The Airport Railroad

Maybe the contrast isn't as stark in the picture as it is in real life...

Maybe the contrast isn’t as stark in the picture as it is in real life…

Whether a once in a lifetime adventure, or a cyclical changing of the seasons, many people have a very distinct moment of realization. At this time, the old stands behind them as they step forward to greet the new. For a teacher starting summer vacation, this may be turning the key to lock her office. For a student starting college, this may be when he first sits down in his dorm filled taped-up cardboard boxes. For every one of my trips out of Korea, this moment happens at a very specific spot in Gongdeok station.

Gongdeok is the subway station where line 6 connects with the Airport Railroad. As the name suggests, this railroad offers a fast and exclusive trip to the airport, but that’s not the only thing that separates it. Aesthetically, it escapes all the homogeneity that smothers the rest of the Seoul underground. The moment you cross the threshold of the glorious 공항철도, you’re greeted with nylon carpets, dark walls, and LED train alerts. That’s the moment. It’s clean, it’s professional, it’s exciting. Everything around you tells you that you’re going somewhere new, and you’re not home anymore.

20140727_105920Occasionally I take one of the earliest trains out in the morning. No one else is walking down the corridor or waiting at the platform, and I get the place to myself. I get that serene moment to myself. It’s as if the Land of Morning Calm is trying to convince me not to be gone long. Though I exchanged the serenity for a good night’s sleep and luxuriously slow breakfast this time, that moment was still waiting for me. Half a dozen trips in two years, and it’s still exciting to know that I’m embarking on a new adventure.

I only use this subway line when I’m traveling out of Seoul, and I think I’d like to keep it that way. It seems almost sacrilegious to travel there for a simple jaunt across the city. To overuse it would be to desecrate it. The Airport Railroad is for adventures, and nothing less.