Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
There’s something oddly comforting about sitting in an airplane and barreling through the sky at 37,000 feet. Granted, the food could be better and the seats a little bigger, but I’ve never been able to find a place quite like this one. When I’m up in the sky, it doesn’t feel like I’m traveling at almost 600 miles per hour. I can slow down and relax — a rare experience today, with everyone always rushing around, desperately trying to get everything done in the shortest amount of time. The sensation is strange: moving so fast but feeling motionless. There’s a blissful absence of chaos, a pure displacement from the pressures of every day. The plane pushes over currents, past sunsets, into the black void of the night sky. Every once in a while a bump of turbulence jolts me out of my thoughts, reminding me of my precarious position in the limbo between space and ground.
I look outside. I watch the switchboard cities and jagged mountains pass beneath me. I cruise over bands of highway with cars clustered together like tiny beetles on a tile floor. It’s like I’m staring down at someone’s toy model of the world. Farm fields look like patchwork, stitched edge-to-edge by hand. Rivers are sewn into the rough green of the landscape like strips of ribbon. The sky around me seems to go on forever, broken up by clusters of rolling clouds, punctuated by flocks of birds. For a few hours, I get to see everything from a new perspective. I’m not forced to participate in the real world: I can just sit back and observe.
Often, we get so wrapped up in our lives that we forget the whole other world just outside of our little bubbles. I’ve always loved travelling because I get to step into someone else’s universe — even if only for a short while. I pass by each scene of life like I would pass a window display. I cross streets where teenagers like me once played as children, but centuries ago, wars and revolutions ago. I eat in cafes where people fell in love or experienced heartbreak, in distant history or perhaps in just the past few hours. I stare up at ancient ruins that were once someone’s newest achievement and study paintings that artists once labored over. When I travel, my world begins to expand past the usual boundaries, into endless possibilities.
On the plane, it is not so different. Sometimes I watch the passengers of all different sizes, ages, and origins who are sitting around me. Faces are illuminated by tablet screens. Old married couples bicker in hushed voices. A child runs down the aisle, followed by her bleary-eyed parent. Businessmen type on their slim new laptops. A baby starts screaming in the back. Every few minutes there’s that crisp sound of a page being turned in a book. I can’t help but wonder what the stories of these people would be if I just leaned over and asked — though in the alluring silence of the racing plane, I am content to keep wondering.
At 37,000 feet, I feel like I have all the time in the world, the dull monotony of life now thousands of miles behind me. Giddiness and anticipation bubble up inside me as the captain’s voice crackles over the intercom. There’s a new world waiting for me at the end of the runway; suddenly, I can’t wait to touch down.