Felicia Sabartinelli is a fifth-generation Coloradoan whose poetry and personal essays have been published in major magazines, newspapers, and anthologies. Many of her personal essays are still in wide circulation today like, My Miscarriages Ruined My Marriage, The Invisible Hierarchy of Grief which recently won a Writer’s Digest award, and I’m So Allergic, Event Fruits and Veggies Can Kill Me. When she is not writing, you can find her acting, painting, traveling the world, binge-watching her favorite TV shows, or speaking on the topics of creativity and self-realization.
Think you can’t find joy in an airport? Think again! Felicia Sabartinelli is a seasoned world traveler and once you hear her wax poetic about airports, you’ll see them and experience them differently. She explains that airports are the rarest of gems that help us to discover “a state of childlike wonderment.”
At the end of the podcast, I share something that brought me joy this week. It was a stressful and frightening one for me, and I say a heartfelt and grateful thank you to the Animal Medical Center of New York doctors and staff who saved my dog’s life when I was afraid I may have to say goodbye to him too soon.
Topics discussed in this episode:
– Felicia’s definition of joy
– The importance of finding joy during the most challenging times
– All the places to find and experience joy in an airport
– How airports are becoming a destination
– Felicia’s travels to Spain, Turkey, Iceland, Sweden, China, Alaska, Finland, Mexico, Jamaica, and Austria
– Her upcoming book, Good Girl
– Writing while traveling
– The Denver airport and the mysteries it holds
– The art of the Seattle airport
– Her upcoming Masters program in the UK
– How the joy of musicals found their footing in society after WWII
Links to resources:
– Felicia’s website – https://www.feliciasabartinelli.com
– Felicia on Instagram – @Sabartinelli
– Felicia on TikTok – @Sabartinelli
– Christa on Twitter – @christanyc
– Christa on Instagram – @christarosenyc
– Christa’s website – ChristaAvampato.com
– The Animal Medical Center of NY
The Joy of Airports with Felicia Sabartinelli
Tuesday, June 14, 2022 • 27:51 – This transcript has been edited for clarity
airport, joy, felicia, people, love, travel, pandemic, home, moment, thought, trip, world, week, christa, element, phineas, life, colorado, feel, cancun
Felicia Sabartinelli, Christa Avampato
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Christa Avampato 00:00
Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the JoyProject. I’m Christa Avampato, your host and today we’re continuing our travel theme.
Last time I shared my interview about the joy of travel planning with the delightful Dr. Edith Gonzalez, and today I’m talking to the hilarious and charming Felicia Sabartinelli about the joy she finds in airports like me, you might be saying yourself, the joy of airports feels like a stretch. I promise you after you hear Felicia wax poetic about the joy she finds in airports, you’ll start to see them and experience them differently.
I didn’t know Felicia before this interview. When I put out my random call for guests for this project on social media. Felicia was one of the first people to fill out the form. As an aside, if you’d like to submit to be on the podcast, just head over to ChristaAvampato.com/joyproject and click the button that says “Submit to be a guest on the podcast”.
The form asked the simple question, “What brings you joy?”, and Felicia wrote this:
Airports. Seriously. I love to travel. But I find such simple joy in that time between arriving to your destination and heading home. When departing for my destination, I get this surge of complete unbridled excitement, the utmost joy that to me feels like one of those rare times when I’m living in a state of childhood wonderment, where I’m dreaming of what’s to come excited of what I’ll encounter, and happy to be leaving for a new adventure. Then while at the airport heading home. There’s this moment when I’m taking in all the last few special moments of a trip. I love eating at the airport, people watching window shopping and just being present. It may sound silly, but it really does bring me joy.
Felicia, welcome to JoyProject. I’m so happy you’re here and I can’t wait to talk to you about the joy that you find in airports.
Felicia Sabartinelli 01:40
Oh, thank you. I’m so excited to talk with you. I’m like really excited. I’m having joy about it.
Christa Avampato 01:45
That’s what I like to hear. Felicia, where are you joining us from today?
Felicia Sabartinelli 01:50
I am actually in beautiful western Colorado. There’s no snow today. So it’s a great day. I think I’m like fifth or sixth generation Colorado on my mom’s side. I’ve never been skiing in my life. I snowboarded one time and I hated it. I’m probably the worst Coloradoan in the world.
What do you love about Colorado?
I grew up here. So it’s where my family is. I do love the mountains. I think it’s beautiful. We have a lot of sunshine in Colorado. I think we’re the other Sunshine State. I feel like people in Colorado are really laid back. And that suits me just fine.
Christa Avampato 02:26
What brings you joy?
Felicia Sabartinelli 02:28
Oh, okay. So I definitely have a different answer, I think than a lot of people. But first I want to say I think that there’s this notion that joy has to or needs to be like this larger than life feeling. And I think that’s because most of us, you know, especially in the last few years don’t have as much joy in our life.
And that we assume Joy needs to be a part of like a typical element like family, career, hobbies, friends.
I just personally feel that joy is that space between peace and elation, right? It’s that space, right between. And that often joy is felt in our smallest and our most like mundane of experiences for me. Yeah, I have joy when I’m with my friends and family. And I have it when I’m dancing alone in my house to my favorite music or painting. When I thought about the moments where I really feel joy outside those typical elements. It came down to airports. I love being at the airport. I really think I’m probably the only person in the world that feels this feels this way.
Christa Avampato 03:33
And is it going to the trip or coming back from the trip or both?
Felicia Sabartinelli 03:37
You know what? It’s like every element of the airport because I love traveling I travel a lot. But being at the airport, there’s this sense of peace that I have where I’m you know, once you get through security, and you’ve made it through and you’re like at your gate or you’re in the actual airport, and I feel so much joy. It’s one part being ready for the adventure ahead.
I’m surrounded by people who are like getting ready to go on vacation themselves, or they’re coming home, I’m surrounded by all these different ethnicities and languages all on this one hub. And there’s something really beautiful about that, that we don’t get in other elements of our life.
I love shopping. I always buy a book. I probably I mean I buy way too many books in general. But usually at every airport, I pick up a whole brand new book. I love dining there. Now there are art exhibits. So it’s this immersive, interactive experience. And for me, it’s that in between before everything begins, where I don’t have to think about anything. I can just feel kind of at peace in the moment and just love it so much.
Christa Avampato 04:47
I’m always terrified of missing my flight and it’s going to ruin the whole vacation because somehow I’m not going to be able to go at all. So I’ve got to get there hours ahead of time. And I agree with you that airports are a little bit like stadiums now, becoming like a destination of like. I feel like airports are definitely going in that direction also, oh, I
Felicia Sabartinelli 05:34
They finally realize that they’re somewhat of a destination. They have this opportunity where people are here for a specific amount of time. And, and how do we, you know, take care of them and entertain them. I’m a little type A probably where I love planning. And I like being at the airport early. But I am not just going because I’m afraid of what will happen. I just want to be able to have that moment of just relaxing in that space before getting on a tight plane and sitting next to strangers.
Christa Avampato 06:21
And there’s actually a lot of research that shows that be point a vacation where you actually have the most pleasure and where you get the most physical and emotional benefit is actually not the vacation itself. But it’s the planning of the vacation.
Felicia Sabartinelli 06:39
I’m doing that right now. I have a big trip coming up and I am such a nerd. I think the pandemic probably made me more introverted and more like, I just want to stay at home in my pajamas. But the other night, I spent hours planning parts of this trip and I had so much fun. I’m traveling to Spain at the end of April and then from there, I’m in Turkey for a month and then I’m in Finland for a month.
Christa Avampato 07:06
All just for enjoyment? Or are you going there to do work or research?
Felicia Sabartinelli 07:11
I’m actually writing my first book. So I’ll be in Turkey and Finland at writing residencies working on this book.
Christa Avampato 07:17
What is the book about?
Felicia Sabartinelli 07:20
It’s called Good Girl. And it’s actually a collection of essays that through my life. And the notion of realizing that I think women in particular are held to this notion of being a good girl and being a good member of society. And coming to the realization that at 37 years old I don’t like this. And I don’t want to play this game anymore. And understanding that it’s okay to let go of some moments in your life and accept others and not worry about what society thinks.
Christa Avampato 07:49
I’m also a writer and also an author and wondering, is there something about traveling to another place that puts you in a different headspace? When you’re ready, I find that I actually write well, when I’m actually in the process of traveling, like on the plane on the train on public transit. Is that part of your process?
Felicia Sabartinelli 08:08
Definitely, I actually always have a travel journal with me for every new trip. So I have a whole box of like travel journals.
Christa Avampato 08:15
Felicia, I love it.
Felicia Sabartinelli 08:18
I love it, too. I find that I write better when I’m not home. I can’t work at home very well, I get too distracted. And I mean, not just home in my physical house. But I mean the town I live in. When I’m too close to work, when I’m too close to family, it’s hard to be vulnerable in your writing, when you’re in your safe zone. So traveling and writing. Yeah, you feel like you’re more open to the experience. I’m more in touch with those feelings and emotions, and I’m able to better process them.
Christa Avampato 08:47
Does that also relate to the love of airports? Is it this idea that you’re opening yourself up to something?
Felicia Sabartinelli 08:55
Definitely. I mean, I have these moments where I’m at the airport and you know, someone might go sit in the corner away from any everybody. I like to just kind of find a spot around everyone and just kind of take it all in. I do write a lot at the airport. I write poetry when I’m at the airport, because all my thoughts and feelings are still half tied to being home, right? But I’m starting that opening process. And so I’m actually really starting to process it in a poetic way and these broken thoughts and structures
Christa Avampato 09:24
Do you have a favorite memory of an airport or something that really stands out to you of something that happened in an airport or something you saw in an airport that still sticks with you today?
Felicia Sabartinelli 09:35
I have a few. I was thinking about this the other day. Years ago, I worked in Alaska, and I used to have to fly to my different communities and I was flying into this one community and this older gentleman when I got off the plane I see him and he’s holding a huge bouquet of flowers. And then I see this woman coming off the plane a few people behind me and they have that movie moment. They ran into each other’s arms and started crying and talking about how much they loved each other. And there was just something so beautiful about it that I feel like I haven’t seen in a really long time. Because, you know, after 9/11, and with, you know, families, you couldn’t go to the gate anymore. And there was this moment in this small, tiny little airport in Alaska that I got to see that moment again. And it was just so beautiful. It was so simple.
Christa Avampato 10:23
What were you doing when you were in Alaska and traveling to different communities?
Felicia Sabartinelli 10:27
I used to work for the American Cancer Society. So I would move around. I was a community manager. And so I would go to different communities. I got stuck in Valdez for like a week because of a snowstorm and we couldn’t get out. And I couldn’t even get out of my hotel. So I’m in this hotel room for, I don’t know, 3 or 4 days. It was quite an experience.
I will say my other favorite memory is I went to the Beijing airport. I was on my way to Thailand. They have a lot of gardens inside their airports in Asia. And so there’s another element to this immersion, where you’re bringing elements from outside inside. There was this huge like water feature and fountain in a garden and trees. And it was such a meditative experience. Just go sit while you’re in this busy airport. But you’re like in this garden. It was quite neat.
Christa Avampato 11:22
And Beijing is such a hectic city, right? There’s so much going on there. So to have a meditative place at the airport, where people are coming in and going from this very hectic city is so fascinating,
Felicia Sabartinelli 11:37
We are being prepared for our journey at the airport. I think there’s probably more of a psychology than we’re probably aware of, and on the marketing side of what they’re doing.
Christa Avampato 11:49
Do you have a favorite airport?
Felicia Sabartinelli 11:52
Oh, you know, I’m a Coloradoan and I feel like I gotta say, Denver. We have our own conspiracies around the Denver Airport. So there’s this element of mystery.
Christa Avampato 12:02
I don’t know anything about Denver or the Denver Airport.
Felicia Sabartinelli 12:09
Oh, you don’t know about this? Oh, I don’t even know where to begin. You would probably have to have a whole different episode about the Denver airport.
Christa Avampato 12:15
That’ll be our next conversation.
Felicia Sabartinelli 12:18
Oh, yeah, I want to say that’s a whole different one that is so layered. And I’m afraid if I were to even barely get into it, someone’s going to come back and be like you forgot about this. I’ll tell you my second favorite, I really love in the US. I love the Seattle airport. It has really great shops and really great restaurants. I think that they did a really great job of taking the artistic elements of Seattle and moving them into the airport. And I’m an art person. So that’s my other favorite.
Christa Avampato 12:42
Do you ever have a moment in an airport where you’re preparing for a trip? And all of your expectations were exceeded on the trip?
Felicia Sabartinelli 13:11
I’ve had a few. I think I’m more of a realist in that way. Because I’ve had experiences where things do not go well. You know, in Vienna, I got pulled, you know, by security for additional security and they’re going through all my stuff. And I went to the museum and they I bought these gold drawing. They took them from me. And I , “I wonder why they took them.” They came from the museum. Why did they take them? I don’t know. And when he took him from me, and when I tried asking, I got yelled at but I couldn’t understand what he was saying. And I don’t think he felt the need to elaborate.
I’ve had experiences where I barely have made my plane. Like when I was coming back from Thailand. I was so excited to be back in the Beijing airport, I had a layover of maybe five hours, but there was a huge storm that came in Thailand. So I got there and I had to end up renting one of the golf carts to take me to my gate because it was completely on the other side. In Beijing you have to go out back and have to come back through customs. So you get your luggage from baggage claim even if you have a connecting flight and then you’d have to come back through customs and do it all over again. It was such a crazy process I had to pay someone to take me. I walked onto the plane and they shut the door behind me. I never have the expectation that things are gonna go well. I always assume that one side of this either going or coming is not going to go according to plan. And there’s some stress with that.
But there’s also an element of like, just being in the moment. When I was in Iceland in November, and then I went to Sweden and Sweden was not allowing Americans into the country at this point. But I heard that if you were coming from one of the Norwegian countries they would let you in and I thought well, let’s just see what happens.
So when I was checking in, I was there for about 25 minutes waiting as they discussed whether or not to let me through. The whole flight to Sweden, I was like, I’m gonna get there and they’re gonna make me turn around and go back. Oh, no. But I got in somehow.
Christa Avampato 15:17
So even throughout the pandemic, you continued to travel.
Felicia Sabartinelli 15:21
I started traveling again last year. I went to Cancun. It was my first big trip after the pandemic. I like to travel and I felt really stuck. I felt like I needed to kind of get out. And so I went to Cancun and had a wonderful solo vacation. I travel mostly solo. I’m not married. And so that was my first bout. Now I’m kind of getting back in the groove.
Christa Avampato 15:45
So do you try to take a certain number of trips a year?
Felicia Sabartinelli 15:47
You know, my goal, when I turned 30, I had like a 30 for 30 list. And then I made one for 40 for 40. And one of my goals was, I would go to a different country every year of my 30 years, and then I would do a different state, too. And I’ve kind of stuck with that except for the pandemic. So last year, I was like, we gotta get going and make up.
Christa Avampato 16:14
What does 2022 look like for you?
Felicia Sabartinelli 16:17
Oh, 2022 is crazy. So we have like I was saying, we have Spain, Turkey, Finland. I’m back in Colorado for a few months. And then I am getting my master’s in creative writing. So I’m going to be moving to Scotland in September.
Christa Avampato 16:32
And so you’re moving there for the master’s program?
Felicia Sabartinelli 16:35
I’m moving there for the Masters. The master’s programs is one year. I’m thinking about doing my PhD after, which will be an additional year. And the great thing about the UK is that they have an extended visa. So if you graduate from a university in Scotland, you can apply for this visa that will allow you to stay and find work for I think it’s like three to four years. So if I like it, I’d like to stay. We’ll see what happens.
Christa Avampato 16:57
I’m also starting a UK-based graduate program in September. It’s more of a hybrid program. So I’m there for intense study weeks, and then I’ll be back in New York for a lot of the time too. So it’s sort of a split, but I’m very excited. We’ll have to meet up when we’re in the UK.
Felicia Sabartinelli 17:12
I think we’re gonna have to.
Christa Avampato 17:15
And go to an airport and have a cup of coffee and people maybe do a little shopping. I have full faith that you will have scoped out all of the best airports in the UK and you will know exactly like which ones to go to.
Felicia Sabartinelli 17:36
I’m gonna just try to maybe once a month do a weekend trip. And so I’m going to find all the airports will know where we can meet up and hang out.
Christa Avampato 17:53
Excellent. There is something so exciting about being able to do that again. I’ve always treasured my travel experiences and meeting new people. And in these last couple of years when that was not possible, we realize how much we miss that personal connection. For all of our digital initiatives and products and services, there just isn’t anything like being with other people and actually being out in the world, right? The screen doesn’t replace our existence out in the real world.
Felicia Sabartinelli 18:28
We are social animals. And we’re not meant to be so isolated from one another for so long. We thrive on our relationships. I love my relationships with people. I’ve had to make myself kind of get out. And then when I’m out with people, I’m really enjoying myself and like, “oh, yeah, I do enjoy this.” It’s been really interesting.
Christa Avampato 18:48
We’re really having to put our lives back together. And they don’t look the same way that they did two years ago. I have a lot of friends who’ve moved, had big life changes, that happened in this past couple of years. It’s really thinking about, you know, what does our life look like now going forward? We’re at a very scary time in the world. In thinking about these conversations, I sometimes think, “Oh, God, what a weird time to start a podcast about joy when the world is so dark.
You had a really interesting perspective about what the world looked like post World War II. And I’m just wondering if you could share that with us and talk with us about joy in difficult times.
Felicia Sabartinelli 19:45
When the pandemic started, I remember thinking and seeing what people were coming up with. All these virtual events and we’re going to bring it into the home now. And I kept telling people I think we’re going through a Renaissance period because I’m a firm believer that after we go through traumatic experiences, as a society, as a person, we do come out of it. And something usually does come from it.
Right after World War II is when we got musicals. It’s when Hollywood started releasing all these musicals in these movies filled with joy and laughter and dancing and singing and about love. And I think that’s because we can only take so much pain, so much of this conflict.
I think it’s great that you’re talking about this podcast, because we need to talk more about joy. There’s so much negativity going on in the world. I’ve been watching a lot, and I just cry. I just can’t believe what’s happening. But we have to find joy, joy is the thing that keeps us moving. Joy is the thing that keeps us living in a state of hope. And you can’t let hope go away. Hope is what keeps us going. We’re going through all this, but I’m trying to focus on what’s going to come after it. Will it be great change? Will it be a focus away from the negative parts of our society? Will we start looking at the inner journey, the inner happiness as opposed to what’s outside?
Christa Avampato 21:14
And one thing I love about joy is that it’s not mutually exclusive from pain. And I like what you said earlier about it can be found in these very small moments that on the surface might even seem mundane. There is this element of joy that can live alongside lots of other experiences and lots of other emotions, and not to the exclusion of those emotions. What’s happening in Ukraine right now is terrifying, and it’s devastating, and people are all over the world are rallying to help people in Ukraine.
We have to continue to boost ourselves up to continue to help other people. I hope people will hear this episode and think about it the next time that they’re in an airport. And instead of maybe feeling agitated or nervous, all of these things that we do feel in the airport for lots of reasons that are related to travel, I hope that they’ll also be able to take a breath and take a moment and enjoy that art installation or have an interesting conversation with a stranger or pick up a good book, and also find some joy, even if there are lots of other emotions that they’re feeling at that at that time.
Felicia Sabartinelli 22:23
I agree. I love to talk to people. And I will definitely strike up a conversation with anybody. I once was in an airport in Jamaica, and me and my partner at the time, we started talking to this other couple and we found out that we lived about 20 miles from each other in western Colorado, which is really small. I found out that we had also been at the same resort that weekend. And I mean, there were all these little interesting synchronicities and I thought, I believe that the universe is really magical sometimes. And airports are sometimes the moment where some magic happens. I’ve run into people that I haven’t seen it year at an airport, just like in a random airport. Like what are you doing here? I hope people do listen to this episode and think “Oh I guess I do have some joy when I’m at the airport.”
Christa Avampato 23:13
Felicia, where can people find out more about you?
Felicia Sabartinelli 23:23
My website is FeliciaSabartinelli.com. I’m also on Instagram. I’m on Tik Tok, and it’s under my last name: @Sabartinelli. I do love to post my travel videos. So I’ll be posting a lot in the next month. And I always love to connect. So feel free anybody.
Christa Avampato 23:50
Fantastic. Felicia, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for sharing the joy of airports with us. And the next time I’m in an airport, I’m absolutely going to look around and try to find more joy than I usually do because of this conversation. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Felicia Sabartinelli 24:05
Oh, thank you so much for having me.
Christa Avampato 24:07
I hope you’ll come back and talk to us about all of the other exciting things you’re doing.
Felicia Sabartinelli 24:14
We’re now friends.
Christa Avampato 24:16
And we’re going to be in the UK at an airport drinking coffee. I can’t wait.
Felicia Sabartinelli 24:22
Thank you so much.
Christa Avampato 24:24
How much do you love airports now? Felicia, thank you so much for joining us. That was such a wonderful conversation. I’m just so excited that I met Felicia through this podcast. It’s such a joy for me to be able to connect with people to talk about joy.
So usually my joyful ending for every episode is related to the topic that the episode is about. This week I got to switch it up.
Last week I was in Central Park with my 12 year old dachshund, Phineas, and he collapsed. He had not been feeling well for a bit and I took him to the vet and they said it was really just aging and nothing more that needed to be done.
Then a few days later, he took an absolute nosedive. I scooped him up, ran into the subway to get him back to the vet. And unfortunately, they couldn’t help him there. I had to take him to the hospital. And I was really afraid that it was going to be time to say goodbye.
My friend, Nano, works at the Animal Medical Center of New York on 62nd Street and York Avenue in Manhattan. So I ran him over to the ER there and the care he received at AMC was just incredible. The doctors and the staff were unbelievably kind and wonderful and competent and got him in very quickly. I just can’t say enough about how grateful I am to them. The doctors and staff at AMC and all my loved ones who’ve been pulling for him absolutely worked miracles
My sweet Phin is home now. He has meds and a prescription diet for supportive care. His heart, pancreas, kidneys, and liver are aging and I know that he’s in the autumn of his life. I’ll cherish every one of his days that he has, knowing that we made the best of however much time he has left.
It was very difficult for me to be at home without him these last few days. So much of my routine and time and identity are rooted in him. And without him I honestly just felt adrift. I know when his time comes, I’ll have to find a way to navigate this world without him. And I don’t really know how I’m going to do that. I’m just so grateful to have him back home.
And as the great Prophet Winnie the Pooh said: how lucky I am to love someone who makes saying goodbye so hard. And I’m just so glad that we don’t have to say goodbye just yet. Phineas, his bravery, and his courage are helping me be brave and have courage, too.
I want to say a special thank you to my angel friend, Andres Nano Pratts, who works at AMC and kept going to visit him, taking pictures, sending me extra updates, and gave him a cozy blanket to make him feel at home. A big thank you to Rahim who greets everyone at AMC for being so kind to us. And again to the doctors and staff at AMC who gave me more time with my wonderful buddy.
I also want to say a big thank you to my friends and my family and all my loved ones and my community for constantly checking on me, constantly checking on Phineas, and keeping him and me in your thoughts and your prayers and in your heart and top of mind. Truly, I don’t know what I would have done this week without you. Thank you so much. And we love you so much. I’m so grateful. And we’ll always be grateful for this time.
That was my joy this week after a lot of pain and difficulty. And I’m sure that I’ll be unpacking the lessons that I learned this past week for a long time to come. And I’ll share them here on the podcast.
Please let me know how you’re doing and the joys you’re finding as we round the corner to summer. You can get a transcript and links from this episode at ChristaAvampato.com/joyproject and you can connect with me on Twitter at @ChristaNYC and on Instagram at @ChristaRoseNYC.
This week we also have another episode of joyful news and it’s all about dinosaurs—beings that bring me a tremendous amount of joy and all the dinosaur news that’s making the rounds thanks to the new Jurassic Park movie that came out on Friday.
Have a joy filled week and I’ll be back in two weeks on Tuesday, June 28 with another episode of JoyProject. Thanks so much for joining me and I’ll talk to you soon.