Over the past few years, I’ve caught a few flights. I’m by no means a frequent flyer traveller, racking up those miles, setting up camp in the Qantas lounge – but I’ve been back and forth a fair bit. Between fieldwork, conferences, committee meetings and the odd indulgent holiday, I’ve found myself sailing above the tarmac far more than I ever expected.
People hate flying, for a few good reasons. Leaving aside the fact that you’re travelling a significant distance above the ground, crammed into an impossible seeming machine crafted from substances that certainly do not float in the air when dropped, it’s cramped, and it’s boring, and you’re up close and personal with strangers, and you’re not able to move, and it’s loud.
Even when it’s quiet – even when everyone’s asleep – it’s loud. There are mighty engines at work. They generate noise. I have invested heavily in noise-cancelling tech, just so I can tolerate plane flights without turning into a seething mass of overloaded-sensory-processing anxiety.
These are excellent reasons to hate flying, and I admit that, if I’m on a long-haul flight (I’ve been on very few of those), I can sometimes desperately yearn to be on the ground.
Mostly, though, I like flying. I like planes. I haven’t generally needed to fly anywhere I haven’t actually wanted to go, and the first few flights in my life were always exciting. They meant I was going somewhere new. I was going on an adventure. I was going to fly in the air to a new place and it was amazing. I think that set the pattern. Now, getting into my seat in the plane, setting out my various entertainment devices, and gazing out the window, are all prequels to an adventure, even if it’s not an adventure that awaits me.
When the plane takes off, when it cuts ties with the earth, that’s when the magic happens. That’s when I know I’m out of my normal world and my normal schedule, and anything might happen. The usual rules don’t apply. I become open and chatty with everyone I meet, from taxi drivers to hotel reception staff, when I am usually a fairly shy and even taciturn individual. I look forward easily to checking into my accommodation, dropping my bags, and lying down just to feel what it is to be in a new place.
I think about stories. I think about the possibilities and the worlds I could write. I think about the future, and I don’t feel weighed down by any of it – because how could I be?