My first time on a commercial airliner was a Boeing 747.
Destination. Los Angeles.
I was working at a fruit shop and once again didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had been to TAFE and started a Diploma of IT but didn’t like it. I tried Multimedia, Cert III. Liked it but wasn’t sure.
My brother, cousin and my friend all decided to go on a trip to the United States. We planned a little but over a few months everyone started to drop out. I was faced with a decision.
Should I go by myself? I had never been on a trip before. I had never been on a plane!
I spoke with an Aunty of mine, she mentioned a Contiki tour. Wow, I thought sounds like a school camp for over 18 years old’s. Sounded fun!
I went to bed that night and before going to sleep I decided, what the hell. I am going, I was almost 21 which was legal drinking age and I needed a change, something new and exciting.
The year was 2002 and I was 21 years old.
The aircraft was huge, but I wasn’t afraid. I didn’t develop a nervous flying syndrome until I was flying to the Gold Coast on a Virgin flight around 2006.
I did cry, before I boarded but I had never left my family before and I really hate goodbyes.
The flight was interesting, everything was new to me. I had never seen our planet from such a height, I had never seen sunsets like we did as we crossed the international Date Line. Turbulence was new to me as well. I had never felt the affects of alcohol at 39,000 ft.
This is the first and last time I have ever slept properly on an overseas flight. My loving Nan slipped me some Valium to put me to sleep and with the alcohol in my system, it did the trick.
On approach to Los Angeles, I can remember the crisp look of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance. The sky was a light blue and it just oozed morning. The flight was due to land at 8:00am the day I departed, kind of my first time travel experience as well.
No turbulence which was nice, just the stillness of the clouds and the early morning mood of a city that I am sure had a lot more going on than what I could see at 12,000ft. The aircraft banked and turned and I was handed a card to fill out. I had to say what I was doing and where I was going. Security was tighter, after last years towers. The moment we touched down, I cant explain what it was like. The look of different cars, the grittiness of the runway. The concrete looked different, the cars wider and bigger. I was in a different place.
Once we taxied to the gate, we were sent down a long and lonely hallway. I walked for about 5 mins following everyone down countless corridors with no one in site. It was like the airport was closed. Now remember, I was by myself and had no idea where we were going. The lady that was sitting next to me on the aircraft knew I was alone due to a previous conversation.
I turned a corner and saw the big United States flag and the little photo of current President George W Bush Jnr.
Customs. The first and last frontier.
I was scanned, photographed and accepted to the country I so wished to visit. I picked up my bags and the lady that sat next to me came past and asked if everything was ok? I said, “Yep no problem” and she waved goodbye.
I knew my plan, I had to go out the doors, across the first pedestrian crossing and find the Blue Super shuttles.
Once I left the safety of customs, it hit me. People were waiting for travellers and family to arrive, hugging and kissing. This was the first moment I realised I was completely alone. The safety of both the aircraft and its recycled Australian air was no more.
The previous plan in my head, disappeared. I walked out to the pedestrian crossing, looked around and went up an escalator. I was at the arrivals. No idea what I was doing. It was like I was in a daze. A luggage handler came up and I responded with the most cracking and scared voice, “Super shuttles”.
He pointed me back down the escalators and across the pedestrian crossing to find the Super Shuttles.
The drive was interesting, first the guy was on the other side of the car. The free-ways were wide and the surface made different noises depending on what part you were on. It was bumpy. The radio played some familiar tunes but they sounded foreign to me. I had a bit of a sensory overload. It was like a dream. It was morning 14 hours after I departed at lunch time in Melbourne, Australia. The crispness of morning was not expected by my body clock.
In the words of Luke Skywalker “there’s something familiar about this place” captures my thoughts exactly as we passed free ways, palm trees and suburbs that looked straight out of Boyz in the Hood. I had never been here before, but all my life I had seen this place.
We arrived at the hotel, and i checked in. I was sent to my room. It was raining.
I put all my bags down and started to check the room. Trembling started to appear in my hand and legs. I looked out the window. Could see a few American cars being hit by the constant rain and an industrial area behind the hotel with no workers.
At this very moment, I knew I wanted to go home. I didn’t want to go back to airport and fly home, I just wanted to be home at this very second. The shaking continued, I needed something. I needed anything.
I used the phone and called home. Trying to tell them everything is ok, I am here safe and its very interesting.
I actually think I was in shock a little bit.
I picked up my video camera and tuned it on, filming the room and my surroundings. If you watched that video now, you can hear my voice, the trembling, the camera shaking. I was talking to the camera, showing everyone around, but deep down I was petrified.
I had about 3 or 4 days if I remember before my Contiki Tour and I was completely alone.
Little did I know this beginning, was the beginning of the greatest moment of my life and would shape who I would be to this very day.
That story though, is for another day.