If only getting to Brussels didn't involve getting on an airplane. What with the luggage fees, carry-on restrictions, demeaning, assembly line-ish removing-of-the-shoes security, and the lack of any decent in-flight service, flying becomes less and less pleasant every time I do it. That would be bad enough on its own, but on top of being wholly uncomfortable, air travel is also downright scary. I've never felt at ease at 30,000 feet, and this week's story of violent turbulence isn't helping. For some travelers, the skies are anything but friendly.
The aforementioned realities of flying explain why, when given the option, I much prefer to travel by train. Taking the Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) in France, for example, is downright enjoyable. You can show up as little as five minutes before your departure time, there are no security lines, there are no liquid carry-on restrictions, the seats have more legroom and are only two to a side, not three or more, there is usually a bar car for your enjoyment, and an upgrade to first class is often very reasonably priced. Now, some might argue that the absence of security checkpoints is not a positive thing, or that flying is not scary at all when you remember that riding in a car is far more likely to get you killed and we do that all the time without really worrying about it, but I disagree. I enjoy boarding a train with my dignity in tact (as well as my shoes), and I don't care what the statistics say; I feel better without the possibility of plummeting to my death hanging over me, however minuscule that possibility might be.
Alas, if one wishes to travel, one will at some point likely need to ride in an airplane. The best those of us who despair at the thought can do is to minimize the headaches of flight: try not to check bags, wear easily removable shoes, and take deep, reassuring breaths when the ride gets a little bumpy. It should be said that I've also met travelers who turn to medicinal solutions, the non-over-the-counter kind. And for goodness' sake, whenever possible you should avoid purchasing tickets that require you to change planes. I'm happy to report that my flight from DC to Brussels is blessedly direct.