In the absence of the idyllic holiday experience, would there still be joy
Airport transit lounges and duty-free areas in some ways epitomised globalisation. It was here that the freedom of movement was profoundly felt. The state of being ‘in transit’ in itself communicates an absence of, or rather irrelevance, of borders. Travellers browsing through the duty-free isles embodied a unique duality; they had enough time for idle strolling, yet, were also in a rush to get to another part of the world. The diversity of people was also unmatched; no place other than an international airport could have such diverse people under one roof. It was at an airport that it seemed as if people had transcended the limits posed by the nation-state, time, space and exclusionary practices. The air seemed to be filled with a sense of joy; of finding new places or returning to familiar ground; of escaping to a retreat or returning to a routine; of being part of the world yet belonging to a specific place in the vastness of the earth.
This year the airport, as a place, lost its magic. Even though international travel has seemingly restarted after a brief interlude during the early months of the year, it has changed immensely. The air of freedom has been replaced by consideration for caution. The luxury of travelling has been replaced by more utilitarian purposes. Airports are, for now, only places one passes through and not oases in themselves. While it can be forgotten, even if briefly, that there is a pandemic (or was a pandemic, depending on which statistics you follow) when one is sitting at home, the fact is ever-present during international travel.
This year the airport, as a place, lost its magic. Even though international travel has seemingly restarted after a brief interlude during the early months of the year, it has changed immensely. The air of freedom has been replaced by consideration for caution.
This change is thought-provoking and makes one wonder about necessity. There are dimensions to this change that feed into bigger questions related to climate change, use and abuse of natural resources, income inequalities, economic losses etc. One intriguing question relates to necessity and happiness; will an international vacation cause you unmatched joy? In the social media culture of throwback hashtags, it can seem for a while that for a certain segment of the urban population of Pakistan, international vacations were the most celebrated and dearly held moments of the past year or years. It is natural to enjoy a vacation and reminisce about it, but remembering and longing are essentially different.
A vacation in itself is an interlude and an escape from the mundane. However, with the increasing number of international holidays people go on or see others go on, it can seem as if the threshold for happiness is getting higher and higher. In the absence of the idyllic holiday experience, would there still be joy? There seems to be an inflation in the very idea of happiness, the bar keeps getting higher at the expense of contentment. During this time, people have travelled within their respective countries or regions, but the idea of ‘ideal sources of or forms of happiness’ remains unchanged. The showcasing of perfect lifestyles that followers should aspire to or be inspired by is unflinching.
Even if the world around people changed and places had to come to terms with new realities, human nature and behaviour patterns appear less flexible. The change in airports makes one wonder about two questions; ‘why one travels?’ and ‘how one travels?’ The necessity of the journey and the protocols guiding the process. Nevertheless, it seems as if there has only been a pause without reflection.
The writer studied psychology and education. She can be reached at [email protected]