In February I was gone for what seemed like half the month, moving between Greece and San Diego and Durham and Mexico City and then back home to San Diego again. On one particularly long travel day I sat in the Munich airport, drinking a cappuccino and gearing up for the 12-hour flight ahead, having already taken one flight and woken up at 3:15 that morning.
The airport restaurant was vaguely Middle Eastern-themed, with clubby overtones and, jarringly, Latin pop playing through the speakers. Looking around as I scooped cappuccino foam with my finger, I thought: I love airports. I love the anonymity and introspection they offer, and I love the way they prompt me to pay attention.
Collected thoughts from that solo coffee break in the middle of the Munich airport:
Travel hands you the gift of fresh attention.
This: Outside the airplane window, rock shelves become sliced loaves of bread dusted in a powder of snow, baked in the brown dusk. The unknown spread before me, anticipation dissolving on my tongue like sugar crystals.
This: On the Athens metro, a woman stares unseeing at the murals of graffiti that flash by, her pupils flicking over each quadrant of color through the windows. Morning sun liquifies her eyes to amber as they jump back and forth, keeping time with the prayer beads that click through her seatmate's hands.
Travel hands you the gift of expanded imagination.
Moving closer—toward people, into foreign spaces, toward uncertainty—expands my imagination. It makes it impossible to slap generalizations onto the particular, concrete experiences and people I encounter. I’ve been thinking lately about these words: “If you want to change people’s obedience then you must change their imagination” (Paul Ricoeur).
How much more compelling is story, is conversation, is an interaction with a human than any argument one can make.