Between Here & Home: Vicarious travel the way to fly

IT seems like everyone’s travelling these school holidays. Not just to caravan parks or cabins by the sea, but to faraway places. I know Bendigonians who have jetted to Bali and New York… Scandinavia and Singapore. 

Me, I’ve spent the past two weeks laying low in the wilds of Strathfieldsaye. No visa required. I’ve barely taken my slippers off – a much-needed stepping back from the world. 

It’s more than 20 years since the last stamp in my passport. My photo looks like a stranger. Apart from a couple of trips across Bass Strait I’ve mostly kept my feet on terra firma.

 So on Saturday night I took vicarious pleasure in driving my eldest to the airport for his first overseas trip – to Venice, Italy no less. 

I love the melting pot of an international airport. The snaking queues of travellers and their luggage – ubiquitous backpackers with spare shoes tied to their rucksacks – businessmen with Samsonite in tow – families with trollies stacked high, taunting the weight limit. The thought of people doing the same the world over – all those restless humans endlessly circling the globe. Travel is cheap. No one stays put for long anymore. 

Henry Rollins said that an airport is an international gathering of those in transition – “The euphoric emerging from planes, their journey at an end, and the determined, about to depart” – while British author Anthony Price believes “the devil himself probably redesigned Hell in light of  observing airports.” 

They are places of high emotion – the happiness of reunions and sadness of goodbyes. The anxiety of nervous travellers and excitement of those off on great and small adventures. 

I love how the airport is a kind of a Shakespearean “green world” where the everyday rules of life no longer apply. You’re likely to see a bunch of backpackers drinking Heineken at 9am because they’ve been up since 4am in some other time zone. Others drinking coffee and chatting at midnight, because somewhere it’s 11 in the morning.

 After seeing my son disappear through that wretched international portal, I stayed for a while and watched a series of other sad goodbyes. A mother and son embraced in tears. “See you in nine months,” she said. “Tell Dad I love him,” he replied. 

I browsed in WH Smith and considered an overpriced paperback. Dropped by the chemist and bought a chapstick. Sat in an Irish-themed pub and watched the football. Ate a sandwich as immaculate flight crews paraded by – all ironed creases and panache. And then, instead of boarding a plane, I got in my car and drove back to Strathfieldsaye. 

I might not have woken to the canals of Venice, but the sun looked beautiful glinting off the dam. And there’s nothing like the promise of a Sunday when the kettle’s whistling and your slippers beckon.

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