeping on the cold ground. I have seen people setting up their sleeping bags in the airport to sleep more comfortably too.

The camping grounds give more privacy as you have your tent. You can also set the light as you prefer, whereas most of the airports tend to have bright lights most of the time. Our camping ground had a few pine cones. Although I cleared most of them, one broken one remained intact below my tent and was poking me once in a while when I moved to the side as I slept.

One good thing about sleeping in airports is, of course, most of the airports still at least have one cafe open. So a quick bite or hot drinks are always accessible. Moreover, airports give me hope. They are part of significant life events in most of the cases for me. Either migrating, going for a conference, family reunion, or a long-expected trip. As such, sleeping in airports has remained a pleasant memory for me despite all its discomforts. Every single time. Now that the COVID19 ruins all our travel plans, I am counting days to travel again eventually. Fingers crossed.

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