Thanks to a Christmas bookstore giftcard and my desire to find entertainment for my long-haul flight to Thailand, I came across a book written by a fellow Canadian about hitchhiking in Asia. The author describes hitching a ride with a man who is on his way to work. In order to arrive at the office on time, the man explains that he cannot take the author all the way to his destination, but agrees instead to drive him to a nearby city where he will be able to find another ride. However, once they set off, the man continues to drive the author towards his destination, beyond the city that they had agreed upon, even though he knows that he is making himself increasingly late for work by doing so. The author describes:
“It takes great effort to set an object in motion, yet once you do, the motion becomes easier and easier to maintain…Travelling is a matter of maintaining momentum. Resisting gravity…falling never landing…He was caught in it, the centrifugal force of the traveller”.
Despite the excitement of visiting Canada, and my joy at reuniting with friends and family, I felt a vague sense of unease, which continued even as we began our journey back to Thailand. I feared that after 15 months of traveling from one new place to another, going home, and then going back to a place we had already visited, would somehow cause our traveling to lose momentum. I was afraid that backtracking meant that we were resisting the invisible current that had moved us forward up until this point.
When we began our trip in 2011, I had wanted to travel for as long as I could remember, yet it still took a great deal of resolve and determination to actually start doing it. The first trip was the hardest, as we overcame the force of gravity that held us in Canada. But, once we broke through the inertia, it became easy. The more we traveled, the more natural and effortless it became to just keep doing it. On some level, I feared that if we ever stopped, we would become stuck in one place, and it would be difficult to find the push to start again.
I found myself fiercely wishing that we were going somewhere new instead of back to Thailand. We had been caught up in the traveling momentum and now we were working against it. We were fighting against the metaphorical flow of the river when, instead, I wanted to let it carry us to the next adventure.
I was feeling less than enthused as we boarded our New Year’s Eve flight to China, from where we would catch a connecting flight to Thailand. I remembered the toe-tingling excitement I felt upon arriving in Bangkok for the first time. I desperately wanted to feel that way again about Thailand. We picked up a cheap bottle of champagne in the duty-free shop, determined that being airborne was not going to stop us from kicking off 2013 with a little celebration.
Midnight in Thailand had long passed, so we waited until we knew that the New Year was being rung in back home in Toronto. Then, we carried our $14 bottle of champagne, loosely wrapped in a red “duty-free” bag, to a small alcove at the back of the plane where passengers could help themselves to water and juice. There were a few other passengers milling around the area, stretching cramped legs, and rubbing tired eyes. Brent unveiled our bottle to a flight attendant, who apathetically waved permission for us to open it. After some half-joking about allowing the cork to fly down one of the aisles, we opted to avoid the risk of injuring other passengers, and popped the champagne open over a plastic garbage bin.
Warm bubbles overflowed into plastic cups, which we passed to everyone around us, and together with strangers, we toasted the New Year. There was a New Jerseyan heading to Vietnam, a man from India returning home, a Chinese man who didn’t speak English, and a Moroccan en route to Hong Kong. It was the kind of eclectic, multi-cultural crowd you would expect to find on a New Year’s Eve flight to Shanghai. When the champagne was finished, one of our new friends took it upen himself to continue the impromptu celebration by getting into the airline’s supply of wine. Instead of chastising us for taking more than the 1 glass of alcohol allotted to each passenger, the flight attendant who discovered our empty bottle simply asked “One more? Happy New Year!” Our flight with China Eastern had been underwhelming until this point, but the boundless supply of wine they offered us gained the airline a few points in my mind.
As the plane moved us forward towards Asia, and into the New Year, I began to realize that we weren’t losing momentum at all. We were traveling back to a place we had been, yes; but we were still traveling, still discovering and learning. And if that wasn’t enough, our post-Thailand travel plans are already in motion too. Perhaps we are not always moving linearly forward; we may even circle around before moving outward again, but regardless, we are still caught in the traveling momentum. And that’s exactly where I want to be.
Do you feel caught in the momentum of travel? What drives you to keep traveling?