I was taking my wee puppy out for a walk last night, just at dusk when all the clouds are reflecting light off of a delayed sunset. When I looked up to admire the shades of red, orange, yellow and blue I also noticed an airplane noisily cutting through the clouds. And in an instant my brain went cycling through every plane ride I have ever taken, every destination ever reached, every screaming baby (including my own), every humid airport and every turbulent landing. Not going to lie, I love planes: I like that they take you somewhere, I like that they are full of interesting people, I like the absence of leg room and watching the flaps on the wings tilt up and down according to the air pressure-or whatever their purpose is. I enjoy the symbolism they hold; that a voyage is in some stage of happening, that an adventure is either to be had or has happened, that one is physically crossing time and space to be somewhere completely different all together.
I remember when I was younger, much younger-in my early teenage years I actually gave myself an ulcer in the excitement of a class trip to Florida. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I practiced packing over and over again, my doctor finally had to tell me to CHILL OUT. I saved up money and I dreamt of the days ahead of me of waiting in security lines in airports, getting patted down by frisky attendants, holding a boarding pass and a passport in my hand. I just couldn’t wait. And none of that has changed. Even if I am merely going on a regional flight that has happened a myriad of instances prior, I still just can’t wait to be in transit. I grin like a 6 year old as we wait to taxi down the runway, I smile as my legs go stiff from remaining in that excessively crunchy seated position. I giggle when my neck gets a kink from stiffness from the ridiculously useless headrests and airline pillows. I reminisce at that stodgy hungover decaying zombie feel you get after hour 12 in cabin air. I love disembarking in a new country, full of smells, sights, sounds and barometric pressure. I love even more when I arrive somewhere with a new language, fresh and ready for me to linguistically try and pull apart. New customs, new fashion, new restaurants.
I have been fortunate enough to have been able to afford many experiences across this small world of ours, and it has undoubtedly changed me. All those times I have sat in airports, clutching on to documentation and eagerly anticipating a rescheduled missed connection deciphering some language I’ve never seen before. I hope to be fortunate enough to experience a million more in my lifetime, and with my child. Because it changes you and I value the experience tenfold. I no longer view the world as unknowing and scary. I no longer view others as being the slightest bit different from myself, underneath it all. I no longer wish to build walls and lock doors-and thankfully for the most part I can value the safety in my current living arrangement. I do not think that if someone has a different background, skin colour, dialect, language or values system that somehow means we are divided. I don’t know that it takes a few hundred flights to figure that out, but it definitely has helped me. I have chosen to learn and be open to the world. Might be why I’ve found myself in more than one “predicament”, but also has enabled me to really understand, appreciate and enjoy everything and everyone I can.
Airplanes have taught me that time differences don’t matter, that kilometers between people don’t matter, that distance-either time, space or land is rather immaterial. The sun still rises, the wind still moves.
Airplanes have taken me to places and introduced me to people I never would have met otherwise. They have pressed me to get outside of my comfort zone and stumble over linguistics. Airplanes have taught me the importance of packing ear plugs and Chap Stick and a really comfortable pair of socks. They have encouraged me to get away with needing less-in order to comply with increasingly rigid baggage allowances, and taught me that any destination that requires no more than a bikini and a toothbrush are the right places for my downtime. I do not need much, no one does.
Airplanes have taught me to give grace and have compassion for my fellow man who might be experiencing travelling intestinal issues, personal strife and understanding how important it is to say g’day to that person sitting beside me. Simply smiling and sharing a conversation can go a long way on a long haul flight and can assist to overcome discomforts on both sides of the armrest.
I may not be going on an airplane tomorrow, but I am going somewhere. I am on the path to more plane rides that is for sure. How it happens, the finer finite details are not clear but I continue to move towards the departure gates every. single. day.
Every person I meet I know has entered in to my life to give me a gift, something to remind me where I am going and to help me clarify where I have been and how far I have come. Every airplane I have taken, and will take will continue to land me safely at my next stop and I will do everything I can to enjoy it, in all of its discomfort and acrylic seat fabric. Smooth flying, smooth sailing, smooth arrival, safe journeys. Airplanes are a privilege, as is living life. So I chose to live it, be grateful and graceful as I can in another language, in another land, in another time zone one day at a time. And hopefully with many flights and destinations along the way.