Airport Sleepers Un-Anonymous. I'm in Berlin!
Reading time: 6 min
Greetings from Berlin,
I’ve just ordered what I think will be naan, curry and falafel by pointing at what other people are eating. Rude maybe, but the menu at this local spot is written in both (& only, tuhhh) German and Dutch. Neither of which I’ve learned a lick of (their alphabets are crazy) and ironically, I like when parts of a city don’t bother catering to English speakers. Normally means the food’s better too.
Back on the road now (a week in), I’ve traveled to countries number 18 (England) and 19 (Germany) on my personal list. I'm taking an extended inspiration break from painting so I’d like to channel my creativity into writing the next few months. Or another art form, but probably writing.
*Starts to write when, suddenly, a warm naan the size of a large pizza appears*
My waitress confidently says to let her know If I want another naan after this one.. Maybe she sees an imaginary person next to me that has an appetite too?
After spending a few cold and exciting days in London, I bought a flight to Berlin. I don’t plan ahead that well so booking last minute transit is my forte. By no means am I bragging though because this practice normally lands me a middle seat on a 6 am flight. On a related note, I’ll admit that I regularly sleep overnight at airports. I’ve done this at least a dozen times so I consider myself an experienced airport squatter. Google the word if you think I’m talking about my leg workouts, because I’m not.
Sleeping at the airport adds to the experience though! Especially if you’re not pressed for time. I’ve done a lot of life thinking while zombieing around the terminals. Full gratitude sets in when you realize you’re at the nucleus of travel. Planes landing and taking off at all hours. Passengers passing thru every which way around the globe.. to go on living in the next destination.
If you’ve never stayed overnight in an airport, I completely understand why. I’m not suggesting it nor am I saying it’s on my humble-backpacker list of things to do. I’m writing this for you to have the perspective of someone that has done this warrior move though (and considers it a shaping part of the journey). So keep reading.
Observations worth mentioning: There aren’t too many departure times between midnight and 5 am. Once you get past the 12 am mark, it’s safe to assume all the people around you will be there overnight. Some have missed their flights so they’re grumpy and hadn’t planned to be here with you in the first place. Others (like me on the way to Berlin) want to save 25 euro (cost of a hostel in London) and also avoid trying to navigate to the airport under the moonlight. I don’t really want to be on my way anywhere at 4 am, let alone walking and on trains in a foreign country. Safer to go ahead of time.
Perhaps, 6 am flights are a daily lure for people to sleep there and buy food. Bored eating is a thing. Dear Airports, my name is Caroline and I’m the statistic you want. I always plan to sleep but never do and I eat your snacks from the store that sells magazines. That’s me. The money I didn’t want to spend on accommodation? Ya, it goes to your airport food. You’re welcome.
Here’s where things get serious though,
There’s always a loose hierarchy between the overnight airport dwellers. Nobody probably notices but I do.
Highest class (never me): the people that don’t need to check a bag so they get to go straight thru security and sleep in the nice parts of the airport !!! omg, I envy these people. They have better food options, places to lay down and TVs around. They also can sleep in later because checking a bag and going thru security is not on their morning agenda. They’re the golden eggs, with little responsibility but to wake up and find their gate.
Middle class (me if I’m on my A game): So these people aren’t past security and they do have a bag to lug around, but they have found a chair or bench to inhabit for the night. Sure, there are seat vultures around waiting for you to show signs of weakness but if executed correctly, you’ll be fine. Even better if you have or make a friend that can watch your stuff while you take a lap at 2 am just because. One time in Bali, no-friends-me used nearby cones and marked off a bench with yellow tape just so I could sneak away and brush my teeth. It was the perfect decoy and I wasn’t gone long enough for anyone to challenge it. My precious, freezing metal bench.
Lower class (younger, novice me): Floor sleepers. They’ve either arrived late after all the chairs have been claimed or they’ve given up their seat because a power outlet is in the hallway to the bathroom. You think laying down may be a perk but often security will monitor this and not allow you to be horizontal on the floor and airports can be filthy. Worse even, a lot of airport walls have that metal rail at the bottom denying back support during a ground sit.
No matter which class though, we all look forward to one very important thing. You’re thinking it’s the flight and the getting to the next location, but it’s not. Keep in mind, some people don’t want to go to where they’re going.
It’s something far more rewarding (in a small way) than that,
A hot shower.
Once I arrived to Berlin Schönefeld Airport, stamped my passport and found baggage claim.. I had to take 2 trains to the city center, check-in at my hostel and find breakfast. Then, the much desired shower.
As I washed off cold London, an airport sleep and the memory of an old Danny DeVito looking British man playing harmonica next to me at 3 am last night,
I felt relief. A calmness that I have come to really love when traveling. I made it to the next city / country / location and I’m clean and soon to be cozy in a nice bed. Spending a night in an airport on the way only makes the contrast of the experience that much sweeter.
With humor and love,