Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cambodia 2012 - Leaving Incheon

I've always romanticized airports. I would blame the countless movies that have the guy chasing the girl to the gate to tell her how much he loves her (although you can't do that anymore), but it wasn't until 2008 that I really developed this infatuation with air travel.

Before that, most of my air travel had been domestically in the United States...and for most of us, that's a miserable experience. Security checkpoints, poor service, cranky people, delays and more delays: it all adds up to a horrible experience for many of us. Or, at the very least, it's something of a chore. You're doing it because you have to. You have a destination, and the journey is something in the way.

International air travel is a completely different story. Even though there's an exponential amount of stress that comes with it (Customs, your Passport, currency exchange, communication), there's something inherently exciting when you step into the international terminal with your Passport in hand. You're going somewhere special.

When you step into an international airport, everything feels different. You have duty free stores and the best restaurants and exhibits at your disposal. This is the gateway to a country, and first impressions are very important. The employees are extra friendly, the facilities are clean, and the airport itself is designed to make your trip as comfortable as possible....unless you're in Newark.

Incheon International Airport is no exception. In fact, Incheon is one of the crowning achievements in airport design in the world. That's not overhyping it: the place has won the award for "Best Airport in the World" 6 years running.
The main terminal is one huge atrium, with 5 floors below the main floor that house everything from baggage services and restaurants to an ice rink, a performance stage, and a sauna. I think that, if Tom Hanks got stuck here for a couple months, he really wouldn't mind...

It isn't the airport that makes it so impressive as much as the people in it. Busy airports like Incheon host thousands of people from countries all around the globe on a daily basis. It's a cornucopia of cultures inhabiting one space for a brief moment in time. 24 hours from now, most of us will be going to different corners of the globe. We all have our own personal journeys and adventures, and as I sit here in the main lobby watching the trollies and people make their way to their gates, I feel refreshed and hopeful.

In the mess of all the bad things in this world, it's traveling that reminds me how beautiful humanity is. We are such a diverse and amazing species, and places like Incheon Airport are testaments to what humans are capable of. We are constantly discovering and rediscovering our own answers to life's big questions, and part of that process is traveling. We are born to move. 

My flight leaves tomorrow morning. I'll have a 4 hour layover in China before heading to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Until then, I leave you with some more wisdom from Tom Hanks and "The Terminal":

Ameila: Are you coming or going?
Viktor: I don't know. Both.

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