As a child, the notion of travel – and especially of flying – holds special promise. I clearly remember staring skyward in disbelief as my mother tried to convince me that we would soon be in an aeroplane just like the one above, thrust across the sky to my grandparents’ home in Cape Town. She may as well have told me that the family dog could read and write! It was utterly unbelievable. So many questions invaded my tiny brain – why is the plane so small? How high is it? How does it stay up there? How big is it in real life? How do we get up there? The wonder of flight, coupled with the excitement of visiting a new and strange place was definitely a highlight of my short life until that point.
Some things don’t change: I probably couldn’t answer questions about how planes stay in the air any better now than I could back then! But many other perceptions of travel, even if it is just for a holiday, definitely have changed. As one grows up, one becomes more aware of things like passports, visas, customs, baggage and airline food, and less aware of the wondrous, whimsical things that excite us about travel in the first place. Particularly as a South African passport holder, the notion of travel brings with it some degree of trepidation. Visas are necessary for almost every country in the world, and they are expensive to acquire. I often have to endure private questions about my employment status, my financial stability, my health, my reasons for travelling, and even the legitimacy of my right to live in the city I now call home. And that’s just to visit my partner’s family across the Channel! Of course, some of these things are necessary to ensure that safety standards are upheld, and that immigration policies are enforced. But it’s still degrading, and it dampens the mood quite significantly. Add ‘herding’ in airports, delays, hidden costs and even abstract things like fear of flying, and you have a recipe for elevated stress levels.
However, I’m pleased to report that after successfully negotiating my personal visa minefield, I am about to head out to places that are far more exotic to me than Cape Town. I can’t wait to flex my wings and have a holiday from this little island. Weird food, ancient relics, strange languages, foreign customs… I’m going to lap it all up and celebrate what a privilege it is to travel.
It turns out that there’s still a shred of wonder associated with gazing skyward.