Sunsets and Airplanes


There’s a somewhat secret place north of the runway of Pearson International airport that my friend O showed me a few years ago. It has the perfect vantage point to watch planes land, inspiring the ultimate wanderlust. The first time you see the tiny dots lined up in the sky you don’t think much of them. Until one roars right above you as it lands. It’s only a somewhat secret place because in the summer the parking lot fills up with families having picnics, people playing music and everyone just hanging out, waiting for the next majestic beast to land what feels like just feet above your head.

I liked coming here after a crazy busy day at work, or just whenever I felt sad. I’d just get in my car, drive 15 minutes, and as I was approaching the parking lot, I could already hear the engine rumbling as an aircraft eased itself onto the tarmac. In the summer the sun set late, so I could sit there for a few hours. I’d grab a snack (chicken nuggets) from Wendy’s just across the way, roll down the driver seat window, crawl up through it from my seat and use the roof of my car as a picnic table. Then I’d turn up my Kygo CD and wait for the next plane to steal my heart.

You could track them online and see the type of plane landing next, but I preferred the surprise. Will it be a 767 from Puerto Vallarta? A Dash-8 from Halifax? A 777 from Hong Kong? Who knows! It felt like a dream. Each plane would land within minutes of the last, filled with passengers with a purpose. All these people visiting or coming home and in a way, I was there to greet them.

And when the sun began to set, vibrant watercolors painted the sky and the landing planes became massive dark silhouettes. The sky got dreamier, the evening got cooler and the wanderlust got stronger. It made me think of my favorite sunsets throughout my travels and the memories that made them special. The ones on the city wall in Cartagena, the ones over the ocean in Puerto Vallarta, the one on Kuta Beach in Bali, the ones I grew up with in Naples, the ones on the Brooklyn Bridge over Manhattan, the ones I see from my balcony in Toronto and most importantly, the ones I had the privilege to see from the plane above the clouds.

It feels particularly difficult in the time we going through right now. This incredibly strange time when international flights are only bringing travelers home and domestic are few and far between. So many tragic events transpired throughout history, and yet to the modern traveler enamored with the entire world, this may feel like one of those times. When the whole world feels like home, being planted in one place indefinitely feels like being stuck far away from home. No matter how long we are separated from the people and places that we love, we need to remember that this is temporary. And so this is the time to reminisce, dream and hope for the future when we can go back to chasing sunsets in airplanes all around the world.

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