On the October of 2014, I embarked on my first ever flight alone, to the city of München- the City with Heart or as it is formally known, Millionendorf. Being the A-type, calculating and meticulous person that I am, I needed everything to go smoothly. I’d heard countless ill-fated tales of flights missed, gates shut, delayed check-ins and miserable security staff that I’d ensured every possible precaution was taken. I was alone, nobody was coming to save me if I got a step wrong so to say my antenna’s were on high alert, was a total understatement.
My flight was taking off from London Heathrow Airport (LHR) at exactly 09:05 from Terminal 2. I’m 20 years old, armed with a boarding pass I’d printed the night before, 250 euros and a carry-on suitcase stuffed to the brim. The smart move would’ve been to fly on the same day as my friends, but I couldn’t get the Wednesday off work so I was left trudging the airport alone. Another smart move would’ve been to perhaps get a taxi to Heathrow, perhaps at 5am or 6am. Something somewhere on this planet had convinced me to be at the airport 3 hours early for check-in and all the security measures. So that’s a 9am flight, and arriving at LHR 6am sharp. Means I leave my house for 4am for the 1 hour and 45 minute journey door to door, leaving 15 minutes leeway for traffic or unexpected delays. Made sense. I was ready but see that’s the thing. During the October of 2015, the first train on the Transport for London (TFL) Underground Jubilee line operates from 5:23am. Couldn’t risk it. Couldn’t stand at the back of 200 people at check-in and wait patiently when I could’ve been at the front. Couldn’t miss my flight. Just couldn’t risk it.
Guess what I did.. Caught the last train from North Greenwich station the night before, at exactly 00:19 and made the tedious and lengthy journey to the airport. I got there around 02:25 and got to the airport waiting lounge in under 30 minutes. Easy breezy. Now came the most agonizing and mentally torturing few hours of my entire life.
In packing like some sort of professional, I was entirely ready for the glow of 21 degree weather in Munich. I entirely neglected to pack for the -1 degree weather in London that night, sitting entirely diminutive in stature compared to the colossal glass ceilings of the airport. The wind howled so loud, I couldn’t hear myself think. I noticed my feet wouldn’t stay still, jumping frantically up and down in a continuous and uncontrollable synchronization. For the first time on this journey, I noticed I wasn’t even wearing socks. My skin had turned white. It is -1 degrees in an entirely empty airport, with glass walls and ceilings, uncomfortably ice-cold rigid seats and I am not even wearing socks. Boy, I would’ve killed for some socks. 7 hours of waiting in absolute agony, with nothing to read, not dressed for this weather, every hair follicle standing on end and my skin doing dances of its own, the airport started buzzing with life again.
Well-rested faces nonchalantly walked in, full of life, sporting layers of coats and jackets and faux fur clasped around their necks. My jaws had frozen; I couldn’t get myself to move. I remember leaving my debit card at home to avoid incurring bank charges and transactions fees abroad. Everything I had was in Euros.
I strolled into a shoddy little Starbucks and asked for searing hot coffee. Once he handed it to me, I pulled out a crisp 5 euro note and handed it to him without batting an eyelid and promptly walked away. I don’t remember ever scurrying so fast. I remember expecting the dark haired barista to return with some sort of request for “real” money, so I changed seats, pulled up my hood and moved so far from gate A12 even I forgot where I was sitting. The sun majestically began its rise and basked the airport with gilded glow. I sat, ready to start my holiday and thanking God he got me through the night. I felt the ends of my hair on my skin just relax, I was warm, basking in warm sunlight and wanting to be in the sky. What a beautiful morning.
My gate was called. Lufthansa flight LH2471 to Munich – Franz Josef Strauss (MUC) was boarding at A20. It was time.
Donning a pair of earphones, I walked on and took my window seat. The whole experience felt surreal. The plane started circulating the airport runway, warming up, accelerating and finally became airborne. That feeling of being carried into the sky, away from the safe ground, carried by a gigantic steel machine… that feeling will forever be embedded into my conscious mind- I’ll never forget it!