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If you asked me for directions at Vancouver International Airport (or YVR to its closest friends),  I wouldn’t be able to take you far without stopping at the Japanese restaurant where I am convinced that one order of Bento box A is the secret to having a safe flight.

I would show you the table where I broke his heart and then flew across the world. Then there’s the restaurant where my grandma and shared our love for breakfast-for-dinner, and the baggage claim desk where I got Dan Mangan’s autograph. I’d show you the fountain I have trusted with countless wishes, and the security gate where I cried all the way through the line up because I thought I was making a terrible mistake.

Let’s be real: I would make a terrible tour guide, but I could help pass the time between your flights by telling you the story of every single time my heart has come close to bursting in this place.

This airport hasn’t just been there for me on the good days, the family vacations, the daring adventures. It has seen all of me. From just off a nine hour flight, sleep-deprived, doing my makeup in the bathroom mirror to red-faced, sniffling, trying not to get tears on my boarding pass.

Airports are the places where we let ourselves be honest.

Arrivals and departures. Saying goodbye and missing him already. Hugging her twice then running out of the security line up to do it one more time. You don’t have time to hold anything back or tell half-truths.

An eight-hour layover becomes an eight-hour exercise in honesty. Where are you going? Gate B14. How are you feeling? Low, worn out, exhilarated, breathless. Do you need any help?

Yes, please.

Airports are outposts of tough love. They might just seem like four walls with a couple of airplanes parked outside, but every announcement over the speakers leaves one thing unspoken:

Change isn’t just coming, darling, it’s already here. 

Change has been on its way since you booked the ticket six months ago; since you tried to remember all the packing advice you’ve heard over the years but ended up shoving everything into a duffel bag at the last minute anyways; since you picked a seat beside the window and daydreamed of the mountains and valleys you’d spy from above.

I always get nervous when I see the signs at the airport for baggage claim that say, “No turning back beyond this point.” What if I change my mind? What if I forgot something on the plane? What if what if what if

The airport has been there for me at every crossroads in my life. Moving away to school, traveling to the other side of the world, saying hello and goodbye so many times that the endings and beginnings started to blur together into one.

I wish we could always be the people we are at the airport.

Sometimes in a rush, sure, sometimes a little stressed or over-tired because life happens. But always honest. Always willing to ask for directions and gracious when others need help.

Always – always – on our way. Maybe feeling lost or guilty after spending too much money on trashy magazines, but always headed somewhere new.

If I were taking you on a tour of YVR, I would tell you that it takes two hours, one bus, and a skytrain to get to the airport from my tiny dorm room. I would also tell you that – even when I’m dragging a giant suitcase and apologizing to every person I bump into – I look forward to those two hours all week. Because even if I’m not coming or going for too long, I’m already on my way.