In 2010 I spent significant periods of time, significant in both number of days and the importance of the events that transpired in those places, in seven different cities across three continents. I recently discovered a written account from the time and was struck by how little has changed in my sentiment of traveling and my thoughts on the meaning of home.
In 2013, I spend time in ten countries. 2014 is only halfway over and I am already on my ninth trip across the globe. Wasteful, perhaps. Going entails returning so if I just stayed put I wouldn’t have to always be in an active state of getting there or going back.
But here I am now, once again having lunch with my carry-on and waiting for a flight back. Back? These days I refer to most of my flights as flights back. I can’t decide if this instinctive denomination is a product of the round-trip phenomenon, or of my own adaptability and skill to turn every place I inhabit into some version of home.
As I descend a long escalator on the way to my connection, I get the clear feeling of passage. It appears that the constant sense of return that defines almost all of my travels is caused by the fact that each departure is a transition from one world into another, from a familiar reality to the next parallel one.
I make-believe for a second that I am a Cortazar character trapped between two realities, torn between a here and a there, this side and the other one, a female Oliveira of sorts. No matter how remarkably adaptable I am and how many times I packed this same toothbrush in these same suitcases, I will always feel the passage between my two primary worlds (and any other ones I happen to spend long enough in). It is a whole-body feeling of abandon and excitement, spiced with some fear and melancholy—a favorite—a momentary reminiscence of times past that I imagine will flavor my retirement years, and the rush of a poker addict before a new hand. Physically this feeling of passage is similar to the trip down the escalator; maybe that’s why airports have them, even those fast horizontal lanes are quick to remind the traveler that she is being carried away into a new environment.
At this point traveling has become so automatic and instinctive that I am surprised at the sentiments expressed above. Being on a plane for 10 hours nowadays is like sleeping to me, which doesn’t mean I sleep throughout a flight, but that in my mind some nights are spent in a bed and others, just as naturally, in an airplane seat. Tonight is one of these nights.