I was a junior in college when I studied abroad– the academic equivalent of spring break. It was not only my first time to travel completely alone, but it was also my first time outside the United States. At first my trip started out pretty smooth, I managed to lug my morbidly obese red suitcase down the three flights from my apartment, and luckily caught a cab that I had forgotten to schedule the night before. As I sat proudly in my seat on the plane with my ticket in hand, I had thought that I had made it through the hard part. I didn’t worry about the seven-hour flight– I wasn’t sitting next to a sour old woman or a screaming baby. I was lucky; the middle-aged businessman whom I mistook for being French was the quiet type and kept to himself. What I did worry about was the one thing I didn’t plan for– the three-hour delay. It was right after the flight attendant had made his safety demonstration, that we heard a loud crack of lightening, and the pilot’s voice come on overhead. But the mighty gusts of wind and rain that rocked the plane literally spoke louder than words since, at best, all we heard were a few monotoned syllables.
People were wildly pacing the aisle while the flight attendants tried to push through with their carts. The “air hostesses” had long skipped past the offering of bags of peanuts, and had headed straight for the alcohol. Unable to become mollified since I was underage, I just sat there dramatically imagining myself spending the rest of my summer stuck in an emptied-out old college town. Most of all I couldn’t wrap my mind around it: everything that was going wrong was completely out of my hands. I had done everything I could, and that was simultaneously both calming and utterly frustrating. I found myself not so much angry about what was actually happening as opposed to what I had expected to happen- that being not getting trapped on a grounded plane. But in the end, it was what made my long over-due arrival, and experiences in the City of Lights all the sweeter. It also taught me about traveling and life in general– that sometimes you have surrender some expectation in order to gain some serious appreciation of what is rather than what is not.