Meditations: The Journey As An Experience Unto Itself

Saturday, May 28, 2016

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“Journeys are the midwives of thought” - Alain de Botton

On a recent journey back to London I found myself thinking about the experience of traveling. I wasn’t thinking so much about the exploring done at our destinations, but rather that which we do in the process of getting there. In his bestseller The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton writes that “journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than a moving plane, ship or train.” Of course this can be punctuated by the likes of my cousin, Sam, who snoozes his way through journeys in a way that I find endearing, but in being present during journeys I’ve found some personal truth to de Botton’s words. 

Being present during journeys for me has meant, not becoming lost, but paying attention and exploring the conversation between my environment and my thoughts. It makes the process more interesting than simply getting from A to B. Flying, for example, becomes an experience where my sensitivity and capacity for creative thinking both heighten. It goes like this…  

I feel anxiety and at the same time, confidence, upon meeting the cabin crew. I notice details about their demeanour and begin to speculate about their interior lives. Or I note an oddity about their way of moving or a wardrobe malfunction, and come up with business ideas for a product I have designed specifically to address their issue, much like Spanx or the Hermès Birkin. My ears pop and there’s a sucking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Is that the excitement of my successful business idea or the thrill of take off? Perhaps both.  

Once we’re airborne the knot in my chest loosens and my cheeks chill as the plane climbs. I admire the sun’s impression on the horizon whilst marvelling at the science of aviation, humbled by the awe of cruising - it truly is a wondrous thing. In that moment of perfect serenity, I might suddenly feel compelled to meditate or pray, essentially to concentrate my thoughts. 
Flying over the Black Sea.

Seven hours crossing the country.
Tramming it around Sofia.
Sometimes I entertain the fear of turbulence, it’s palpable when other passengers do too and we exchange nervous, comforting smiles with one another looking forward to the eventual relief of touchdown. Excitement builds as our destination draws nigh and I take in the vistas with keen eyes, enjoying them from the perspective of still being in motion.

Whatever the mode of transport, being present during journeys unlocks a world of experience, both visceral and cerebral. I always miss the inexplicable urge to run around, shake it off, and do it all over again.

En route to Arbanisi.
Lagos- Ibadan Expressway

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  1. Have you felt different about the experience of flying over time? Is there a difference in how you feel between flying for business and flying for pleasure? Comment below!

  2. Wow. I've never even thought about flying like this (probably because the last time I was even on a plane, I was 14 and really ill from the food!). Hopefully I'll be travelling to Nigeria & somewhere in Europe this summer so I'm definitely going to intentionally take it all in. This is so beautiful :)

    1. Hey Wunmi, thank you for reading. Yes sometimes bleak realities like food poisoning can take away from the wide-eyed wonder of flying, haha. I hope that next time you travel you won't have to worry about anything of the sort! If it helps, I posted this thread on Twitter full of tips to consider when taking a long-haul flight. It should make your experience more enjoyable so click the green link to have a read!

      Esmé Xo