Browse the airfare websites and daydream. Run a few searches and see what’s out there. Write down a few bargains for destinations you’ve never been. Think it over and wonder what it would be like to see that place. Resolve that if you buy the ticket you will find a way to make it work. Let your finger hover over the mouse for a few seconds before you choose “purchase.” Let your index finger drop until you hear the click. Exhale.
Go to the bookstore and find the travel section. Let your eyes run up and down the shelves. The sections are like the continents themselves, and within them lie little regions and nations and municipalities. Take in the bright colors – orange, blue, red, white, green. Wonder how there could be so many different viewpoints and experience about any one place. Take a book from the shelf and flip through it. Cities, towns, hotels, restaurants. Safety tips. Health precautions? Your heart skips a beat. Skim it over and feel reassured – someone has blazed a trail for you and taken the time to write it down.
Run your searches for hotels and hostels. Make a list of the clothing and necessaries you will bring. Sandals and tennis shoes. Shaving cream and toothpaste. A day pack and a camera case. Wrap your head around the local currency. Spend your free time on language learning sites. “Hello.” “Please.” “Thank you.” “How much?”
Mention your trip to your friends. It turns out one of them has been to that very place before and has a restaurant to recommend. He had a blast, he said. He wishes he could go with you. You’re feeling less nervous and more excited with each day.
The day is here and you’re at the airport. Take a deep breath and summon your inner Buddha for the security line. Laugh at the guy ahead of you who forgot to remove his watch. Roll your eyes at the TSA agent’s salty attitude. Grab yourself a beer at a cheesy airport bar. Talk to the bartender – she’s met someone from literally every place on earth.
Board your plane and take your seat. Grab your book from your bag. Zone out while you watch the other passengers. Who are they? Are they beginning their trip like you or returning home? Smile at the person seated next to you. Make a little small talk. Eat what you can of your airline meal, watch half of a Matthew McConaughey romcom and then drift to sleep.
Awaken at the crackle of the PA – it’s the pilot speaking and you’re ten minutes from landing. Rub your eyes and look out the window at the dawn. The clouds give way to land; it looks like farmland. Soon you’re seeing subdivisions and streets and cars, swimming pools and soccer fields. Brace for the bump as the wheels hit the pavement.
Follow the crowds through immigration and customs. You didn’t sleep well but you’re wide awake. Pick up your bag at the carousel and walk out the exit. There are cab drivers hustling for a buck here just like back home. Talk to one and make a snap judgment – he seems legit and the price is right.
As your taxi flies down the highway into the heart of town, gaze out the windows. A lot is different but many things are the same. You see a couple of Toyotas pass you by. There’s a Coca-Cola ad on the side of a building. The radio is playing Lionel Richie. In the distance, you see an unfamiliar skyline. Within it are millions of people going about their lives, again different in some ways and similar in others. Soon you’ll be among them, and a few other travelers like you.
Relax and enjoy the rush of anticipation. The journey has only just begun.