Airport Departure Boards and Imagination


Last year I began writing a novel as part of NanoWrimo. The opening scene: a washed up management consultant walks into LAX and sits crosslegged in front of the international departure board, letting his eyes rest on each exotic destination.

Alain de Botton, in an interview on, talks about how airport departure boards light up our imagnations:

Airport departure boards help to put us in touch with the idea of alternatives. They make us think that right now, somewhere on the other side of the globe, very different things are happening. They do that very basic task of the places of travel: jolt us into remembering that the world is stranger, more exciting, more various than we imagine it when we are in familiar surroundings, and in danger of boredom and routine.

Next time you're in an airport, stop at the departure board and take a minute to contemplate the possibilities. It's my favorite thing to do in airports.

6 Responses to Airport Departure Boards and Imagination

  1. This was great fun to read — I do something similar but different in airports. What I love to do is to watch people, and to try to imagine where they’re from, and where they’re going to. It’s a bit of a cliche, I guess, but I find it absolutely mindboggling.

    Striking up a conversation is also great, of course, although it’s a different experience: more intense (good), but less varied (not so good).

    This is also one of the things that I really enjoy about living in Toronto, which is easily the most cosmopolitan city I’ve lived in.

  2. Jackie says:

    I thought I was the only one who did this! How unoriginal and arrogant I am.

  3. Alex says:

    Alain de Botton fleshes out these ideas a little more in his excellent book The Art of Travel. Highly recommended!

  4. I sometimes think this just by looking at aeroplanes in the sky (I live 30 miles from Gatwick) and wondering where they’re all going to and what adventures all those people are going to have.

  5. Ben Casnocha says:

    I do the same.


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