I once found myself flipping through a period magazine, picked up from a dusty box located at the entrance of a vintage shop in Amsterdam. There was a classic picture of a young kid – he must have been around six – in an airport terminal – I believe Chicago, in the sixties. His eyes, were fixated on the big jumbo jet parked in front of him, only the glass separating him from the gigantic tube that was soon going to take him to a faraway land; a place that was imagined long before it could be experienced.
This image stuck with me throughout all these years. I often think about it, as a haunting reminder of why transience is comfortably homey, just as much as it is uncomfortably foreign.
One of my favourite things to do in an airport, or train station, is stare at the departure timetable panels – especially the old-school ones where the letters flip with the changing schedules, and just imagine places, and people and journeys, embracing transience as the only constant for discovery.
More often than not, transience is an escape. I don’t know what that kid was thinking while staring at the enormous flying structure, although I really wish I did, but one thing’s for sure: taking-off was an exciting thought, and not just literally, for the adrenaline-induced, roller-coaster feeling, but taking-off meant going somewhere less familiar, where the simple act of being was novelty, where stepping out and looking up, meant flipping through the pages of new discoveries.
Escape is not the only reason we travel, but a big part of it. Escaping towards new experiences. Escaping old memories. Escaping the familiar, as a way to embrace the foreign. It’s all rooted in our desire to brave change, to make the familiar, foreign and the foreign, familiar. Escaping allows us to turn the nostalgic fantasy of new places into reality, just as much as it gives us a reason to miss old ones.
Although the kid at the airport perhaps did not fully understand why the desire to escape was so exhilarating, or what it even meant to escape, you could see from his curious gaze that he was feeling every bit of that eagerness for something new.
I’d be lying if I said that travelling to escape has never crossed my mind. Stepping into an airport, or train station, acts as the gateway to elude, to run away towards a place where anything can happen. A blank canvas, a second chance that seems within reach, a place where the unknown can be transformed into the familiar.
There’s something romantic about travelling to run away, and maybe a little bit imprudent, confusing and yet courageous and necessary at the same time. So if you ever feel like taking off, don’t look back; but also don’t forget where you came from, what brought you to pack your bags, and most importantly, always remember the way back.
© Cover Photo by Lawrence Wang, Flickr