Places: Edmonton International Airport (YEG), Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ), and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
Date: April 2012
People: A loving parent, a long lost friend, and a cute flying companion
Lessons Learned: Say a proper goodbye and tell your parent that you love them and that you will miss them when you are gone. Say hello and catch up with that old acquaintance when your paths cross. Do talk to that cute guy sitting beside you on the plane. The chances of you seeing him again are slim to none and you might as well chat him up while flying thousands of feet in the air.
It was April 27 2012, I was 21 years old and I was about to take my first plane ride ever; I was so excited I barely slept. The journey started at 4am when I left my house to go to the Edmonton International Airport (YEG) to catch my 6:30 am flight to Toronto. My father drove me and I was beyond nervous, the look in his eyes showed me that he was also in an equally tense state. Once I got my boarding passes and checked in my baggage it was time to leave him and cross airport security. Saying goodbye to my Dad was really hard, it was my first time leaving North America and it had also been sixteen years since I last left my country. I had already experienced long periods of time where I didn’t see or contact my Dad, but this time it was different; I wasn’t going to be a quick car ride away from him, I was going overseas and it was this new distance between us that made this goodbye more emotional than usual. I gave him a big hug and I was close to tears, my Dad also seemed to be on the verge of tears. After we said our goodbyes I let go of my father, told him that I loved him and walked towards the terminals.
I was going on my first international trip by myself and I was very excited, I had wanted to travel for years but had never made any steps to make it happen until now however, I was also scared. My Dad had selflessly let me use his Air Mile points he accumulated over the years. However, like all things free, this trip came with its share of loopholes. I had to take a minimum of three flights to get to Rome and even though I had bought travel insurance, I was still nervous about using it if I ever got lost in an airport and missed a connection or lost my luggage. I was also nervous about what would happen to me once I got to Italy. I was going to a country that spoke a different language and I had also heard many things about the thieves and gypsies in Rome and was sure that they would somehow find a way to rob me of my money and important documents despite my best efforts. However, I had to face these fears and worries head on and eventually I did, I really did.
I was walking towards my terminal when I saw her sitting there. Her name was Tina* and she was an old friend from church. I hadn’t been to church since I was 18 so it had been quite some time since I last saw her. Despite the fact that we no longer encountered each other often any more due to me becoming agnostic and distancing myself from church, it was still nice to see a familiar face before leaving Edmonton. Tina always had a radiant smile on her face whenever I saw her and it was nice to see her smile again. We sat together at her terminal and chatted about what we had been up to the past few years and where we were flying to. Interestingly enough, we were both taking flights that would forever change the course of our lives. She was on her way to Montreal for a life changing job interview and I was going to Rome for a month to take a 21 day in situ course on Life, Death, and Leisure in Ancient Rome offered by the Classics department at my university. We both had exciting futures ahead of us and it was nice to sit with her for that brief time and contemplate new potential changes in our lives while we waited for our flights. Eventually the time passed and we had to part ways and say goodbye. Even though it was a brief encounter and I haven’t seen her since then, I still appreciated having her come into my life again at that moment. I was really nervous about what I was doing and I needed to talk to share my fears with someone so that they could tell me that they were mostly irrational and nonsensical. It was amazing to start these new chapters in our lives together and I felt truly blessed that we got to share that moment together.
The first airplane I got on was quite small since it was a domestic Air Canada flight. I must admit I was quite disappointed, I was expecting something large and grand like what you see in the movies and it really was small and dinky in comparison. I had a window seat beside an Asian couple. They seemed so absorbed in each other and didn’t seem to be talkers so I didn’t exchange words with them. That morning it had snowed and the flight was being delayed as the plane was being hosed down by this pale orange cleaning solution. Once it took off I was freaking out and gripping my armrest hard as if I were on a roller coaster. The feeling of leaving the ground and flying up does indeed feel like a roller coaster, however it is now a feeling that I do enjoy. Nevertheless at that moment I felt rather distressed by this new unknown sensation of flight. It was quite obvious that I was the only one losing my mind at this moment since everyone else was talking about previous flights that they had taken in the past and were really not fazed by this wonderful moment of becoming airborne. However, the feeling of anxiety left me once I found myself above the clouds. It was so beautiful and truly amazing to finally look down at the clouds instead of always looking up at them from the ground. Once the clouds parted I was then able to look and marvel at the landscape below me. The roads in Canada are really long and straight and the population is also sparsely dispersed between cities and from the air this became much more apparent and pronounced to me. Before I took this trip the furthest east I had ever gone was to Manitoba so it was really exciting to go beyond the western prairies and fly to the other part of Canada. My heart began to race when the monitor in front of me showed that I was going further east and flying over Ontario. I saw so many iconic sites in one day, all of which I had never seen before in my life. From the plane window I saw the Great Lakes as well as the famous skyline of Toronto. Flying over Lake Superior was truly incredible, at one point it felt like I was flying over the ocean, I saw no land and there was only water below me.
After a four hour flight I landed in Toronto (YYZ) and from there I caught my second flight going to Newark, New Jersey (EWR). Again I had a window seat, but this time I had a really cute guy in the seat beside me. He wore a beige suit with a white dress shirt with pale blue pinstripes and smart looking brown leather dress shoes. He carried an Irish passport and had brown hair, tanned skin, and lovely green eyes and yet talked with a Canadian accent. His impeccable clothes and his sharp, mature business style made me feel intimidated and inferior in comparison. I was wearing very casual sporty clothing to get me through my long day of catching flights and the make-up that I put on that morning no longer looked fresh and stunning. I felt very juvenile sitting next to him in my purple lululemon capris, my Coldplay Myloxyloto shirt, my white team Germany track jacket from World Cup 2010, my cheap orange watch from Wal-Mart, and my white converse shoes. Rightfully so, he showed no interest in me in the beginning. His friends were sitting across the aisle so he mostly chatted with them. Behind me I heard a couple speaking German so I turned to talk with them with the best German that first year university German provided me with. If I couldn’t attract this guy with my looks, the least I could do was attract him with my intelligence. The German couple were lovely, they were taking the weekend to explore the Big Apple and they told me that my German was quite good considering I had only taken it for a year. This trick of mine did indeed work, when I turned around the cute guy sitting beside me began asking me about my German and it was at that moment that we started talking and getting to know each other. He lived in Ireland as a child and moved to Canada at a young age, hence why he didn’t have an Irish accent anymore. He had studied at Dalhousie in Halifax and graduated with a Commerce degree and was now working in Toronto and going to New York for a weekend getaway with his friends. He was a typical eastern Canadian boy, he had never been to Edmonton before and had no interest in going. We chatted away during the short flight and during the silent moments I would look out my window to the scenery below, everything was so green and lush flying over the north eastern states and to top it all off I got to see the famous skyline of New York during our descent. I’m not sure why, but once we began our descent I started to feel sick and was worried that I was going to throw up. Miraculously though I made it through the descent and didn’t lose my composure in front of the cute guy. Once we got up and left the plane I felt sad parting ways with him although he was a stranger. I saw him one last time in the airport while I was looking for my terminal. Him and his friends waved at me and I waved back though it was brief, I had to rush off and catch my last flight. I never did see this beautiful stranger again and I don’t know if I ever will but I do feel fortunate that fate provided me with some lovely eye candy for my journey.
It was time to catch my last flight. I couldn’t find my terminal anywhere in the part of the airport that I was in so I asked a lady that was working there to help me. She looked at my gate number on my boarding pass and called me a bus which took me to another part of the airport. From there I got to my terminal and it was just in the nick of time, my flight to Rome was set to leave in ten minutes. When I showed my boarding pass to the lady behind the desk she wouldn’t let me through, apparently I did not have a ticket number. Time was ticking and I was on the verge of losing my mind, I could not miss this flight! With a couple minutes to spare she called around and eventually found my ticket number. I ran to get on the plane once I was allowed to pass through the gate. Once I was on the plane I saw where I was sitting and who I would be sitting beside. It was my classmate Ritchie*, we were taking the Rome course together and it was a pleasant surprise to see him on the flight. It was especially nice to know that I would be sitting beside him for the longest flight of my journey and my first overseas flight ever.
*Name has been changed
In my next post: The story of my first overseas flight and my first day in Rome