Over the past fourteen or fifteen years I’ve spent an enormous amount of time at airports and airplanes – mind the carbon footprint…
I’ve experienced an emergency landing (phew), lost and found luggage and ended up on the same flight with a fellow traveller so often we became the best of travel buddies (still don’t know her name though!).
I’ve seen an on-board heart attack, which the extremely skilled cabin crew handled efficiently and gracefully; sat a couple of seats away from a prisoner cuffed from his hands and feet, consoled a broken-hearted woman, given my sandwich to someone who was more hungry than me, spilled a glass of red wine on a stranger and ended up with another passenger’s Bloody Mary all over my dress. I’ve fallen in love somewhere between London and Helsinki, and had too many cups of, err, something that is a bit like coffee, but not quite.
I’ve spent a three-hour flight holding a two year-old who decided he wanted to sit on my lap and not mummy’s, and watched more bad movies than I care to remember.
In-flight stories are one thing, airport stories are another.
The opening line of the movie Love, Actually sums it beautifully:
‘Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.‘
There is something strangely symbolic about travelling. We peek into the lives of strangers, creating stories about them as we sit at airports. We try to differentiate between tears of joy and tears of sadness, and wonder where people are going and why.
Travelling creates perspective and fosters open-mindedness and confidence. It enriches our spirits and makes us realise we are all the same. There is something alluring about being anonymous for a while, about the sense of freedom and space. There are always more places to see, somewhere else to go, new friends to be made…
But all journeys bring us to the same destination – no matter where we go, we cannot escape from what happens within us. Our inner luggage does not need a travel insurance as it will never be lost in transit. Running away from our thoughts may work for a while, but they will soon catch us.
It is only returning to the things we ran away from that gives us a sense of peace – a full circle. Only by stopping and facing the monster will you be able to see the fear and loneliness in its eyes. Embrace it. There cannot be a departure without an arrival, no arrival without a departure.
Wherever you go, there you are.
(I’m just about to board a flight to London – and that’s where I’ll be, until I come back. Coffee in the photo was not too bad, by the way.)