It’s the third thing I do after deboarding a plane, right after a beeline to the restroom and refilling my water bottle.
I pull out my phone and scroll over to the black app. I pin my location in the pickup zone and wait until the caravan of hybrid sedans matches the one on my screen. My driver helps me load my bags and I confirm the basic facts:
“Are you Emily?”
The driver automatically gets 5-stars if the conversation stops after the third question. I wish I was the kind of person who could meet you halfway after six hours of travel and a few nights away from my own bed, but at this point my only goal is to make it home with some piece of my soul left, so small talk is out of the question.
I make a point of putting in my headphones to further avoid any attempts at conversation, then I mentally prepare to spend the next 30+ minutes trying not to throw up from the stop-and-go of traffic. The pine sweetened air in the PNW helps me breathe a little easier, but that feeling is short-lived once I slide into the backseat of a Prius. It’s another reminder that I’m not quite there yet when all I want is to be home.
Coming home is one of the main reasons I love to travel. Travel naturally removes you from routine and reveals things that your body, mind, and heart have been saying that you otherwise would have missed in your daily rhythms. But by the end of my journey after I’ve learned the things or gained the clarity or accomplished the goal, I crave home.
The homecoming I want isn’t further delayed by the unfamiliar. The homecoming I want is reliable. It’s consistent. It’s predictable. It lets me put my feet up on the dashboard. I want to come home to the feeling of being known, of being brought in, and maybe of having a hot coffee waiting for me. The homecoming doesn’t wait another minute for me to get back but instead kicks off it’s sandals and runs toward me to remind me that I’m safe here and I can take my armor off.
The welcome home I want means that I need people. Which goes against my millennial-bend to prove that I’m independent and make my own appointments and pay my own bills and I’m doing fine and I can ~stay humble and hustle hard~ because I have no needs that I cannot meet within my own ability and tools offered to me. It defies the projected image that makes me seem like I can exist all by myself in this big wide world. You can hide it behind filtered pictures of solo travels and endless story streams of who you were surrounded by but at the end of the day we are all terribly, desperately in need of a space where we can take off our uncomfortable pants and not worry if we laughed at the right things at the right times.
It’s risky, exposing your own need to the watching world. I think we all want to argue that we don’t NEED anybody but that we WANT people. That gives us all the power in any relationship. We don’t want to risk rejection or loosen our white-knuckle grip on controlling our circumstances, even if the outcome makes us more uncomfortable and more in touch with our own alone-ness (different than loneliness, that’s another word for another time).
Maybe I’ve failed as a millennial. Maybe there’s a part of me that isn’t cut out for the seductive productivity offered by an app. Maybe I don’t want to ask my friends for a ride because I don’t want to let them see my neediness. Or maybe I’m just not privy to being driven around by strangers. But a few trips ago I quit my millennial-independence cold turkey and started asking my friends for a ride to/from the airport. Not via an app, but from actual people who I know and talk to on a regular basis.
Call it beginner’s luck, but every person I’ve asked to drive me to or from the airport in the last year has said, “Yes!”
Who knew? People tend to show up when I stop pretending that I am fine with handling life alone and start admitting that I need a little help. They will literally drive through hell — AKA any airport arrivals platform — to bring me home.
And I think that’s it. That’s the pretty life lesson tied up with a white bow here. That people just need people to take our hands and walk us back Home.