I did the thing. I flew, all by myself – from one country to another, within Europe mind you, but still a good few hundred miles of land and many thousands of feet in the air.
I couldn't help but feel it barely counted though, as really I was only doing the flying part alone. I had a drop-off and a pick-up arranged there and back, and 'accommodation' sorted in the place I was visiting – most excellent bed-sharing best friend-type accommodation – I mean, I barely had to think about anything save the flights. Still, I did it. One small step, etc., etc. I checked in all by myself, I packed my backpack (then had it slightly re-jigged by mama, but whatev still counts), and I kept myself company on The Other Side of the Doors in the airport itself. I squeezed my own hand as we took off. I read my latest and most delicious non-fic and surfed the free plane wifi (?!!) all the way there and back.
I think what surprised me most about flying alone, was how peaceful it was. How easy it was. To an extent, anyway. My flight out there was delayed, and my heart would stutter and stomach plunge every time I checked the boards and thought it had been cancelled altogether or suddenly rectified and I had a matter of minutes to get to the gate......I didn't have my lovely long-distance board-reading glasses on, so that was my own fault really.
I definitely had that feel of but I'm not a responsible adult...how can I be trusted and allowed to fly?!!? They must know...several times. I would constantly reassure myself: you're 23. You've flown more than most in your life, with friends, with family...hell, you've done long haul 7+ times. Chill your beans. You got this.
But yes, peaceful. Mostly. I was able to coast along, not worrying about anyone else and not worrying about anyone else worrying about me; I watched others from a distance, I saw them fret over baggage, buy all the snacks imaginable and squeal with joy whenever they just remembered they had this exciting adventure together lying ahead of them.
God, I loved people-watching. Not just the super-cute men boarding my plane (steady on), either. I loved seeing the women cuddled up or sleeping on each other's shoulders in the seats between gates, feather boas peeking out of their backpacks; the middle-aged men obviously prepping for a big meeting but also taking turns showing off photos of their kids; that cute ginger dude with absolutely no distinct style; the older woman with tinged lilac hair proof-reading a script while checking her bags...and the couple I sat with en route home, her in the mustard jumper complimenting my China pattern boots and him taking the first opportunity to nap on her shoulder after take-off. She then smiled at me and settled her head on top of his, passing out almost immediately. I wondered where they'd been, in the city we were coming home from. I carefully ate my remaining Oreos, easing each one out of the plastic packaging, not wanting to wake them. I wondered if I'd ever want to travel with anyone, in that way. Probably. But for now, I'm happy to go alone. On planes, and in life. With that thought settling happily, I re-opened my book. (And then learned way too much about breastfeeding, like whoa. Bravo, Cherry.)