Things are stronger and brighter and I feel on the edge of something inexpressible. Coded messages in the in-flight magazines. Energy Shield. Uncompromising Care. Electricity, colors, radiance. Everything is a signpost pointing to something else…White noise, impersonal roar. Deadening incandescence of the boarding terminals. But even these soul-free, sealed-off places are drenched with meaning, spangled and thundering with it.
Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
To me, planes are magic.
A little mild (pleasant 35 minute flight I took to Virginia for work recently) to sometimes excruciating (redeye I took back from visiting a friend in California. Mistake. Still am not recovered) uncomfortableness later, and you’re in a completely different place.
My friend who has a terrible fear of flying once told me she hates even walking down the aisle of the plane, because she looks down at her feet and feels like under the “solid” floor she’s on, there’s nothing. Despite actually how true/creepy this realization is, this fascinates me. How amazing is it that we can book a ticket anywhere in the world and get there by casually flying through the air?
I may not have a fear of flying, but I do have a fear of not flying. Of being too nervous to go on future trips with all of the awful tragedies we’re seeing, in Europe as of late. Of constantly checking news stories on “threat levels” and “danger zones” until my anxiety becomes a wall I can’t see over. It’s so important to stay smart, and stay informed. But as travelers we can’t let fear get the best of us. We can’t let it get in the way of having experiences, and living our lives.
It’s a powerful thing to fly alone, and look at everyone around you not knowing a soul, but having your destination in common. Where are they going? Who are they visiting? Do they live at this plane’s final stop, or is it a lay-over, just a small part of their journey but not the ending place? I want to keep this child-like fascination with plane travel and hold onto it really tight. I want this sense of wonder to stay and not be tainted by people in the world who thrive on hatred and violent acts.
Travel unites us. It introduces us to perspectives we have never thought of. New cultures, new tastes, new friends, new roads to explore. We learn to listen to people’s stories and opinions, to be compassionate, be adaptable, be open, be brave. And I think these lessons and attributes will always, always outweigh any and every kind of malice.
I hope next time we all are in our airport terminals waiting for that “now boarding” announcement, it fills us with only, simply, excitement. Come on, hurry up, we’ll think to ourselves, holding our luggage and smiling at other passengers, starting our collective walk towards the gate. I just want to get there.
Sending thoughts and prayers to Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, everywhere there’s been turmoil recently.