Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen and welcome on-board this emotional roller coaster ride prior to our departure. In preparation for take-off, please ensure that your seat backs are in their full upright positions and that your seatbelts are securely fastened. On behalf of the entire travelling community, I am now asking you to lean back and enjoy the ride. Thank you!
Finding a parking space
Today is the day that you’ve been looking forward to for weeks, if not months. This is the moment when you realise it’s getting serious: You have arrived at the airport and are about to start a new adventure. You climb out of the car and – as you close the door – wonder briefly how long it will be until you climb back inside, tightly holding on to your backpack that will then be filled with new experiences and memories. As you walk towards the departure terminal you catch sight of your own reflection in the gigantic windows and quietly take an inner picture of the person you are right there in that moment, because you know that you won’t come back the same.
Entering the terminal
While you try not to hit anyone with your bags as you walk through the revolving doors, you feel overcome by a sudden wave of emotions; excitement and curiosity followed by momentary panic. Did you forget anything? You know where you put your passport and tickets but feel the need to double-check them anyway… again.
The line of passengers moves forward way too slowly for your liking. You glance back and forth between your ticket and the person first in line, excitement welling up inside you. Just as you think you’d be bursting with excitement, you’re called forward. At the counter you are greeted by a preppy young woman who asks you for your documents. You hand her your passport and watch her perfectly manicured fingers swiftly move across the keyboard. Firmly holding on to your boarding pass, you bid farewell to your luggage and silently pray that it may safely arrive at your chosen destination. When you finally return to your family and friends your face is lit up like a Christmas tree. It won’t be long now!
Of course you have arrived at the airport way too early and still have plenty of spare time before your actual departure but you know what they say: Be at the airport one and a half hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight. Believe me, there might come the day when you’re actually grateful for the extra half hour you get in order to make sure the plane doesn’t take off without you. In most cases, you will just awkwardly wait in the departure area, still surrounded by your loved ones, not feeling ready to say goodbye to them just yet but gazing at the ticking clock every two minutes. By now, you are actually very likely to engage in small talk. Stepping from one foot to the other, you clumsily hug your mum for the hundredth time as you try to memorise every detail of the faces that you know you will miss terribly.
You haven’t even started your trip yet but you are already confronted with the hardest part of the journey: saying goodbye. You know you are excited – this is exactly where you want to be right now – but for a brief second you wonder if you’re really doing the right thing.
Because you have successfully delayed this moment as much as possible you are now officially pressed for time. You can almost hear the time ticking as you hold on to your loved ones a little longer than usual and whisper a wholehearted “I love you” in their ears. Goodbyes suck. It’s as simple as that.
Going through security check and passport control
If there is a line you will most likely look back at your family and friends about a hundred times, now smiling as you wipe the tears from your eyes. Passing the security scanners you hope you remembered to put all liquids inside the little plastic bag. You lock eyes with your family once more and smile at them. You will later hear from your mum that this was the moment she knew she was doing the right thing by letting you go: seeing that genuine and happy smile on your face right before you disappeared in the crowd of people – business men and women, families, couples and other solo travellers like yourself.
Finding your gate
After all, finding the right gate is most probably less of a mission than you had anticipated. Thumbing through one of the magazines you have just found in the waiting area, you catch sight of the juice bar across the hallway. You don’t even have to get up to know the ridiculousness of the prices. Against your better judgement, you get up anyway and, while secretly cursing capitalism and yourself, buy a small glass of freshly squeezed orange juice for five Euros. After all, it’s the airport – a place where different rules apply. And even though it’s just a glass of orange juice you feel like it is time for a toast. This one’s to you and to everything that is about to happen.
Boarding the plane
You got your passport? Check. Your boarding pass? Check. Hand luggage all sorted out? Check. You watch the people around you and laugh at their hastiness as they try to be first in line. The flight attendant wishes you a safe journey as she hands you back your ticket. You thank her and feel a cheerful and excited smile spread across your face. Your face hurts by the time you have walked down the jetway but you don’t care. You couldn’t be happier.
You have successfully found your seat and even listened to the attendants’ announcement. Wherever you’re headed this time, you wanted to make sure to hear it again from the officials: This isn’t a dream you are about to wake up from; this is your life. And while the plane picks up speed you lean back and close your eyes, smiling cheerfully. This is just the beginning, and it is exactly where you should be.