On the pleasures of traveling


Sitting in the waiting area, next to the boarding gate of my Paris bound flight, I was slowly enjoying my first espresso of the day while reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X.

I have been traveling alone from a very young age and I guess this constant exposure to airport chaos made me develop some ‘traveling’ habits that I have now begun to enjoy immensely. For instance, I have become one of those travelers that truly enjoy reaching the airport early in order to get done with security and appreciate some quality time in the boarding area. By quality time, I mean perpetuating the same tradition again and again: order an espresso, grab a nice book, make some goodbye calls, read some Quran and if possible, write something meaningful.

As I took out my laptop to write these words, I started thinking about the ‘actual’ reason behind the current state of happiness I was in. On the first look, the most obvious reason was the fact that I was going back to ‘my’ city. Paris is where I was born and where I lived most of my life. My family, my friends, my university, my house, most of my childhood memories are all somehow related to this city.

Surely, family and friends had a big role to play in my happiness. But the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that they alone did not explain entirely the complex feelings I was experiencing. My parents had just come to Montreal to visit me and so did my sister. Although it’s always a pleasure to spend time with your family, the fact that I had spent my entire summer with them made me feel a tad less excited about meeting them. I was more looking forward to spending time at home as a family ‘together’ rather than meeting them individually per say. The only member of my family I had not seen in a long time was my brother and I guess he, along with my best friend were the sole reason behind the excitement I could attribute to meeting individuals during this trip.

What made me feel so excited then? I thought. As I was typing vigorously on my laptop, I had not realized that the waiting area had started to get filled. I raised my head and saw a family sitting in front of me. The father was reading a book, while the kids were playing on their tablets. On the side, other travelers were walking in order to reach their respective boarding gates. This is when I came to a realization.

Beyond having a destination to reach to; beyond the joy of meeting family, friends, or fulfilling the purpose of the travel you’ve just started, it is the journey itself that makes traveling so enjoyable. I haven’t even started my journey ‘physically’ speaking as I am still sitting in Montreal. Yet, I have already started to taste flavours of this journey.

I wonder why I don’t always experience those flavours in my day-to-day life. Nothing extraordinary happened in this journey so far. I have drunk an espresso, which I do everyday. I was reading a book, which is also an activity I often engage myself into. I wonder then, why activities performed in daily life, when performed while traveling, suddenly become so meaningful.

The answer I came up with was a logical one. The difference lied in the shift of my state of mind. Because I knew I was going to travel, I was somehow able to disconnect myself with all responsibilities that tied me to my everyday life. There was no thinking of patients, clinic, lab, classes, and my entire attention span was recruited for tasks that had very little to do with my professional, or personal life. Whatever I was doing in that airport, whether thoughts or actions, was motivated by a passion, an emotion or an intellectual thirst. None of my thoughts originated from a need imposed by my status in the society. I wasn’t a clinician anymore. I wasn’t a student anymore. I wasn’t a tenant, I wasn’t a friend, I wasn’t a community member, I wasn’t a teacher. At that moment, I was none of them. I was just whatever I was after all labels attached to my existence were detached. In some ways, I was experiencing the lightness of becoming a child again, while still keeping the intellectual ability to think and analyse my environment as an adult.

I heard the announcement. The ground staff carefully opened the gate for passengers to board on the plane. Two hours had gone and I didn’t see time passing. It’s time for me save this word file and to post it on my blog. My journey hasn’t really started yet and I already have learnt so much. I hope each day of this trip can bring many lessons on life and its intricacies. And most importantly, I hope I can learn from these lessons and become a better human being.


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