Twilight (from Merriam Webster): a: the light from the sky between full night and sunrise or between sunset and full night produced by diffusion of sunlight through the atmosphere and its dust;
b: an intermediate state that is not clearly defined;
c: a period of decline
The word twilight often comes to my mind when riding on the subway, an airplane, or even while riding in a car or bus. The idea that you are simultaneously living, breathing, and thinking in an enclosed transportation vessel while moving relative to another person is fascinating to me.
Air travel has taken over as the fastest form of transportation over large distances, completely monopolizing travel between countries (except for maybe Europe where trains between countries are still common). When taking a flight, you are surrounded by people whom you probably do not know, or even care to know, but have a common destination. When thinking about it, I usually am a terrible traveler, only concerned with MY bags, MY flight time, MY comfort, and MY view out the airplane. But, just like every other situation, I am interested in people and watching or knowing people. Airports are the perfect place to be interested in people, because airports are a wild and crazy jungle, each person with their own stories, interests, and origins. Based on the FAA’s website, “every day, the FAA's Air Traffic Organization (ATO) provides service to more than 42,000 flights and 2.5 million airline passengers across more than 29 million square miles of airspace”. If you wanted to reach someone, talk to someone, be interested in people, an airport may be your place. But air travel is different than train travel, for example, for one simple reason. Air travel does not typically serve close destinations, you cannot see other passengers in other planes, and if you can, it’s probably a bad thing or you have super vision. But airplane twilight is interesting when you take off or land, because you can see the world from a bird’s eye, travel through the clouds, and even maybe view the sunrise or sunset.
I have traveled in a variety of airplanes and NEVER did I see someone ever look back.
I live in a city and public transportation is very common. The trains often travel underground, weaving, intersecting, and commuting together in a diverse, drastic, and quite dramatic fashion. Quite frequently, the trains will ride along the tracks next to each other, creating an eerie illumination of the inside of another train car. While this occurs, I often get the sense that I am in a completely different time, traversing the interconnects of a completely unknown world, partially due to it being dark underground, and because the train car next to mine is similar, yet different. The people in the other train car are often reading, surfing the internet (if they have service underground), talking to others around them, etc., but oddly rarely looking back at me (or the other train car, similarly to how I look at them). This odd, yet fascinating, phenomenon is known as a twilight, or as some would define, an intermediate state that is not clearly defined.
Only once have I had someone look back at me. She was a young girl, maybe in middle school, and she must have been thinking the same as me. She was viewing the train car I was in which was moving at a slightly faster pace compared to hers. As the train started to pull ahead, my view aligned with hers, giving us clear views of one another. We sat like that a while (probably a few seconds) before she looked away and started writing on her notepad, which eventually she pressed against the window. As I looked and read, “HI”, I smiled and waved back to signal I have received the message. My train continued forward, I reached my station stop, and exited the train into the daylight which encompasses our known world.
I rode this train every day for 3 years, back and forth from school to home. Only ONCE did I see someone look back.
While this is not true in some countries, car travel is one of the most common forms of travel in the United States. This could be due to the distances which often separate homes from grocery stores, schools, or work or possibly due to the lack of public transportation in most US communities. Whichever the reason, most Americans travel in cars regularly. While experiencing car travel, we also experience people, and car twilight is very common. A typical car twilight can consist of noticing other people at stop lights or intersections, hearing another automobile’s speakers and bass as they pass by, or even signaling to another driver to go before you at a stop sign. Each of these instances are their own twilight. We cannot know the other person just through this interaction, however we can begin to define an intermediate state which we are both located.
I have taken thousands of car rides in my life, and I have noticed SEVERAL people looking back.
We are human and our instinct is to travel directly with our own bodies before using another form of transportation. A famous quote from Lao Tru even states that, “a journey of thousand miles begins with a single step”. Because of this nature, walking, jogging, etc. is the most common form of transportation. As you walk along the sidewalk, you pass by many people, each doing their own unique thing. You may notice some are looking down, some are looking at their phones, some talking to others, but most will look directly at you. This look is short and quick, however, very common as most people then lead into a smile.
However, because this form of twilight is so quick it can often be taken for granted. Imagine a different situation. You walk down a busy street and not one person looks at you or glances at you. Suddenly, a common personal twilight with others on the street is lost.
We walk every day, and EVERY DAY I have noticed someone looking back.
Whether you travel by airplane, train, car, or foot, this story is not about travel, necessarily. Underlining each individual travel experience is human interaction, a person to person connection, and a twilight between two intermediate states that are not clearly defined. The farther we travel, the less we may relate to others as air travel and foot travel have drastically different personal interaction amounts. A twilight experience cannot be only one-sided as it is necessary for two states to be included (as a twilight is an intermediate between two things). This suggests it is equally our responsibility as well as the next person's responsibility to respect and accept a twilight which may form as a result of a personal interaction. A twilight is your chance to see things, to realize that no two travel experiences are the same, and each can be considered as a new way. The more we experience travel, the more we realize our position among others, and most importantly, the more we connect with ourselves.
Go out and travel, somewhere, anywhere! Our world has infinite opportunities for observation, but it is our responsibility to discover them.
-Happiness in Handfulls