I am home. It is my place of departure and my destination. I hopped out of the vehicle, both of my feet, together, felt the impact of the concrete; my ballerina shoes hardly provided any support. I rolled my carry-on suitcase to the familiar doors. A large sign welcomed me. This time in English, though I had seen it before in a multitude of languages from Italian to Arabic and beyond.
The familiar sound of planes flying to the corners of this world murmured like a secret whispered in your ear. The wheels touched down to the runway, loved ones waited eagerly at the doors, business travelers met their parties and new passengers boarded. The Children played hopscotch at their gate, experiencing a world of joyful oblivion. The airport felt like my playground. I belonged. I walked down the hall to my own gate, feeling that it was the hallway to my living room.
People left, people came. It was everyone’s temporary home. Perhaps it was home because of the common notion and culture among travelers that an airport was one stop, for a few hours, a temporary place, passing through, a hallway of life. Such location gave me comfort because I knew so well how to play the “I’m only here for a little while” game. Everyone brought their stories to their destination and packed bags of new memories, photos of unforgettable nights. The airport had an undefined location, regardless of the very real geographical coordinates. It remained a place with a similar feeling in every country or city, an island on its own, filled with culture and a link between worlds without its own true identity.
Rolling with me, in my suitcase, was the book “Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds.” My upbringing made the concept of home confusing and fascinating. It wasn’t a place I could point on a map, it was a feeling I had experienced in crossing oceans and flying above hills.
They announced several flights and I sat looking out the large window at the planes that glided on the concrete and flew off. The airline industry has had a consistent presence in my life from infant to child and now to adult. She was my other parent. There were many trips overseas to visit extended family. There were many bags packed and heavy carry-ons when we moved continents. Flights were taken from and to college, until the very last one the day of graduation. Airports had witnessed my running record to connecting flights. Planes had taken me to the countries where I had decided to study new cultures, people, and languages during my junior year, which marks the birth of this blog. For every time I transitioned to a new stage in my life, to meet a new family of friends and discover a new piece of this world, a plane always welcomed me home. With a great supply of tissues for my tears, my trip was filled with sad songs of many languages and great encounters with strangers who shared wisdom and inspiration with me. My seat neighbors, of all ages, gave me laughter, motivation and helped me grow. I was reminded that travel was life, that the next corner of this world was filled with people just as wonderful.
The flight attendants have witnessed my excitement for a new country, my grief for friends lost, and my tears after a painful goodbye to my parent or siblings. I have ran in the halls to catch the plane, out the doors to be welcomed with an embrace, and through security to deliver a forgotten letter and one last goodbye. I have locked myself in the restrooms on the plane, unable to understand the English words written on the door. I’ve even lost one of my baby teeth sitting in the aircraft seats. The flight attendant became my parent, advising me to rinse my mouth with cold water and helped preserve my teeth of innocence.
Years ago, as a child, I personally delivered a drawing to the pilot. He promised to hang it up on the wall alongside the art pieces his children had made for him. Somewhere in the world, I wonder if that sheet of paper is clinging on to a small piece of tape, perhaps with some creases where it was once folded. What had I even drawn for him?
“I just boarded the plane,” a familiar message I have sent via text for so many years. “Well done!” Encouragement from my mother even though I’ve been flying for 22 years. I am leaving Washington D.C. Airport to my other home. As long as I live, the runways will be my driveway home, the restaurants at the gates will be my kitchen, the seats in the aircraft will be my bedroom, and my gate will be my living room. I live among worlds but I am only at home when I am traveling between them. As my mother called them, the wings of life….