“Ladies and gentlemen, as we prepare for take off please fasten your seat belts, make sure your items are stowed away, and that your seat is in the upright position.” – pretty much every airline that I’ve ever been on
If you have ever heard this, or a version of this, then you are one of the lucky ones.
Many people grow up well-traveled, cultured, and familiar with all of the things that lifestyle entails. However, there are many of us who didn’t have that privilege, and some even cringe at the thought of being off the ground for any amount of time – let alone a twelve hour flight over the Atlantic. For me, I knew that the moment my foot stepped onto that plane, my life was only beginning and that someone would have to nail me to the ground to keep me here.
At the age of twenty, I had never been on a plane, and I had only been to an airport twice – an airport with only one terminal that is. So, as you can imagine, there was a storm of fear mixed with excitement chasing each other’s tails in my stomach. I didn’t know what to expect and that seemed like the best part. I was so close to crossing the bridge to the unknown.
My flight was leaving from Little Rock, Arkansas to Atlanta, Georgia. I was in for a nice surprise. I made it through security in Arkansas, and, although I was shaking, sweating, and fumbling around while I followed everyone else’s motions, when it was over I thought it wasn’t so bad. Once I got on the plane, I could feel the fear. I felt nauseous and somehow most of the excitement was gone. All of the doubts that I had heard about flying were going through my mind. What if it doesn’t make it? How likely am I to live if this plane goes down? And the engine wasn’t even running yet.
Sitting next to me was a thirteen-year-old girl with her sister. She didn’t look scared in the least bit while she read her book quietly. I have never been one to be shy so I tried talking with her. She told me she was on her way to Disney World and that she had flown several times before. If this little girl could fly across the country without a care in the world, surely I could too.
The plane finally began to take off and I was surprised. It felt almost like a roller coaster that just kept going up. And up. And up.
My ears were popping, my palms were sweating, and my whole body was uncomfortably pressed against the seat as the plane climbed. After what felt like fifteen minutes, the pilot announced that we were starting our descent as we neared the airport in Atlanta. What? I guess time really does fly (no pun intended) when you’re having fun – or scared out of your witts.
The airport in Little Rock was bigger than the other airport I had seen, however, it couldn’t be compared to that in Atlanta. Atlanta felt more like a huge shopping mall, or maybe an underground city. The size and the grandeur of that place was mind-blowing. It took me fifteen minutes to walk to my destination, and I even took a train and a couple moving sidewalks. The excitement was slowly filling my veins again, and I could see the finish line – New Years in Rome.
When I finally found my gate, there was no doubt that I was in the right place. The beautiful song of the Italian language filled the air and it was music to my ears – literally. Even the announcements on the plane sounded better in Italian. Once I was seated on the plane, I noticed all of the nice features Delta Airlines had to offer. I had hundreds of movies at my fingertips, TV shows, games – whatever I needed to keep me busy was on the screen in front of me. I brought a book to read on the flight because I thought I would be bored beyond belief – which I would be later. As I said goodbye to the city light of Atlanta, my headphones went in and my voyage across the sea had began.
After about 8 hours, I was completely exhausted, my body was stiff, and I was hungry. I could monitor my flight on the device in front of me and we were somewhere over France with a few hours to go. I hadn’t spoken to anyone for hours because the boy next to me was knocked out and the flight attendants hadn’t been by in a while. At that point, I didn’t know if I hated flying or if I was just so tired that I thought I hated flying; either way, I was ready to get off the plane so I could see my best friend, brush my teeth, and go to sleep.
When I finally landed at the Fiumicino airport in Rome, not only did I feel lost, but all traces of English were gone and it was exhilarating.
After all of the craziness – baggage claim, customs, more trains – I finally found the exit doors and I finally came to reality.
I made it.
I was in Rome.