Shoutout to all of my stopovers: places I have physically been in, but not officially to. This is another category of travel, like group tours, with weirdly vivid and specific memories attached despite a generally passive experience on my part. Something about catching a glimpse of a place through the window, at a strange time of day, in a disoriented stream of sleep deprivation, makes these moments memorable.
I remember stopping in Dakar to refuel on the way to Johannesburg and seeing the nearly-complete “African Renaissance” on a hilltop near the airport. Passengers weren’t allowed off the plane during the 1-hour stop, and I remember feeling antsy to move and anxious that I would forget to remember to look up this giant monument when I was back in internet range a few weeks later (I remembered).
I remember when the cheapest flight from Winnipeg to Seattle stopped in Calgary and Vancouver along the way, and I got to experience one of my favorite, rare travel things: flying domestically, internationally. Shocking no one, I realized not being massively jet-lagged and hassled by customs and security agents every 10 feet makes foreign airports way more pleasant. Even the group of Canadian middle schoolers on their way to Ireland for spring break were mellow at the gate, knowing this was not yet their big international flight (their teacher explained that it was also cheaper for them to fly through Calgary).
I remember spending a solid 60 of my 90 minutes in Dubai just walking from security to my departure gate. I stopped on a bench partway through to re-tie my shoe, when an airport crew on a golf cart asked me to move so they could take the bench away (presumably to replace it with a newer, better bench later). I think I saw more people in that hour than I had in my entire six months in Namibia. Once I finally got to an empty, stationary bench near my gate, I stress-ate some of the Namibian candy I was carrying back as gifts (sorry, friends).
I remember the first time the ferry stopped moving after sailing past the coast of British Columbia for two days. It was the same landscape of mountains and water that I’d been seeing the whole time, but this scene was standing still.
Image: Morning in Ketchikan, Alaska Marine Highway, November 2015