Monday, October 25, 2010

Butterflies-Be-Gone

10/8/2010
I always wonder why I get pre-trip butterflies. They start about 20 minutes before leaving for the airport, and increase when I'm overwhelmed in the security lines. I'm not scared, nervous, or particularly worried about anything, so when the butterflies arrive, it's always a surprise.

They retreat slowly when I'm seated at my gate, and are almost gone by the time I am safely in my seat awaiting take-off. A quick in-flight cocktail trims the remaining anxiety, and a slow, growing excitement takes its place. A kinship begins with the fellow passengers and I who have been together since check-in. We catch glimpses of each other amidst the masses and garbled languages at security. Finally settled in to our gate seats, we find a comfort in these random faces. My accidental travel companions and I welcome new comers who are tardier than we to the gate. We ponder each others separate walks of life, and how fate chose us to be together on this day, this flight.

In yet another terminal, I am reminded yet again why it is I choose to travel. Those butterflies, the anxiety, the relief, the emotional rollercoaster reminds me that I am alive. Rather than be stuck in the same neighborhood, the same job, the same people- I am thrown into internationality, into the world. It's easy to group and stereotype Americans, they are no longer interesting to me. Unfamiliar cultures are what I crave, and despite my predictable game-day jitters, I find myself retreating to the safety of the different.

Airports send flashbacks rippling through me. At times it feels like I'm only alive when I'm on the road. 5 years ago today I received that crippling phone call. Awakening to frantic knocks on the door, my life was changed forever. 5 years later, I wonder what kind of long-term effects have instilled themselves in me. Am I stronger? Weaker? Needier? I'm sure I've gotten away with much more than I should have, had things been different. Maybe I would have traveled more, or maybe less. For better or worse, I am who I am today because of that one hiccup in time.

Perhaps my least favorite part of traveling is the food. Not food on airplanes (which, as a general rule, I find deliciously fascinating), but the food found in airports. The overpriced chips and soft drinks. The hard, white bread sandwiches, which for some bizarre reason usually involve cold fish. If, sober, you wouldn't touch fast-food then it's game over. Your choices will include Wendy's, McDonalds, (especially in international airports), and if you are lucky, a Starbucks. Similar to sports parks and movie theaters, the simple lack of any other choice creates inflated prices. It's these outrageous prices that make perhaps palatable food into something you hate, out of principle. The threat of an entire plane ride with nothing but a bag o' nuts terrifies me. I'd rather choke down a $10 sandwich and quell the fears of starvation rather than a 2 hour blood sugar plummet. I think that says that I've been privileged for too long. 3 years ago I hopped a bus by myself from San Salvador to Guatemala City without any idea where I was staying. That me would kick this me's ass. A short plane ride reduces me into panic-buying the shittiest food on earth.

Privilege and the ease of purchasing things has made me soft and weak. I have unintentionally trained myself into believing that I deserve the best. In actuality, I should be grateful and fortunate to have these essentials.  These are the things that I forget when I am idle. Maybe it's why I crave movement. To pull me out of this Western cloud and into what it truly means to be human. Lack of communication with every corner of the world. We've gone for so long having cell phones that to be without them is refreshing. To not be at anyone's beck and call. It's a loss of responsibility to everyone else except yourself and the world.

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