The Journeys You’ll Make and the Odious Airports
You probably don’t enjoy using airports. Whether you yourself fly or you’ve picked up or dropped off other people, you will likely agree: they’re crowded and confusing, they’re full of paranoid staff and incredibly stupid customers, the airplanes themselves are uncomfortable and expensive, and they force rules and regulations upon you at every turn. Many comedians and cartoonists in recent years have poked fun at all this. Search Youtube if you’ve ever rolled your eyes while you took off your shoes for the security line, or if you’ve demanded to know how, exactly, a snow-globe can be threatening. You’ll very quickly find that you aren’t alone.
But no matter how much you might grumble -and perhaps reasonably-, you’ll also find that you have no alternative. If you want to travel long distances, then airplanes are the quickest, easiest, most comfortable method. And although you know you’re not a terrorist, you probably don’t want to die at the hands of someone who is.
All in all, airports provide you a service, and they do the best they can. So let us dispense with the usual targets for your airport-related outrage. Instead, consider something else: another, very real way you’re being robbed when you travel by plane.
As a seventeenth-century Japanese poet named Matsuo Basho said, “Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” Our lives are made of thousands of trips; when one concludes, another begins. They can be as long as we live or as short as an instant, and though they may twist and turn, we begin to learn their patterns. You know what it is to step out the door, whether you’re headed for the same place every morning or for unknown horizons. You know how it feels to wander aimlessly, or to hurry toward your destination. Whether or not you realize it, all these familiar movements are crucial to your life.
In this context, an airport is nothing more than a headache. It is neither a beginning nor an end, and it is not, itself, a journey. An airport is not a place you want to be, never a real destination, so any step you make toward it is void. Surely there is some appeal wherever you’re really trying to go, but you can never go directly to it. First, to an airport. Then, in an airplane to another airport. Perhaps this cycle will go on, if you are unlucky enough to have multiple flights in one trip — but by the time you escape, leave the final airport and head to your destination, you are not sure what journey you have made, quite where you came from, why you were there, or how you arrived.
This kind of travel is truly a nuisance. It robs you of something extremely important, if only you know how to recognize it: this is the kind of journey in which you can never make a home.
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do.
When you need to travel long distances in a short time, you will still need to use airplanes. Despite all their nuisances and all that they take from you, they are either your best or your only option. But perhaps next time you travel, perhaps you will consider not only the usual irritations – you may have just bought that lotion, but the security queue is still going to confiscate it – but also the journeys you are making, where they begin and where they end. Perhaps you’ll even extend these observations to your daily life outside of air travel: when you step out the door, pay attention.
Remember what Basho says and consider the kinds of travel that make up your life, where you go and why you want to be there. Look around you, notice the journeys you make, and find in them the place where you belong.
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