I sit in the airport at 3:14 a.m. in the midst of pulling another all-nighter. I am incredulous that at this point in my life all-nighters are still something I do. Then I reflect on all of the things I have started doing since beginning an epic of travel.
To date I have been on 23 flights in 83 days. That’s roughly a flight every 3 days. I love it. But I think the times I love the most are the nights like this. I am in between places, having traveled from somewhere on my way to somewhere. In the middle of transit there is silence. I love this time. In every airport I can find a quiet place and have a think about my life. I reflect in gratitude on the journey that has brought me to this moment. The friendships that have sustained me. The faith that has grounded me.
I travel to be still. In the midst of a flight, I can’t make it go any faster. In the midst of waiting at the gate or for an Uber I can’t make them arrive any sooner. And so, I wait. While waiting I sit still and watch the world. A curious observer who both is and is not involved in this particular scene of the play of life. I watch and think.
I watch people love each other, as seen in the procuring of snacks, the holding of hands, the sharing of ear buds. I watch people problem solve together, discussing where to go next, how to get to the gate, and where the rental cars are. I watch them complain about the flight, the wait, or the weather. I watch them laugh together, there is a lot of laughter at an airport. I watch one sleep on the other, the one being slept on invariably keeps watch. Sitting at an airport, being still, allows me to see love in real time. I have come to understand love isn’t one grand overture but 100 little things that communicate that you are invested in a person.
I’m often told that the world is unsafe, and people are heartless but that has not been my observation or experience. I have observed a man giving back a large wad of cash and credit cards to the lady who didn’t know she dropped them. I have observed the flight attendants pacifying the crying baby of a young mom, herself in tears due to having missed the flight. I observed her supervisor tell her she had to pay for another flight in English while slipping into Spanish to tell her that she gotten her a ticket for free. I have experienced a man telling me that my backpack was unzipped but he didn’t want to startle me by fixing it without verbalizing it to me. I have experienced the customer service clerk telling me no, not to take that flight because I had a better chance of making it home on standby; then making it home on standby while the flight I was supposed to take was canceled. Or the lady that commended my composure in the face of a fellow passenger’s rudeness. She, a stranger, being proud of me meant something. My experience and observations have led me to know that people are kind. When pushed, humans generally are helpful as opposed to harmful.
The airport signs themselves are ideas for meditation. Baggage claim. We all have to carry our own baggage, best to pack light. Slower traffic keep right- it’s ok to be in a rush, it’s ok to take it easy. Just know where to walk so as to not push or be in the way. Welcome. Every airport bids welcome in at least 3 languages- when visitors come to you, do your best to make them feel at home. This way- airports signs always point the way. Follow the signs and you’ll be ok. That one is a huge life lesson.
As the last travel article in this series, I reflect on the purpose, which was to inspire travel and explore the human connection. Imagine my joy when several people have told me that they traveled to a place I wrote about! As for the human connection, it’s all around. Travel is a time when people are their most authentic selves. Sometimes things are going terribly and sometimes they’re going great- yet seeing humanity in the nature of travel cannot be denied. I see good and kindness, love, and laughter. Everyone wants to make it home to have dinner with the people that they love. This is the universal truth of humans; we are pack animals by nature. We want to love and be loved. That’s all.
Well, my friends, that is all she wrote. The sun goes down on this column as it comes up on my all-nighter. It’s time to put the series and the Dewberry to bed. If you take nothing else away from anything I’ve written, take love, learn to love and be loved.
And of course,
Thank you for the journey,