Right now, we’re on a flight from Malaysia (crossfingers) to Istanbul, leaving Asia after a month in Indonesia and concluding our eight months on the other side of the world. We still have three more months traveling Europe, but it definitely feels like the end of something. Daniel’s written a journal of sorts where he bulletpoints some of the things he’s learned like “The relationship you have with someone inevitably depends on the context in which you meet “(a very specific lesson we’ve learned as we’ve met so many people) and “Wear sunscreen.”
In the last few hours, I’ve been dwelling on one thing in particular : Airports.
I love airports. I mean I LOVE airports. I didn’t use to, before this trip, but now I get excited on traveling days- not for the new destination per se but for- what will hopefully be- a fairly lengthy stay at the airport. And layovers! Within a reasonable length, they’re my favorite things.They soothe me, they excite me, they give me perfume. It’s like a spa of adventure.
Part of this is surely because, as budget backpackers, taking a plane means we’re not going to be on a bus or train from anywhere from 12-30 hours or on an inevitably rocky boat for an indefinite term of nausea. Also, as budget backpackers, nice airports in Asia represent a focus on cleanliness, efficiency, and consumerism that we never encounter within the cities themselves.While some may leave an airport disheveled, I curiously rediscover things like mirrors and perfume and make up (which have always been kind of a mystery to me to begin with). And the super corporate, streamlined restaurants and duty free boutiques, the antithesis of what you would like to actually go eat and buy when exploring a city, gives me the sense that I’m not even in a real place, just a pretty, white, expensive limbo.
This sense of limbo is really at the heart of my passion for airports (not the flights themselves, to be clear, I’m not crazy). When you’re at an airport, you’re about to start again, about to be confused or grossed out or intrigued or amazed. There’s a mystery at the end of that soon-to-take-place plane ride and you’ll never feel it more than before you’ve gotten on the plane. Its the anticipation, the pursuit of mystery, that drives my travels as much as any concrete experience.
I recently was accepted to some law schools (more on that later) and a friend of mine told me after I got the letter: “Savor this moment while it lasts. Once you go here (or the other school), you’ll forget what made it so special.”
The sad truth of life is that our initial reactions to the amazing things we are blessed with fade over time and we so often forget to be happy about what we have. Traveling for us has been a constant state of reveling in the new, getting excited about next, dwelling in happy anticipation, and then arriving in a new place, to revel in the new again. It’s helped us realize that a place can have many things, but a place is just a place, your feelings about it drive the experience.
Our travel has been amazing and life-changing, but not because seeing Halong Bay is life-changing or because meeting travelers is life-changing, although their both nice and make for some great memories. It has been such a blessing because we’ve had the opportunity (and the time) to realize how essential we have been to our experience, how our desires, wishes, cares, and interests have almost exclusively shaped our reality.
Without the structure and pressures of our conventional roles and occupations, we’ve had the opportunity to discover who we are to ourselves and the insight to realize we don’t need to be physically traveling to be true to that (although it helps).
In Houston, we had a large world map that we kept on the wall that I would just stare at sometimes, wondering where we would go, when we would go, what it would be like. We would put a pin in every county/city we wanted to go or planned to go to. I think part of me thought that someday I’d have the whole world pinned down, but now, I have absolutely no desire to see ‘all of the world.’ I want to leave at least part of the world untraveled, so that the world can remain a mystery. That exciting, untraveled expanse that reminds me of what’s still out there is just as valuable as having actually gone.