I seldom choose a window seat. I think it has to do with my restless spirit. I need to know that I can get up and go whenever I want to, without having to climb over someone’s legs.

When I traveled to Melbourne on my own recently, I picked a window seat. I’m not sure why.

It was an overnight flight. When I woke in the morning and lifted the window, I was greeted by a sliver of light in the horizon.

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It was all quiet in the airplane, and so I sat there in silence and watched…

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I saw a spectacular sunrise once, at the summit of a volcano in Maui at 10,000ft. The sun rose above the clouds. But there were people all around, jostling and taking photos.

This was MY moment.

And I’m beginning to like this about solo travel: The many little private moments I have, just listening, watching, observing, feeling… There is no need for conversation. No need for exclamation or explanation. Because my self knows what I feel.

I kept my window open as we glazed across the Indian Ocean, over the string of Indonesian islands to Australia. I have to admit I know little of Australia, or where Melbourne is on the map for that matter. Believe it or not, this was the first time I checked!

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It would take us 3 hours just to cross the vast Central Desert of Australia. But you know, when you have nothing but time on your hands, your mind frees up and you create a space within for experiences to enter through your senses.

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I looked out the window a lot. I read a lot too. I’d chosen to bring along The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton, a book that had been collecting dust on my bookshelf for 11 years.

The Art of Travel

I don’t think this book would have impacted me so deeply had I read it in 2002. I always believe books find you at the right time. And now was the right time for this one. Whether you believe in God or not, I think the Universe Conspires. Even for books.

And in The Art of Travel, there was a chapter about the speed of travel and the different experiences you get from different forms of transport. And that’s what I love about this book! It talks about the most inane things, but they make absolute sense.

Plane journeys have never topped my list of travel adventures.

I tend to agree with travel writer Rolf Potts who said, “the slower you go, the more you experience”. And so, where travel experiences go, I love walking most. Then road trips. Then train journeys.

As Alain de Botton writes, “Journeys are the midwives of thought.” – and it’s so true.

Rolf walked across Israel. I would like to do a long walking trip too, perhaps starting with the Road to Santiago. I know so little about it, but it captured my imagination when I read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. I would like to walk that one day, solo.

Planes. They are functional in that they take you from Point A to B, very fast. It’s a good experience purely if you need to catch up on sleep or catch up with the latest movies you missed.

When I did not have a movie screen in front of me on my AirAsia flight to Melbourne and back, I caught up with reading. And because I had chosen a window seat, I caught up with cloud-watching, a favourite past-time of mine as a child.

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I love clouds. I’ve always loved clouds. Yes, I was really one of those kids who stared out the window for long stretches of time imaging animals in the sky. For the record, I saw thousands of them – real and mythical – in my childhood.

Looking out my plane window that day – above the clouds – I remembered a song. It’s one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs I know: Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now.

It made me cry so hard when I heard it on the soundtrack of the 2003 movie, Love Actually. I guess I watched it at a time when I experienced that reality at its most full-blown.

Bows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way

Oh but now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost but something’s gained
In living every day

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From WIN and LOSE and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

I grew up watching clouds from below. They captured my imagination as a little child.

But even now, they capture my imagination – when I look at them from above. Perhaps, even more.

You know, I think I have. Not just clouds. But Love. And Life.

And you know what? They are beautiful – on both sides.

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