Well, it's that time again. My flight has been delayed and I'm currently sitting in the Fort Lauderdale airport, stuck in limbo between adventure and home. I accidentally said "gracias" to the lady at Jamba Juice an she looked at my like I was crazy. But I also got to flush my toilet paper instead of throwing it away, so that was pretty cool.
I love airports. They've become a bit of a second home for me. I love the smell of over-oiled fast-food mixed with the B.O. of people who spent way too long on an airplane. I love the way time seems to stand still even as people are constantly coming and going. I love trying to memorize the repetitive announcements that come over the P.A. system every quarter hour or less.
Most of all, I love the duality of emotions that come up when I sit in an airport. Whether I am coming or going there is always a part of me that is sad to leave and another that can't wait to arrive.
I'm so excited to see my parents and I can't wait to eat my mom's home-cooking and the idea of a bath sounds so magical I could cry.
But I am also in the process of uploading photos from my Central and South America adventure onto my computer and as I watch the familiar faces of friends I've made over the past four months flicker across my screen, I can't help but feel a little heavy-hearted.
I wouldn't say I'm sad. More nostalgic for memories that haven't even started to fade yet. And tired. There's a certain exhaustion that comes at the end of an adventure. My mom will tell you it's because I don't have enough down-time when I'm traveling. My dad will tell you it's because I don't get enough sleep abroad. But I have a sneaking suspicion it's something else.
I think we travelers get tired of the ebb and flow. We live for it, we can't live without it, but it wears on us. Because one day we are surrounded by people who love us, having the adventure of a lifetime, and the next day we are parting ways, both all too aware that we may never see each other again.
When I left Peru I hugged all of my new friends (some I'd been traveling with for months, others for days) and we all said the required lines, "It's been fun," and "stay in touch," and "I'm glad I met you," and "I'm sure we will see each other soon." When I walked out the door I didn't cry. I didn't even feel like crying. Because it was just another goodbye. And by now I've gotten used to goodbyes.
You can see the dual emotions on the faces of everyone in the airport. There's so much stress and anxiety and sorrow. People are worried about missing their flights, nervous about what waits for them on the other end, and mourning the goodbyes they said just minutes ago. But there's also a kind of magic that can only be found on the faces of travelers waiting to board their airplanes.
It's a kind of hunger in their eyes as they wonder what they will see and learn and discover. It's the way their hands fiddle from an overwhelming amount of anticipation and curiosity. It's their sunburned cheeks that have smile-wrinkles from laughing too much and too loud. And it's the reason I will always come back to the airport, no matter how many goodbyes I have to say along the way.