“Time to fly!” the surprisingly friendly shuttle driver says as he grabs my backpack and places it in the trunk. His cheerfulness overrides the fact that he’s early and that I have to scramble to get out of the house. I close the door temporarily on my regular life and exhale the tension of trip preparation. I’m sure I forgot to pack a few minor items, but I have my passport and the most important things and onward I go.
As we head south to the airport, I watch the marine layer hug and glide over the hilltops. It’s a sight I’ll miss; the ethereal look of the fog approaching but not quite reaching me, luminous in the late afternoon sun.
At the airport, everyone seems buoyant, fellow travelers and staff alike. Or maybe it’s just that I exude happiness about giving my soul the adventure it’s been craving and the world is echoing that back at me.
I’m much earlier than I typically would be for my flight given the shuttle company’s overzealous pickup times, but I am happy to be at SFO’s swanky Terminal 2 with its art exhibits and comfortable swivel chairs. If there was ever a place to pull a Tom Hanks in The Terminal, this would be it.
The restaurant next to my gate plays great music while I wait. Bob Marley, Stir it Up. The Rolling Stones, I Can’t Get No Satisfaction. Lady Gaga, Just Dance. A long list of crowd-pleasers that gets people tapping hands and feet and any other limbs generally deemed appropriate for public dancing in a non-dancing environment.
For the first time, I meet another solo traveler before I even land in my destination. He’s on his way to Bogota as well and it’s his first time traveling solo. He starts conversations with anyone willing to chat and he takes people by surprise as he high fives both passengers and flight attendants.
He excitedly tells the flight attendants, “This is my first international trip abroad by myself!” On this leg of the trip we are headed to Miami and not yet leaving the country so the flight attendants give him a funny look before they just go with it and humor him. He is nervous about traveling solo, but I figure that as outgoing as he is, he will be fine. When we bump into each other again about halfway through our trips, I find out that this is definitely the case.
At takeoff, it is dark and it seems that San Francisco has rotated completely out of the sun’s reach. But up, up, up and above the fog, light lingers in the distance. Below us is the billowy fog I marveled at on the way to the airport and just above that on the horizon, the sky is shades of dusky pinks and blues. And above that, shielded from city and suburb lights by the fog, the stars are shining.
From every angle, the beauty of the fog and light of San Francisco has been tugging at me, still there to enjoy, but looked at with the perspective and appreciation of its impermanence and my leaving. There is such beauty in that fearful thing, change; when transience forces moments to be lived for what they are because you know they will pass.
You really know what you’ve got when it’s almost gone, when the last light shining on what you’re leaving behind fades. But the unknown awaits, enticing you with the allure of discovery. It’s time to fly.