I love people watching, which is a good thing, considering how much time I spend in airports waiting for flights. I have ample opportunity to observe departures and farewells and the raft of emotions that accompany each.

There are the joyous farewells as friends see a mate off on their big OE; there are the tearful goodbyes of a loved one moving overseas to start a new life; mothers clinging on for one last hug.

Arrival hall reunions are magical – hugs, tears, kisses, more hugs. Kids scramble across any manmade barriers to fly into Daddy’s arms after only one or two missed bedtime stories; girlfriends squeal; sons hug; friends wield banners and balloons as a mate comes back home unshaven and perhaps toting a tan and a surfboard.

Airport arrival and departure halls divulge a raft of emotions seldom seen elsewhere. I often wonder if they know or care that others are watching.

In days gone by, my own kids would wave tearfully at the departure gate as I left on yet another business trip, usually my own eyes welling up just seeing their sad little faces. As teenagers they’re quite used to my frequent absences, and my comings and goings at airports are rather emotionless.

Just recently, however, I landed at Auckland three hours later than anticipated. I flew through the arrival process and marched out into the arrival hall. Not expecting anyone there, I hardly scanned the crowd – I was headed briskly passed everyone when suddenly someone yelled “Hey you” rather loudly. How rude, I thought, raising my eyes to give them an evil glare.

Lo and behold, there was my mother – who was supposed to be in the UK! She’d flown in unannounced some hours earlier to surprise me for my birthday. There I was, this worldly, jaded traveller, reduced to tears just like all those other passengers!

I didn’t notice if anyone watched, I didn’t care if anyone laughed. What a delight it was to experience the joy of airport arrivals all over again!

Travel far, travel wide – just keep travelling!

“No one realises how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang (1895 – 1976)