I love airports! I love the hustle, the agonised goodbyes, joyful hellos and the tangible anticipation of a holiday not yet taken. In airport terminals things seem to happen in fast forward.
Usually once “I’ve shopped til’ I’ve dropped” in the duty-free outlets or until my credit cards are exhausted; I sit back with the obligatory refreshments watching the world go by. Even as a small child, people watching, has always been one of my most favourite occupations. In much the same way that one of my friends enjoys watching Kung Fu movies with her partner and re-enacting the fight scenes with him afterwards in a lot slower motion. Although, she did mention that it nearly always ends with a pulled ligament or broken ornament. So my hobby is positively pedestrian in comparison and a whole lot safer too!
I am fascinated by the rowdy fancy-dressed hen and stag parties, the world-weary business traveller and the naïve young explorers off to discover new places. Each in their own way has a story to tell and for a short while, we fellow travellers become their audience.
As I sit there invisible to all the cast, I wonder whether there’s someone waiting for the sole traveller and whether a happy homecoming lies ahead of them. Will the excited family have the happy holiday that they saved hard for all year and is it likely that the harried businessman will make that all important corporate meeting which made him miss his child’s birthday? Alternatively, the loving husband who keeps checking his watch and counting the hours until he is reunited with his wife along with the young backpacker eagerly returning to her family after a year’s sojourn across Europe.
Being in an airport reminds me that life is a constant circle of “hellos” and “goodbyes”. Whatever our circumstances or wherever we come from, our time on earth is enriched by life’s arrivals and departures however heart-breaking they may be. As my Grandma used to say to me when I was a small child and I had to leave her to return home, “If you don’t go away, how can I miss you?”
Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all people cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try to understand each other, we may even become friends.