I've been on a lot of planes over the last week, and somehow I've been placed in the exact same seat every time. I've consistently been seated on the left hand side of the plane right behind the wing where I can see the landing gear perfectly. As many times as I watch that rubber wheel lower out from the wing as we descend, and then slam into the ground causing the plane to spasm violently for a few moments until we slow, I'll never get used to it. I don't really know what it is about planes that scare people so much, I suppose its just the feeling of helplessness if something goes wrong and of putting your life in the hands of someone else. But then, every day that we drive a car on the highway, are we not putting our lives in the hands of every driver that speeds by us?
Every time I'm in a plane I'm reminded of the conflict of interest between my love for travel and my desire for a sustainable future and a healthy world. That I will never be able to eliminate my carbon footprint regardless of how active an environmentalist I may be, is something that I find difficult to come to terms with. I can only reconcile this admittance with the belief that for the overall greater good of this world, the positive effects of cross cultural experiences outweigh the negative effects of jet plane emissions.
If ever I stopped flying, which is not likely in the near future, the part of it I would miss the most is the airport. There is an underlying source of energy and emotion constantly floating around the airport. People about to embark on life changing journeys around the world; a weary traveler embracing his waiting family after being gone from home for years. Airports are places of extreme emotion filled with love and elation, sadness and tears.
I write this now as I sit in my make shift bed on the ground in a corner of Vancouver international airport. I've slept in many airports now, or should I say, I've drifted in and out of consciousness. I never quite fully fall asleep, and I'm always amazed and envious of those that do. Some airports are more conducive to sleep than others, with padded benched seats and dark quiet corners. In others its as though the airport authorities have gone out of their way to keep us fatigued transients from dozing off, with handles built into the chairs and a constant bombardment of noise and distraction. I'll know five hours from now how this latest attempt will fare, but I'm preparing myself either way for a rough day of international travel tomorrow.
I just spent five days in the serene mountain town of Cranbrook B.C., followed by a night in the busy city here in Vancouver. It was an odd feeling walking down Granville Street at 11pm with my backpack and guitar, watching the club goers and bar hoppers stumble by in drunken stupors, knowing that I'm heading to an airport to leave that all behind for at least six months. At this time tomorrow I'll be in a far different land, where the people and the smells, the food and the music, will be a welcome change from anything I've ever experienced. At this time tomorrow I'll be in the historic city of Quito, Ecuador.
Addendum: (4 hours later)
I sit up from my spot on the ground, groggy, cold. I'm not sure if I slept at all, I don't feel like my conscience shut off, but somehow four hours has passed. I look around and see people sprawled out around me, apparently I picked a good spot. They are all sound asleep, one even has a sleeping bag and a mask to block the light. They all look so content and peaceful... Damn them all. I'm tired. I get up and take a stroll, I need to kill time before I can check my bag. I go into the washroom and look at myself, I'm a mess, they're not going to let me through the security check. They are going to take one look at me and pull me aside for "extra" screening, they're going to ask me questions that I'm not coherent enough to answer right now. I strip down and wash my face, put on the one buttoned shirt that I have. I just need to make it to the plane and then I'll fall into a dream to the hum of the engines as we soar off towards the equator.