10. Liminal Spaces – The Hotel Bar

So, just to be clear – I am writing this in a liminal mindset of mild alcoholic intoxication, but frankly, that should be quite appropriate to the topic, being a rather liminal space of its own.

One of the things I am particularly fond of are liminal spaces. These are:

Liminal space refers to the place a person is in during a transitional period. It’s a gap, and can be physical (like a doorway), emotional (like a divorce) or metaphorical (like a decision).

“This is where one thing ends and another is about to begin, but you are not quite there yet, you are in the space between,” says New York-based mindset expert Kirsten Franklin, a transformation coach who works regularly with professional athletes and high-level executives.

The tricky part to negotiating this void is that it also holds a huge helping of the unknown. And by and large, experts say, humans don’t like to exist in a space of unpredictability.

source: Liminal Space: What Is It And How Does It Affect Your Mental Health?

See, I disagree with this idea of not liking to exist in a space of unpredictability. I am actually very comfortable with that and such in-between spaces. I revel in them and appreciate their special character and opportunity.

What I feel is a missing from the definition is a temporal aspect. It is not just an in-between space. It's an in-between time space as well. Airports, but even more the actual flights themselves, are perfect examples of that. We're thrown together with a bunch of people in transit, cut off from the rest of the world for a period of time. International flights, lasting 10+ hours, are complete out-of-time experiences, disorienting us from the local time at our destinations.

I love hotel bars. Hotel bars, compared to air travel, are more spatially settled and located, but are just as transitory as airplanes, where normal time is suspended. They are filled with jetlagged guests. And they provide far more opportunities for interaction and adventure.

Ships Passing in the Night

Business travel, whether US domestic or international, involves different in time zones, adding to a general liminal sense. The hotel bar is a 21st century port, where people from different time and spatial dimensions congregate. We're all from somewhere else, and even locals invited as guests of visitors tend to feel a little out of place. After all, if you're local, why are you here? Who or what are you here for?

Magic happens in hotel bars.

We're from every place and every hour.

We speak different languages, grew up different places.

We're every age and every gender.

We're away from home and will never see each other again.

Unusual trust and connection occurs between strangers.

Emotional, spiritual, ... physical.

Liminal Relationships

I remember a Mongolian in Beijing. An Australian colleague in Tokyo. A southerner in New York. A Mexican in Dallas. Gringos terrified in Mexico. A Texan in Frankfurt. Colleagues from Shanghai. Others from Singapore. A South-African in Germany. Mainland Chinese in Melbourne. Italians in Buenos Aires. A Fijian in Atlanta. Iranians in China.

Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation, the movie directed by Sofia Coppola and starring Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray is the ultimate liminal space and time movie. Much of the movie is spent in jetlagged and liminal confusion wherein the hotel bar plays a strange anchoring role of stability. It's where we go when we feel alone and restless and cannot sleep. It provides a safe port in a strange land where we don't know the rules and local dynamics. It's where we're connecting across time and space. It's where we bond, make plans, and hook up. It's where we're protected by security guards and glass doors from the immediacy of the politics and social dynamics of wherever the fuck we are.

A home away from home, free from any history or consequence. Yet providing lasting memories and insight into the human condition. Or, to be fair, dumb drunken oblivion.

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