I am in an airplane. Its dormant body rests as passengers jibber about in anticipation. With subtle smiles, the crew stroll the passageways to check for open baggage shelves and undone seatbelts. Seatbelt-on signs turn on with a low beep. While I hurriedly turn off my cell phone, the plane starts to dash along the runway, and buildings race by in a frighteningly fast blur. At the point where going faster seems impossible, I notice that I’m in the air. I peer out the window. With the queasy feeling of rising to the sky, everything on land starts to drift apart. As I get higher, clouds pass by and the color of the sky darkens. Suddenly I become anxious. I’m torn away from all the things I have naturally become accustomed to. As the clouds start to slip under my window, I reminisce of things like the gentle purr of the family cat in the Philippines or the somehow calming smell of my Grandma’s freezer in Korea, even the maddeningly hot and humid air of Indonesia. A baby begins to wail. Maybe he, too, feels my distress.
It has always been like this. I was never ready. I wasn’t ready to embrace the change that will take place inevitably as I shift among countries on a yearly, even a monthly basis. Sometimes I was parting from a city I had briefly visited to tour. Sometimes I was leaving the couple months of absolute bliss spent idly with my parents, who are currently in the Philippines and wander off to some random country every few years. Sometimes I was torn, with watery eyes, from the countries I lived in for years and had grown affectionate to so much that I could not even imagine having to live somewhere else.
My ears become numb. Every sound, from the soft murmurs of the passengers to the consistent noise of the wind gushing against the metal frame of the plane, fades away like the memories of the places I have grown out of. These memories, which I have carefully cherished inside a box in my surreptitious attic of thoughts, flash before my eyes in a panoramic view. The innumerable, dazzling stars peeking through thick trees in New Zealand. The ice-cold, ruddy hands of my sister as we make a snowman and his adorable family at the backyard of our house in Ohio. The ridiculous monkey that just would not get off my back in Monkey Forest, Bali. The blood-freezing moment in which I accidentally trod on a rat in Vietnam. I notice these recollections slowly fade into oblivion as I move from one place to another. The pressure in my ears keeps on building until I feel suffocated.
However, loss is not the only thing that I feel when traveling. Whenever I get on an airplane, deep down inside me, I feel a curious mix of sorrow and hope. In the lamenting about parting from past memories, I see a streak of hope to form new, better ones in my new environment. Anticipation of exploring a whole new atmosphere builds up slowly in my mind. What will the air smell like? Who will I meet? What adventures are lying ahead of me, ready to entrance and bewilder? The numbness in my ears clears off. The main light is turned off as darkness encroaches on the sky, devouring everything in sight. I pull the cover of my window down and close my eyes. Some turn on their private lights, and dim blobs of light creep through my closed eyelids.
I wake as I feel my body descending. Rubbing my eyes and sifting through my tangled hair, I lift the cover up the window and look out. There it is. This is the land where I will be staying for years, months or maybe days. Lying under me is my personal Atlantis, welcoming me with heart-trembling escapades and glorious accolades. My heart starts to race. The past that was forced into oblivion and the repentance it creates do not matter anymore, at least not in this moment. Buildings, trees, the sky, cars, streams come into my view. I peer vigorously out the window in melodious anticipation as the land gets closer, closer…
To me an airplane means change. Is it a good or bad change? I am not sure yet. In some way, a plane ride it is a tragic departure from the very things I adore the most. In another, is a prologue of a magnificent adventure lying ahead of me. I guess I will have to figure things out.