“Some people feel more alive when they travel and visit unfamiliar places or foreign countries because at those times sense perception–experiencing–takes up more of their consciousness than thinking. They become more present.” Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
“I hate travelling,” the woman in the airport security line said to me.
“I love travelling!” I replied brightly.
She frowned when she didn’t get any traction from me. I am no fun anymore for complainers. Especially in airports, where all great adventures start. I don’t even mind taking off my shoes and my belt and waiting in security lines if it means I get to fly somewhere. (It’s not the flying itself I love, which actually makes me sick. In this case it’s about the destination, not the journey–spirituality only goes so far when motion sickness prevails.)
I am writing this on a plane, in fact, on my way to my 30th high school reunion on the other side of the country. My trip from Virginia to Washington State is a little less exotic than some others I’ve made, but I am just as giddy. Airports make me feel alive. They are filled with emotion and stories and drama and secrets and, if a plane is delayed, forced stillness. Airports are a goldmine for an observer.
I caught the travel bug when I was a high school exchange student in Turkey, an experience that imprinted on me an unquenchable thirst for exploring the world. I once thought I would spend my life as a nomad, with no permanent home base to tie me down. The more exotic, the better. (To read my article recounting a visit to an Algerian bath house, click here.)
My mother was thrilled when I finally married in a white (OK, ivory) dress and bought a house in the suburbs (not in that order). She told a friend she had once envisioned me exchanging vows in a desert and riding away on a camel.
I married a man who shared my passion for travel, and we’ve passed it on to our kids. During our three-year posting in Germany, we kept a breathless pace on the travel front. As soon as we returned from one trip, I immediately started planning the next, barely able to savor the previous adventure before crowding the memories out with dreams of the next destination.
It started to get out of hand. The sense of adventure that came along with the travel was obscuring my capacity to enjoy my normal, everyday life. It was verging on a drug-like addiction. When our overseas stint came to an end, I felt empty and depressed. Our days of easy access to places that took us out of ourselves, out of our “real” lives, were over.
I never thought I’d be able to feel the same degree of aliveness–that deep sense of presence and wonder–at home. I was wrong. It’s what made me smile in the airport today when the recorded voice came over the intercom: “Caution: The moving walkway is ending.”