One week ago I had just finished facilitating a memorable CAS workshop at Prince Alfred College, Adelaide. I had checked out of the hotel early enough to allow me a few hours of airport time, waiting for my connecting flight to Melbourne. I was excited – I had a ticket to the men’s semi-final match at the Australian Open that night – Thomas Berdych v’s the eventual tournament winner, Stan Wawrinka.
I love airports, or more particularly watching people at airports. I find myself trying to second-guess the lives, histories, personalities, family structures, and destinations of the people who catch my attention there.
I do notice however a commonality amongst travellers that I find worrying. Nowadays people at airports in particular are more engrossed in their gadgets and devices rather than conversations, books or magazines.
In fact travellers are tethered to their digital devices, locked in time and space in their digital networks. People who used to chat with others while waiting for their planes now seem to spend that wait time doing emails, taking selfies, updating their FB status, or absorbed in a tweet, a pin, or a you-tube.
These activities are valid and valuable however when travelling I’m convinced that the mere act of travel is a powerful way to gain self-awareness and perspective on “life back home” especially when we encounter new things that stimulate comparisons. If we bring our “homes” with us in our digital devices, then I think we’re missing out, selling ourselves short of opportunities for developing international mindedness, empathy and curiosity.
Check wikipedia on the concept of liminal space—the anthropological term for disorienting periods that foster new points of view. This is critical when we travel. But technology is making liminal space harder to come by.
Travel, cross-cultural encounters, and to some degree, even retreats, workshops and conferences used to be ideal environments for liminal space. But if our driving concern is staying connected to life back home when we travel, it’s much harder to experience the distraction, the disorientation and the transformation that these opportunities offer.
Waiting time is not what it used to be.