Once I learned, as a novice child flyer, that I wasn’t going to fall out of the window when the plane banked, I realized that a window seat is the best place to be on an airplane. Watching the world pass by below, looking like a model in a museum, was exciting and also kind of magical.
Nowadays, practicality too often wins out over pleasure. On a long flight, when I’m traveling solo, I always want an aisle seat: no one to wake up or climb over when I have to go to the bathroom. An aisle seat in the middle section is even better, as there’s a higher chance of an empty seat next to you – no one voluntarily takes the middle seat in the middle section – and there’s a good chance you won’t have anyone climbing over you to go to the bathroom (they can go out the other way, obviously). The cost of such practicality is zero visibility of the sky outside the airplane.
But on a shorter flight, when I can avoid a visit to the dreaded lavatory, I try to get a window seat. Even after decades of flying, I still enjoy watching miniature mountains and tiny trails of rivers sweep by below me, and at night, the lights of cities glittering like jewels. On a recent flight from Naples to Munich, I saw wind turbines riding the ridges of mountains in central Italy, the blue waters of the Adriatic, the red roofs and winding canals of Venice, the grey Dolomites followed quickly by the snow-topped Alps, and finally the green fields of Germany. It was a geographic journey of epic proportions, and it only took an hour and a half.
And then I changed planes for my long trans-Atlantic flight, and I was back on the aisle. I was happy to be there – I had paid extra to ensure it – but it was missing that travel magic that the 5-year-old in me still loves.