As a child, airports to me meant something exciting was going to happen: new adventures, new people, new places. Who knew what would happen when we landed?
From I was a baby, I flew long flights to and from Europe to Africa. Not many, and I don’t remember this in detail, of course. And then there was the flights between Norway and Iceland. I traveled alone the first time when I was nine.
I think I was a social child and that I would find nice strangers to chat with, if I wasn’t playing with my siblings. At airports everyone is going somewhere, so you feel that you and the people around you have formed a sort of community for the hours you stay there. When finally on our way, I’d receive fun gifts from the nice stewardesses (like the little plastic aero planes or colouring books) and warm food came in small boxes. My sister and I collected the bags with napkins and tooth sticks and it was important not to open them. I still love the smell of gasolin at airports.
My dad is obsessed with aeroplanes (he’s also a pilot) and I grew up with him talking detailed and technical about all the planes in sight. Thanks to him I’ll always stop and search the sky if I hear a plane. In many cities he often drove all the way to an airport for a coffee instead of going to a coffee shop downtown, just to sit looking at the planes. So not all the times I was at airports meant I was going on a flight, just that I’d watch them take off. And I could imagine myself going too.
As grown up I can understand how airports satisfied the restlessness in me: it represents movement, flow, action. Because this is one of the side effects about starting your life abroad and being a crosscultural kid/third culture kid: You know how much the world has to offer, and everyday life will never be fully satisfying. You’ll always wonder what else is out there. Strangely, airports were amongst the few places I felt at home when I was growing up. Where I felt calm. I’d sit watching people, wondering where they were going, making up stories.
As I grew older, I would associate airports with farewells. I’ll cover that subject later.
It’s weird how I, when becoming adult, developed an anxiety for flights. Though I need to travel some with my work and I go on holidays, I never have the same excitement at airports like when I grew up. I just want it to be done.