Tokyo Narita Airport. Image courtesy of the Interwebs.
My friend S cries every time she’s at an airport. Even during a brief encounter while she sends off or collects someone, the sight of so many people returning home and going away in their thousand degrees of elation and sadness never fails to move her to tears. It breaks her heart and brings her joy.
I’m not sure there’s another place or situation that conjures up the same confusing mix of emotions for me as being a solo traveller in an airport. I float on a sense of transience, insignificance and invisibility, blended with feelings of excitement, anticipation and worldliness; particularly when my destination is far. In these hours I am connected to everything and everyone, and to nothing and no one. It almost always feels lonely. I have someplace to be, but for those hours before or between flights, no place to go. I bob about, unmoored, drifting. It’s thrilling and scary that nobody is looking for me, but I sort of hope that someone in the world is wondering where I am.
I like the reminder an airport always provides me, that everyone is going everywhere, all the time. At any given second there are hundreds of destinations, thousands of routes, millions of travellers, infinite stories. We are worldly strangers with something so briefly in common.
This place reminds me that while my life can sometimes feel small, the world is wide and anything, anything can happen. And in those moments I am alive; and in those moments I hope someone like S sees me and feels joy.