Every time that I mention I’ve never been on an airplane I’m met with surprise—it seems like most people started traveling by plane when they were kids or teenagers. We always drove to reach our family vacation destinations because it’s much cheaper than flying. I enjoy the driving anyway. I have many fond memories of me and my sister in the backseat of my grandma’s car, stuffed between all the junk that we found necessary to take with us. Highway flew by as we read or stared out the window, hoping to spot a license plate from Alaska. When my best friend and I decided to plan a trip to New York, I found out I’d have to hop on a plane to get there. I knew I’d fly eventually (I don’t think my car will get me to Europe) but I didn’t expect it to be so soon.
Stage 1: General Discomfort
Since I’d never been to an airport, much less by myself, I had no idea what I was doing. When I’m on a strict schedule I dislike not knowing where to go or what to do, so I felt very meh about that. I was also unreasonably nervous about going through security—all I had was a backpack with clothes, toiletries, and my camera—but it turned out fine.
Stage 2: Self-delusion
I had a decent amount of time between going through security and boarding the plane, so I just chilled in the waiting area and listened to music. I even read a little, although at five in the morning I don’t think my brain processed much. Pretending that it wasn’t a big deal allowed me to relax a bit.
Stage 3: Panic
From the moment I boarded the plane until we were well into the air, I don’t think I blinked. I probably looked like a crazy person, but I wasn’t very concerned with what anyone else thought of me. As the plane moved into position and then sped off at a breakneck speed, my heart beat wildly and my hands squeezed the life out of each other. My head also felt a little funky, probably because every survival instinct I have was telling me that humans aren’t supposed to be in the sky. But, most importantly, I did not pass out or throw up.
Stage 4: Utter Amazement
I couldn’t have had a better time for my first flight; the sun was rising, splashing oranges and pinks all over the sky. From above the clouds looked like a magical, snowy landscape where I might find cotton candy creatures frolicking through the tufts. The few times I looked away I noticed that most people didn’t seem to share my enthusiasm. I know that they’re probably used to it, but I can’t imagine ever not being awestruck when flying thousands of feet above the ground in a big metal container. It’s definitely an incredible human achievement.
Stage 5: Contentment
After the initial excitement, my eyelids began to feel heavy. I closed them and turned my head to the side, listening to the hum of the giant machine. As different as it actually was, I felt the same as I had all those times I napped in my grandma’s car on the way to the beach. Whether going 70 mph or hundreds of mph, all I could do was relax and enjoy the ride.
Stage 5½: More Panic
This was only momentary, but touching down on the landing strip sent a jolt of fear through my body. It didn’t seem like there was any way the plane could slow down fast enough, but of course it did. I can’t imagine the kind of power the brakes on a plane must have.
Not long after I was off the plane and chucked into the Newark Liberty International Airport, which began the rest of my New York adventure. Flying, while still a strange concept to me, was a cool experience. I’ll do it again at some point, and I hope I never get so used to it that I don’t appreciate how incredible it is. Possibly the best part, though, is that I no longer have to tell people that I’ve never been on an airplane.