Too much sitting 

I’m in another airport, with my little backpack and my handbag, and the little knots of excitement/anxiety (I’m never entirely sure which it is) in my brow and the muscles of my neck I always have when I find myself at points of departure, and a low hum of ache in my lower back and the joints where the base of my spine meet my pelvis. 

I’m stupidly early, which I almost always am (except when I miss my flight—I seem to be a person of extremes). The departure gate is slowly filling with other people who are anxious or excited or bored or just plain tired. 

I find the most boring parts of travel, perhaps paradoxically, the most interesting, the most nuanced.

I love watching how other people deal with these moments (minutes, hours). At this departure gate, many are looking at a device of some sort. A woman reads a magazine with a picture of a big pile of fruit and vegetables on the page. A man checks and rechecks his passport and boarding pass. One woman—young, maybe 19, with sandy red hair and glasses and milky skin—sits with her elbows on her knees, her head in her hands, and just looks. Looks at everything and nothing in particular. 

I love watching how I deal with these moments (minutes, hours). Do I reach for a device? Do I read? Do I check my email thirty times even though I know there will be no new ones? Or do I, like the young woman with the glasses, just look?

Do I just look at anything and everything and let my mind wander? 

The ache in my back is from all the sitting and it annoys me. The sitting and the aching. The River Liffey has left a greater impression—a quiet one—in my mind than I realised until I found my mind wandering to it. I’m not entirely sure why at this point. Something about rivers in general, I think. I am tired. I would happily look at Ireland’s green for a whole day, but I wonder if I’d change my mind about that if it had rained more while I was here. There was so much sun in Ireland for my time here. 

I miss important people in my life. A lot. But at the same time I like being on my own. I don’t know what to do with that tension. I wonder where all these people are going, beyond the destination of the flight. Home? Holiday? Work? I wonder where I am going. I wonder what on earth I’m doing, roaming around like this, vague and tired. I think about some of the ways in which this year has been incredibly difficult and strange for me and can see that somehow the wandering is helping, even if I can’t say how or why. I don’t know what’s coming next on this trip, and I’m surprisingly calm about that. 

I think about the yoga anatomy video I’ve watched in the last few days about the nuanced relationship between the different parts of our nervous system, between the parts that speed us up and the parts that slow us down. 

My flight is called. There is movement. My body is glad for it. The knots in my neck muscles relax a little. I find my boarding pass. Departure again.

Airports

I love airports. They always give me a little rush of excitement.

When I lived in Melbourne, being inside an airport usually meant I was on my way to spend time with my family, or had just done so. If not that, then being at an airport meant I was heading off on an overseas adventure, or picking up someone I had missed.

That’s part of it. The other part is the other worldly nature of airports. They’re like their own little universe. People are in transit in airports — on their way to somewhere or from somewhere, stuck in between two places. Planes are similar. But I guess airports still allow people to move around, and therefore be more interesting. I love it.

I get nervous when I travel — have I packed everything, will I get to the airport in time, will I be able to find my way? — but once I’m at the airport the nervousness is replaced by excitement. I’m always excited to be going somewhere. And, once the nervousness dies down, I’m thrilled to have (re)discovered that I’m capable of doing this on my own.

Overseas travel excepted, pretty much all my time in airports has been spent alone. And I like it that way. It’s a different kind of adventure when someone else is along for the ride.

Being on my own leaves me free to people watch, and to strike up conversations with strangers. I love talking to and observing strangers. People are so weird and entertaining. Especially when they’re between places, in the midst of a journey. An airport, after all, is not really a destination.

I’m writing all this because this weekend I’m spending time in various airports (being weird — and maybe entertaining — in the corner, furtively doing a few quick yoga poses to realign my spine after sitting in the slump-inducing plane chairs), as I make my way to and from Adelaide for the Academy of Words. I’ll be on a panel today, and hanging around at various other things all day. If you happen to be in Adelaide, come say hi.