I’m a big advocate of crying. It’s quite a release. Generally, though, I prefer private crying, so I can just get it all out while I’m alone, and then deal with the source of the crying later, after my face has deflated completely. However, I’ve found lately that airports, where privacy is at a minimum, can bring out a wide variety of tears.
Personally, my main crying triggers are sadness, obviously, exhaustion, and frustration, and time spent in airports make up a perfect storm of all three. Goodbye tears are among the most widely recognized of airport cries, and, in my opinion, are the easiest to deal with as well. In these cases, you’re usually dealing with sadness only, and there should be at least one other person there crying with you, so y'all get to look pathetic together. You can also make these episodes last however long you want, and I tend to shorten them as much as possible. For example, after I checked by bag to go back to France at the end of my two weeks at home for the holidays, my parents and I all started choking up as soon as I doled out the first goodbye hug. So I essentially fled the scene and scurried straight on to security, trying not to look back at where I knew they were waiting so I wouldn’t tear up more and endure the pitiful gazes of all the TSA officers when, on top of it all, my steel-implanted spine inevitably set off the metal detectors.
After that, you wave goodbye again on the other side of security, use up another tissue, and go off to find your gate. For me, my brain goes to travel mode at that point, which basically means I’m so worried about my various layovers and transfers that I’m no longer thinking about the sadness of the goodbye. One exception to this is the rush of emotion one sometimes feels as the plane takes off, when you’re thinking that this is it, now you’re really leaving. This happened when I was leaving France at the end of my 8 months studying abroad last year, and the secret is to just have long, dark hair to serve as a privacy curtain while you stare out the window and the tears sneak on down. Works like a charm every time, as long as you’ve planned ahead and stuffed your pockets with enough tissues, which, of course, I always do.
Crying as a result of travel complications, however, is much, much worse in the moment. In this case, you’re alone, you’re exhausted, and you’re frustrated, as opposed to just feeling exceptionally sad, as was the case with the goodbye crying. There is not an equally sad person there to cry with you and therefore validate your tears, so you make both airport agents and innocent passersby visibly uncomfortable. The answer to this problem is not to wait anxiously at the gate, starving for lunch but unwilling to go around the corner and pay too much for food, as I did three weeks ago, upon hearing that the first of three flights to get me home for Christmas had been cancelled. Unsurprisingly, hunger makes the situation much worse, and it turns out that a 2 euro waffle from the vending machine will not help much. In fact, realizing that this is what will serve as your lunch for the day makes the situation seem much sadder. Long hair, however, does still come in handy as a privacy measure while you stare at the floor and sniffle.
Instead, the right answer is to treat. yo. self. When you’re stuck staying overnight in Amsterdam instead of getting home when you thought you would for a warm reunion dinner with your family, it’s time to take a big warm bath in that airport hotel, make hot chocolate while watching Masterchef Kids in Dutch, milk that dinner voucher for as much food as possible, and accept a breakfast box for the morning even though you’ll be returning to the airport too early to be any kind of hungry. Similarly, when your flight back to Paris has been delayed over an hour while you sit on the tarmac convinced you’ll miss your connection, just go ahead and spend $9 on a Heineken if you can. Sure, it may go against all your personal convictions to allow yourself to be that ripped off for a beer, but you’re alone and everything sucks, so go on ahead. Buy two.
The one upside of travel complication cries is that you'll end up where you're going, and the stresses of it all eventually just fizzle out into a nice you'll-never-believe-what-happened-to-me anecdote. Goodbye cries, however, have some lingering feelings that can take longer to get over depending on the intensity of the relationship and the finality of the goodbye in question. It may be a bit before these start to feel like good party chatter.
But ultimately, whether it's a doozy of a goodbye or a tidal wave of travel stress, it's not like crying will hurt anything--airports are basically built for it, and the employees have seen it all. So just get it all out; go ahead and cry. It's what I always do.