I lean my head against the taxi window. A plane sweeps down to land, so near that I can make out the seams of its massive underbelly. My leather jacket is creased with campfire ash — remnants of a night that already seems long past. Wet skin sticky with salt. Drifting to sleep to the clink of emptied wine bottles and scattered conversation. But now the rows of tarmac grow ever nearer.
I shift uncomfortably, my muscles tense from a bike ride along the Vancouver seawall. That morning, the tide had been out. Fields of bull kelp and green algae littered the rocky shore and I inhaled the Pacific in all its rawness. It smelled like our island.
I tuck away that ocean scent, along with that of the lingering campfire smoke. Snippets of Canada, the home that I’m leaving.
At the airport check-in counter, something shifts. The giant cedar trees, the herons, and the skyline of sailboats have disappeared. Nothing but tall travelers, faces and accents distinctly Dutch. Certain phrases catch my attention. The words soothe me.
While I wait to board, I wander through the bookstore and pause before a stack of Canadian newspapers. Thoughts of my little tourist collection brings a smile to my lips. Photos of the front headlines in every country that has witnessed my wanderings. As I reaching for my camera, I pick up The Globe and Mail. I stop, stare at the headline, and let the paper slip back on the pile. I wonder: am I running away from home, or running towards it?
I turn and head towards Gate 58.
The flight is uneventful, but I fidget and turn. Restless mind. Our plane crosses a Neverland of night, and I lower the shades to block out the ever-bright sun. When I notice the rumble of the landing gear, I glance outside. Red-tiled roofs. Green fields: flat, flat, flat.
As I get off the plane, I take a deep breath. I make my way along Schiphol’s moving sidewalks. A familiar female voice issues a warning. “Mind your step… mind your step.”
I increase my pace, pass through customs, and step into the Netherlands.