One of the things I love about airports — beyond the buzz of excitement — it’s a weird space where everyone seems to have purpose. They’re there to either drop someone off, collect, run errands, depart or arrive.
I watch the emotions worn so plainly on the faces of the people: smiles as they see long-time-ago faces, the wry grins as they realise that the destination seemed just a bit better in their heads than where they find their feet now; uncontrolled and unrestrained weeping as the staying-behinders bid farewell to those leaving; the quietness and tiredness of those flying after too many hours, and traversing one too many time zones.
One of the greatest joys is the solitude that air travel offers. You’re surrounded by fellow commuters — but you are disconnected — in a way that is just about impossible to find in modern day life. You board the plane, you find your seat, stow your possessions, carefully packing into the seat pocket all that you need for the trip. The cabin crew move swiftly up and down the aisles, finally they ask everyone to switch off the electronics. The plane taxes, lining up for the final takeoff. I push my body back right into the back of the seat. The engines rev, pulling forward but stuck like a learner driver with the handbrake on. As it hurtles down the runway, my body is forced back into my seat — I relish this feeling — the weight of gravity and the motion of inertia all playing under the power of modern industrial aviation, physics and maths.
Once in the air, I’m here — a space where everything in my life is suspended: no one can really contact me; are no buzzes or beeps from phones; social media; or email. People could be dying, being born, falling ill, getting married, divorced, or winning Lotto — I’m blissfully ignorant of it all. From my point of view that disconnection is almost me being stationary, yet in this metal tube I’m being hurtled almost 1000 kilometres per hour across the Earth.
I let my eyes drift off to the horizon, the last glimmer of the sun streams over a layer of cloud and a beautiful dark blue envelopes it all above. This may be the thing I love the most about travel — the space.
I’m surrounded by fellow travellers, and isolated by the utter disconnection from my ordinary life — even if only for a few hours.
It’s a beautifully ephemeral experience.