“It’s crazy”, he said for perhaps the 20th time in half as many minutes. Mid-twenties, 5’10”, in jeans, hoodie and jandals, ‘he’ is a recent medicine graduate from Switzerland. Having completed his national service and a 5-week holiday in NZ, he is heading home to get started on the rest of his life. We are sitting at Gate 9 in Melbourne International Airport waiting to board our flight to Dubai via Kuala Lumpur. His English is excellent but he has discovered the usefulness of the phrase “it’s crazy” to describe just about everything… Wi-Fi charges, boarding delays, the 4 rain days he had in 5 weeks in NZ, the fact he rolled his ankle on Waiheke Island earlier that day, the fact I LIVE on Waiheke, organising his new flat, the price of his ticket, the quick coffee he squeezed into our Melbourne stopover with an old neighbour he hasn’t seen in 7 years… crazy. All of it! He’s a lovely guy – interesting and intelligent – and we talk a little more in KL, bound together by a transfer process seemingly designed with express purpose of exasperating the transferred. In Dubai, our paths diverge – mine towards Delhi, his to Zurich. Walking down the concourse there’s a smile and a nod of farewell. I won’t see him again – I don’t even know his name.
My seat companion from Melbourne to Dubai will now have reached her destination: Paris. A librarian at an Australian University, she was heading to visit her daughter who is there on exchange. She only has a week but is looking forward to an art tour, given her daughter’s interest in the subject. There is, of course, much more to her than that – she lived in Wellington for years, her husband is a New Zealander and she chose her airline to Paris based on the fact they fly Boeing on that route. As opposed to Airbus. Interesting, huh? Safety, she reasoned. We also parted ways in Dubai with a smile and a wave – I didn’t get her name, either.
This is what I love about travelling. People. Looking around an airport – whether starting journeys, completing them or just passing through, there is a strong sense of purpose in the air. All of us animated by our hopes, dreams, loves and, occasionally, our disappointments. An elderly woman travelling on her own, people obviously on business, young people (still counting myself in this group), families (each member with their own little backpack – kinda cute) and yes, the odd screaming child… all from different parts of the world – the full splendour of humanity on display – all with different reasons for being there. In my case, I’m heading to India for a holiday more geared towards experience than by-the-pool relaxation – although I hope I get a little of that too.
On one of my flights, I looked around – it was late and the cabin lights were down. I saw faces illuminated by seat-back monitors, others asleep. Despite our vastly different life stories, backgrounds, religions, values, world views and aspirations… there we all were. Heading in the same direction. Together. There is something shared in this, an intimacy even, where names, strangely, don’t matter. I smiled to myself. Crazy. All of it. I’m sure whats-his-name would agree.