(written last night – but I only managed to find WiFi at the hotel reception tonight to post it)
I love flying.
After re-reading and reflecting on that simple statement, I feel the need to broaden it a somewhat: I love to travel. As I sit here, enjoying the perspective over the mountains below, the solitary yet safe and comfortable space I’m in with my headphones on, I find myself inevitably flicking back in my memories through many of the flights I have been on alone in recent years, such a trip to Amsterdam in 2011 to run a marathon. These solo, reflective flights have a very different texture to the joys of traveling with my husband, my family – which is boisterous and exhausting; with paddling partners or team mates to sports events, filled with hopes, nerves, and group logistics.
I have captured a remarkable number of thoughts from various flights, since my first international trip to London in 2000 when I wrote copious pages in my travel diary, and therein lies another grain of explanation for my particular enjoyment of flying alone: I love to write; to have space wrapped in music to simply be – or to reflect on being, and observe the flow of my thoughts and emotions, and capture them in the way I most enjoy: written words.
Tonight my flight takes me swiftly from Durban to Johannesburg, a mere 50 minutes of flying time, as I head towards the Commission for Gender Equality’s National Gender Summit, and a dinner with one of my wonderful sisters. I am delighted to find that my smooth Cabernet is named ‘Joy’, as I feel joyfulness bubbling through me.
Following my appreciation of my personal, reflective space, smiling at the view, doing some preparatory work for the Summit and generally glorying in feeling alive within the moment, I indulged in another great pleasure of lone travel: getting to know someone new. As we waited patiently in the very last row to disembark, I began the usual flight banter with the passenger next to me, who had earlier helped to fit my heavy laptop bag into a very full overhead locker. After complaining light-heartedly about the inefficiency of only opening the front for disembarkation rather than opening the rear too, and establishing which of us was flying home and which leaving home behind, it turned out that I was speaking to a Professor who works with both the University of the Witwatersrand (affectionately known as ‘Wits’), and the University of Cape Town. He was aware of the National Gender Summit I was flying to Johannesburg for, and had met one of the key speakers at the recent Agenda Feminist Dialogue ‘Who’s afraid of Feminism?’, the transcript of which I had been reading and annotating during the flight. He was enthusiastic and supportive of my emerging ideas for my Masters and Doctoral research, and was able to give clear advice on institutions and methodology, as well as offer ongoing support.
I continue to be amazed at how often, when I open myself up to the world and engage with it in an open-hearted way, I find wonderful new connections; and when I find the courage to share my dreams, I find support to help them towards fruition.