Do you remember your first time? The anticipation. The butterflies in the stomach. Biting your bottom lip and subconsciously attempting to reel in the jolts of nervous energy. Your fingers can’t sit still, and your knee keeps an uneven rhythm.
Do they notice? Is it obvious? Play it cool.
There’s hesitation, of course. You’ve heard all about it, and it’s something you’ve wanted to do forever. You can’t wait, but there’s a tiny bit of fear that stokes the smallest amount of doubt. This is something completely new. It’s out of your comfort zone. Way out! What if— I don’t know— it hurts or something like that?
No, that’s silly.
You look around, and no one else shows the slightest hint of apprehension. Most seem bored and some appear annoyed. Clearly, this isn’t their first time. I guess they’re experts or old hats. They’ve been there and done it a few times over. Then they rinsed and repeated a dozen more times.
The best thing to do is play it cool. Be cool. Just be cool. Is it working? Do they believe it? Are you cool yet?
I don’t know about you, but that little chant never works for me. I’ve never been very cool. I’m a nerd, a dweeb, a…You get the idea. No matter how much I try to coach myself to the contrary, I will never be cool. At best, I’m quirky.
It’s a good thing then that my first time happened when I was five years old, and overexcitement was socially acceptable. A small child runs around the airport screaming, “A plane! A plane!” Awe, that’s kind of adorable if you’re not the grumpy sort. It’s more acceptable than adult doing it. Have I tried? Uh, I admit to almost nothing.
Ah, the wonder of a child about to go abroad for the first time. Travelling the globe. Going on an adventure just like what’s his name in the movie about stuff. The things they’ll see and do for the very first time. It’s just like magic! Who else misses that feeling? Yep, don’t harsh the kids happy because we’ve seen it all.
Go on, have a giggle and jiggle that knee. That’s it, your first time in an airplane should bring an abundance of emotion. That’s how you know you’re alive! Or something equally dramatic.
I was a wee little thing when I first became a traveler, an explorer, or better yet— an adventurer. Yeah, that’s a brilliant descriptor. All I was missing was a pint-sized fedora on top of my head. I had the swagger, though. Anyone who saw me knew that I was filled with overconfidence and naiveté. Watch out world, here I come! You’ve been warned. Never get in the way of a five-year-old on a mission.
My first time on that magnificent flying machine was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. My parents packed everything we owned and put it in a shipping container. They’d filled out so much paperwork that they might’ve deforested a small jungle. We’d all gotten multiple inoculations (careful, people get angry when you use the V word) for all sorts of exotic diseases, and we’d been declared properly sanitized.
We were about to leave the only country I’d ever known and immigrate to another one that I wasn’t sure existed. It had a strange name, and it sounded farfetched. There are other countries? Wait, what do you mean it’s on the other side of the world? How big’s the world? Are you sure it really exists? What if this was a joke or a prank? People lie about all sorts of things, you know.
Clearly, I was a cynical child with an overactive imagination and way too many questions.
When you’re little, your world seems so big but incredibly small at the same time. Your existence fits nicely into what you can see, touch, smell, and taste. There’s nothing beyond that, and when someone suggests there is? It seems as real as the stories my mom read to me at night.
Secret gardens and magical wardrobes. Countries with strange names and giant birds with engines on their wings. Fantastical! Good story, bro, but I ain’t buying it.
Way back then, my world fit into one country. I lived in Cape Town, South Africa. It was my everything. I knew other cities existed— we’d take road trips to visit family, and seeing was believing— but another country on another continent in a different hemisphere? That’s gotta be a fairytale or wizardry.
Hocus-pocus alakazam! And just like that, poof, a whole new world opens up.
I boarded my first plane with wide eyes and skepticism. It was a mixture of intrigue and fear. It looked too big to get up into the air, but the wings were wider than any bird I’d ever seen. Did they flap like a seagull? Is that how it worked?
These were the days before we needed added security measures, and we got a special treat. The flight attendant took my hand and led me to the cockpit. The pilots were in their seats, fiddling with a wall full of buttons, screens, and other doodads. They stopped their preflight duties to show us around, and I got to wear the captain’s hat.
I was given my own set of wings pinned to my shirt, and that made it official. I was now a world traveller, a jet setter. That’s what they said, anyway, and they wore uniforms, so it had to be true.
We were also given a goodie bag filled with colouring books, crayons, and games to get us through the long, long flight. We went to our seats, clutching our plundered loot close to our chests, and buckled in. This might be a joke or a trick— this mysterious new country might not really exist— but travelling wasn’t so bad. Not when you get presents.
Actually, it triggered a strange new sensation. I was vibrating from excitement and wanderlust. Of course, it could’ve been the engines coming to life, but for the sake of this tale, let’s call it The Great Awakening because that’s what it was. As the plane left the ground, the grandeur of our world opened up.
Oceans and landmasses. People and cultures. Differences and similarities. Colours, shapes, and a world that far exceeded my pint-sized panorama.
As we flew above the clouds, heading to our new lives in a strange country, my curiosity grew. All of those people down there, all of those places, have so many stories to share. How cool is that? How could anyone get bored with so much to explore?
Not to end this on a sour note, but there was one monumental disappointment. If you’ve never been on a plane before? I suggest you need to manage your expectations because- how do I say this? Whew. Are you ready? Brace yourself for a startling revelation. Those bird-like wings? Yeah, they don’t flap like giant seagulls.
What? I know, right!
What’s the point of having wings if they don’t flap? My five-year-old self was bitterly disappointed, but at least she got a wing pin from a real-life pilot. I was practically deputized in case of an emergency. So, you know, don’t worry if we’re ever on a plane together. I’ve totally got it under control.
I remember that day at the airport, saying goodbye to you, so so clearly !
Running around the airport like crazy fools before you boarded. Feels like an eternity ago – but the memory always sticks in my mind !
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It’s weird how something can feel like a lifetime has passed but still feel like it was yesterday.
I remember how excited we all were
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