Airport Hobo Life: Your ticket to happiness, with connections at Heathrow and La Guardia




Those of you who follow me on Facebook of Twitter may have noticed posts written by my alter ego, the Airport Hobo. Today I thought I’d explain who that is, so that 1) you’ll know what I’m talking about, and 2) perhaps you too can develop an Airport Hobo alter ego, should the need ever arise.

When I set out to become a writer, my objective was to earn a living without ever physically moving. But after publishing some books and articles I realized, to my horror, that we lowlier writers not only have to move about the house, but travel. A lot.

Now, I love many places that are far away from each other, but I do not consider getting there to be half the fun, or even .00000003 percent of the fun. So averse to travel am I that one day, as I packed for my seventeenth airplane trip in a month, I found myself…not myself. I had morphed into a creature designed specifically for airport travel: the Airport Hobo.

Since that day, whenever I’m called upon to fly, I find myself disappearing like Clark Kent, and Airport Hobo appearing like Superman, except that instead of being handsome and devoted to doing good, my alter ego is incredibly wrinkled (in clothing and body) and obsessed with tiny packets of snack mix.

As the name suggests, Airport Hobos are life forms specifically adapted to survive in airports and passenger jets, although small planes and ground transportation (such as taxis) are also suitable territory. You can recognize them because an Airport Hobo…

• …always carries enough travel-survival items on person to thrive even if all luggage is lost, stolen, or eaten by bears. See “kit and kaboodle,” below.


• …appears extremely patient and stoical: when plane is delayed, will lower metabolism and go into a light coma similar to hibernation.
• …can become aggressive when fighting to claim overhead luggage space.
• …has a morbid fear of babies.
• …gets through airport security lines at maximum possible speed (1 kilometer per week), despite carrying a full array of liquids and electronic equipment.
• …has a special, intimate relationship with all caffeinated beverages; may be observed pleading for them or whispering to them.
• …obsessively forages for electricity; will crouch for hours near any wall with a “hot” outlet, hoarding power in various appliances.
• … actively discourages conversation with other travelers; may feign language deficit or death to avoid chatting on planes.
• …walks with a forward-leaning stance, as if climbing a steep hill (and adaptation that developed to roll luggage).
• …speaks Airplane fluently (for example, the standard Airport Hobo phrase for making sexual overtures is, “Please be careful when opening overhead bins, as items may have shifted during takeoff and landing”).

Like Batman’s magical belt and Wonder Woman’s awesome pushup bustier. Airport Hobo’s outfit confers superpowers uniquely adapted to airport life. The basic outfit (kit) is pictured above. It includes:

• Cash. The lifeblood of travel. Most Airport Hobos, as shown here, try to carry at least thirty billion dollars in local currency at all times.

• Boots. For kicking off and slipping on. While another traveler unlaces and reties one pair of sneakers, Airport Hobo can take off and put on boots 12 to 15 times, and often does, to the amazement of other passengers and security personnel.

• Cheap sunglasses. These disguise Airport Hobo’s true identity, can be replaced at low cost when lost, broken, stolen, or offered as peacekeeping token to Airport Hobo’s most feared natural enemy: Babies.

• Scarf. The scarf is crucial equipment, as it can be loosened in a stuffy airplane parked at a gate, or used as a blanket once the plane is in flight through cold air. Airport Hobo can also drape it over his/her own face to discourage conversation or hide from babies.

• Passport holder. This is the Airport Hobo power source, as crucial as life itself. If an Airport Hobo loses this item, the next step is to jump out of a plane during flight. Holds cash and credit cards, as well as spare dental floss and a few gumdrops for bribing babies.


• Dried instant coffee. Can be used according to label, or offered as a sacramental tribute to Earl, the God Of Turbulence, Runway Traffic, and Unhappy Babies, or Jolene, the Goddess Of Those Tiny Lights In The Cockpit That Always Blink On at the Last Minute Before Takeoff And Prevent On-Time Departure. Dried coffee can also be eaten in jet-lag emergencies.

• Vest. This is actually a piece of luggage in disguise. Multiple pockets can carry enough supplies (kaboodle, see below) to keep Airport Hobo comfortable should flight attendants confiscate roll-aboard luggage, run out of coffee, or mutiny.

• Raincoat. Again, wearable luggage. Except for brief “dry” episodes at security stations, pockets hold bottles of water. An Airport Hobo with fully water-laden raincoat is able to travel tens of thousands of miles without stopping to hydrate, many times further than your average, non-flying camel.

In addition to the basic kit, Airport Hobos carry optional items (kaboodle) which may include:

• Electrical adaptors from around the globe, including mechanisms that plug directly into lightning bolts.

• Extra spoons.

• Oven mitt. This is of no known use to Airport Hobo, but this specific Hobo received it as a gift in a swag bag at an Oprah Magazine event, and kept it because of the basic philosophical position of all Airport Hobos, which is: You Never Know.

So the next time you travel, keep an eye out for Airport Hobos! Have no fear, they are usually non-aggressive (except near overhead luggage space, see above). On the other hand, use common sense: remember that Airport Hobos are antisocial, and will run into restroom stalls if pursued by a conversationalists or babies. Now, if you’ll forgive me…

Airport Hobo pack now. Go fly in plane. Please Earl make all babies go sleep.

0 replies
  1. Marie Miller
    Marie Miller says:


    (or !!!EARPLUGS!!!! if you are wearing them).

    How could you forget Earplugs???

    I would give up all that kit and kaboodle. God spare my earplugs.

    I have wandered completely in a zombie-like trance through the length of JFK, Heathrow, you name it. With earplugs everything is a nice, sweet, soft melodic, muffled background, just loud enough so that I can notice any imminent harm about to come to me. I can live in my happy little internal world where all is calm, peaceful and beautiful. The action around me takes on a beautiful, magical synergistic dance. It’s better than drugs and an easier state to come out of quickly.

    Critical at times of impending headaches.

    No one makes me angry, the blasting announcements every 5 seconds don’t bother me, the annoying bleeping torture trolleys in Atlanta Airport don’t phase me …. even those darling screaming babies.

    Earplugs (and facemask) are in my front jeans pocket accessible within seconds ….. all is well.


  2. Ann
    Ann says:

    True, so very very true. I find myself dressing for comfort, because “nobody knows me here”. And you have to be prepared for basically anything!

  3. Becky Wern
    Becky Wern says:

    You left out baby wipes. While it is good to avoid babies, it is excellent to carry baby wipes. They can get out almost any stain without causing a mess, AND allow you to wipe your hands when you are worried about ick!

  4. Debbie Baillie
    Debbie Baillie says:

    Oh Martha, you do make me laugh! Thanks! I don’t travel quite as much as you obviously do, but most of your points really hit home – especially the baby bit!!

    May you always know peace when you travel!

  5. Cathy Boyd-Withers
    Cathy Boyd-Withers says:

    Love this! Airport Hobo, you are my new guru. You are an inspiration to us all – a shining example of – something, I’m sure… Oops – Earl – where’s that coffee, to fling/hurl? (let’s all hurl for Earl…)

  6. Titi Maria
    Titi Maria says:

    Oh, Martha, why didn’t I see this BEFORE my holiday to Poland! It was a nightmare. Along with everything else that went wrong, they delayed our flight for 2 days without warning and we ended up in a hostel in a seedy part of town. Funny, I don’t think my husband will ever argue with me again about my “just in case” items. I used to look forward to traveling and now I absolutely hate it. And the babies? -sheesh! I’m bookmarking this blog and will refer to it whenever I go on holiday. I seriously need a better “kit and kaboodle” than the one I’ve been using. Will be forwarding it to hubby.

  7. Lesley
    Lesley says:

    Oh, this post is gloriously funny. I’ve decided I’m also going to become an Airport Hobo from now on when I travel.
    Also, where are you going? Please be coming back to South Africa! It’s spring here, the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming… and I absolutely have to meet you one day!

  8. Paul Hardy
    Paul Hardy says:

    Hahhh!!! Big belly laughs all through the post!!! Martha: you are one of the funniest people I’ve ever met! I wasn’t quite so hip to the degree which you fear babies in an airport setting.

  9. Jody
    Jody says:

    Too funny! I will have to keep these in mind as we live in a VERY small country so ANY time we want to travel, we have to get on a plane!!! I like the coffee suggestion. I am a coffee hound and can never get a good cup, but maybe if I bring my own and ask for hot water, it will provide some much needed comfort on the journey.


  10. QuinnCreative
    QuinnCreative says:

    A big laugh, filled with truth. I’d add travel-size duct tape, which holds the world together (never use on babies, it irritates parents), chewing gum (calms nerves, clear ears in flight, freshens coffee breath), lip balm (can be used as lipstick and emergency blush with a lipliner, also works on squeaky hotel doors), and tiny tube of hand cream (massage into fingertips while plain isn’t taking off to prevent hangnails and subsequent chewing of hangnails.)

  11. Lola
    Lola says:

    The things I never travel without: Roughly 4 copies of my passport, visa/s, invitation letters, proof of income, proof of address, proof of address and reference letters from 2 friends in the destination country, vaccination certificates, proof of emplyment and bank statements. This is the burden you bear if you travel on a Third World passport, people. Basically anything that I can think of that will convince the nice customs officer that I am actually not interested in staying indefinitely in his country without consent, because I – amazingly enough for a poor backwards native – have a nicer home and better job to go back to.
    Good thing I’m not bitter or anything…

  12. Kathleen
    Kathleen says:

    Martha – Now you can get stretch shoe laces for your sneakers and slip them off and on quickly also. My friend gets sneakers for her daughter that look like keds and all they have is “permanent” stretch shoe laces. No tying involved. Then I read a tip in a travel magazine that they are great for adults too if you travel but want to wear your “tennies”. . . . loved the article. Loved the photos.


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