Manila— My most recent journey would have been perfect except for a glitch. As I was preparing to leave Africa after attending an international conference, my flight was canceled. I wasn’t ready for something like it but the airline staff was kind to me when they arranged for an overnight stay in Nairobi before the scheduled flight the following day. The staff thanked me for not being “too angry.” Obviously, they received a lot from irate passengers that day.
It wasn’t my first time to experience this. Due to a delayed flight five years ago, I also stayed overnight in Zurich. The airline staff wasn’t too friendly but the hotel arrangement was good. And so was Nairobi. The free, sumptuous buffet dinners, the pricey rooms, the impressive tea selection and a coffee presser I wanted to bring home made me forget about the pain these travel flaws can cause physically and emotionally.
There were also a few times of delayed flights that my luggage didn’t come out from the conveyor. Good that I still had them later during the day and did not disappear totally.
Despite the hassles of traveling, I would still want to move on and out often. And if I were a millionaire with so much money to spare for travel, I would go to the places I want to see and still not stop dreaming and going.
I’m a romantic but I’m also a realist when it comes to the irksome feeling of anxiety and the sadness of waiting, of being someplace that is neither nowhere or elsewhere, and just watching people come and go. Often, in the blandness of airports, I feel an upsurge every time I hear an announcement that a plane is arriving from somewhere, or departing from where I was. I would be thinking, was it really that fun to go around in snowmobiles in Reykjavik? I would also think about how probably the travelers who visited Ulaanbataar explored the beautiful sand dunes.
My flight from Kenya took off at sunrise. I wasn’t sleepy and was seated by the window as there was no aisle seat available anymore. I watched the sky change from orange to green, then bluish gray and then pitch black.
It was stunning at first but became scary when I thought of us passing by as countries and continents that are perhaps 40,000 feet below are experiencing their mornings, afternoons or night times. When this happened, I stopped imagining and turned on the featured movies on my TV.
My experience occurred also at a time when Qantas launched the longest commercial route of 19 hours from London to Sydney. The passengers were quoted in the news as saying they saw a double sunrise. I’m more of a sunset person but I would go for two sunrises anytime.
I had a stopover in Bangkok at early evening, and was rushed by airline staff, along with two other Manila-bound passengers, to check in immediately as they were completing the passenger list of a delayed flight. My plane touched down in Manila at an ungodly hour. It was 3 a.m.
Readily, I agree when people always say it’s the journey not the destination. When the journey transports me from the familiarity and comfort of one place to the strangeness of another, I take it as the trip that I might not be doing again, so I have to bask in it. Places have memories, some people also say. Places might not tell us or remind us but when they do, it’s because we remember.
So I thought that perhaps, in my first travel to Africa, I did not put enough memories in it, so it let me stay for one more night, so that by the time I will go back, I will remember. I was there.
Diana Mendoza is a journalist based in Manila. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org