Traveling has been a part of my life since the age of two, when I first made a trip to South Africa from Uganda. Photos prove it, but I cannot boast of an experience from it. I was too young to recall anything. However, that was the commencement of my experiences in travelling as I then flew to England and the USA at four years and do remember some of that. Or is it what I am told, that I assume I remember? All these trips I enjoyed, with my mom by my side but participated in school trips to Egypt, Greece and France at eight, nine and fourteen years respectively. To say I took things for granted is rhetoric as the more trips I made overseas, from Uganda, the more the whole world assumed I could venture out alone. So my trip to Arizona, the Christmas of 2009 was very special. My experience was to be put to test as I was going to fly unescorted, finally!
After the usual lecture of how to behave, from mom, it was time to head to Hobby Airport. Bounding down the stairs, my suitcase hit each with a “THUD”. I tossed it into the backseat of the car, and dived in after it. At Hobby, my heart pounded against my ribcage, as a crowd of thoughts raced through my head. All I had to do was switch planes once. Not that hard, I convinced myself. Mixed feelings tried to take control of my serenity till mom said goodbye, took some pictures, then left. I was on my own! My first stop, San Antonio but I would change flights in Albuquerque. The familiar “bell,” then voice on the speaker prompted us to queue according to our boarding pass. Being one of the first to board Southwest Airlines, I picked my favorite seat, at the wing.
The roads, buildings, and cars shrunk to specks, ultimately blending into the horizon. We were air borne. In no time the landscape below began to form rugged features of mountains rising against the setting sun. We were approaching Albuquerque. My previous experience had taught me to dash, on alighting, to find my next gate. So I did, but was quite disappointed my skill did not come in handy as the gate was literally five steps away from my entry point. For another hour I wandered around, staying close to the gate, till boarding time. I was doing well. The darkness settled in, making it impossible to admire the landscape now after takeoff.
Tucson was the same familiar setting and I was extremely glad for my cousin’s big bear hug when I arrived. Most importantly, I patted myself on the back for making it to my final destination. As the anxiety ebbed away and excitement took over, I remembered mom, alone in Houston. It was going to be our first Christmas apart, which brought a lump in my throat. Who knew the long awaited trip would arouse so much emotional turmoil. Yet it was what we both wanted, the company of my four cousins during the festivity season as well as an opportunity to start flying by myself.
At home, in the Catalina foothills, I felt cozy again, with the cold winter chill shut out while the warm Christmas mood filled the busy house. Putting things into perspective, I realize I had shot two birds with one stone. Overcame the fear of travelling alone and accepted to enjoy myself without mom. Now my return trip would crown the victory of my first experience. I could not wait!
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