Airports, layovers, and learning about our differences

Abraham Villarreal
3 min readJun 2, 2024
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash.

I’m writing this to you as a I sit at a funny-looking round red table constructed to promote the history of the Coca-Cola company. It’s the only place I could plug in to charge my laptop in the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. I’m on my way to Salamanca, Spain, and it’s my first time traveling overseas.

Someone told me once that the only way you can grow as a person is by traveling. You meet the kind of people you see on TV shows, and you visit cities and towns you only read about in books. Most places are at the same time somewhat like you imagined them to be and really different than you expected.

At the airport, all those people you want to get to know come together. Airports bring people together, sometimes for good and sometimes for bad, for a brief moment in time. I’ve learned a lot of life lessons during brief moments.

Like listening to conversations from the passengers sitting behind me for three hours. They talk about family and about destinations. About past travel experiences and about what they hope to learn on their next trip.

What I hear about the most is a sense of hopefulness. With all that we read and see in the news, it’s easy to think that we are at each other’s throats. Trump vs Biden, church vs schools, big cities vs small towns. We are different and it’s in our nature to see the differences.

Unfortunately, we see them and stay focused on them for too long. So long, we can’t see anything else. At the airport, our differences are a way to be interested in someone. A different language, what we pack, how we react to flight delays.

We are different from each other and that’s a good thing. Then, we chat with someone who looks and sounds like people that don’t live around us. We learn about each other. We try to find what we have in common because that’s what makes us relate.

Underneath our daily anxieties, we are looking for ways to connect. Finding out that a stranger from a strange land is really us, just dressed differently and with an accent, makes us feel better about ourselves and about others. We see in them our own human tendencies, our manners, our expressions, and our habits. When we connect with someone completely different than ourselves, we realize that what makes the world work is that we have common dreams and hopes.

We want what they want. People of all backgrounds want the same thing. And still, tomorrow, the morning news feed will remind us of how much different we are and how we are having trouble overcoming those differences.

Maybe our differences can help us solve our problems. I think one way, and you think another. Your people’s way of thinking has helped build your community, and so has mine. The people in them are different, but not the community’s purpose.

I’m glad everyone is not like me. I’m glad other people don’t have my shortcomings. I’m glad there are people out there to meet that remind me how I can do better, and be better. I’m glad there are people that I may never understand in language, in traditions, or in local customs.

Those are the kind of people that make sitting at an airport for a long layover, worth the wait.

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Abraham Villarreal

People are interesting. I write about them and what makes them interesting.