Oh I love airports, they’re one of my most favourite places in the whole entire world and can only mean two things – Love and Adventure.
The Love bit comes from that scene at the end of Love Actually when everybody’s being reunited at the arrivals gate. There’s no nicer feeling than getting home to heartfelt hugs.
The Adventure bit may be obvious but it brings an enormous, uncontrollable smile to my face. My eyes get watery, I squeal like a piglet and have moths in my stomach from all the excitement.
I’m sure I’ve felt this way every single time I’ve left the runway, buckled up and gazing out of the tiny window, but there’s nothing quite like taking off on a solo adventure.
The world is yours and yours alone. Everything familiar is left behind and you’re leaping forward into the colourful unknown. You’re about to walk on ground you’ve never walked on before, hear words you’ve never heard spoken and your eyes will have something to feast on at every glance.
The first time I ever did this was at the age of eighteen when I took a plane to Venice for four months to work on a campsite.
I said goodbye to my parents and they stood watching me zig zag my way through to airport security, biting my bottom lip and holding back the tears. As soon as I got through, I ran as fast as I could into the toilets and cried my little heart out. I let the overwhelming concoction of fear and excitement trickle down my cheeks, then inhaled deeply, and took my first steps of real independence.
Since then, I’ve taken hundreds of flights on my own. Lots of back and forth trips when I went to university in Cologne and Aix en Provence, lots of travelling with work and quite a few solo holidays.
When I tell people I’m going away on my own I tend to get a mixture of reactions.
Some say they could never go anywhere by themselves. Some say I’m brave. Some make expressions of pity behind their practised smile, as if I’m not going alone out of choice. Some say they’ll live vicariously through me. And others just think I’m weird.
But pretty much everybody fears the fact I’m roaming planet earth unsupervised.
I realise my track record with passports is atrocious and I know I shouldn’t be, but overall I’m happy with my airport performance… even if it is a little out of the ordinary.
I’ve only ever missed my flight once and this was by confidently, alas incorrectly, guessing the flight time. And although it turned a thirty quid trip into a three hundred pound one, it taught me a really valuable lesson in life – don’t make stuff up.
My optimism tends to wreak havoc with timings, but there’s only been one occasion when I’ve had to sprint barefoot from security to the gate with my sandals in hand, elbowing little old women in the face on my way down.
And I’m also very glad to report that tapping a girl on the shoulder and asking did you steal my passport was also a one off. She’d knocked into me from behind and my passport paranoia kicked in on autopilot, so I ran after her, because everybody knows a passport thief is likely to confess if you ask them nicely. It turned out she hadn’t, and my passport was in my pocket where I’d left it.
But whatever happens, airports are not the place for stress.
Expect queues, expect gormless people to stop in the middle of a walkway for no apparent reason, expect bottles of water to be more expensive than saffron, expect a collection of the most slow-moving, moronic jobsworths you’ve ever seen in your life crammed into a little area called airport security. Expect funny looks when they’re trying to work out why you look like a fat Mortisha Adams on your passport photo. Expect delays and hope to be frisked.
Well, that didn’t go as planned
My journey to Menorca started off as chaotic as ever.
We bombed it down the M62 at six o’clock in the morning in torrential rain with my bicycle strapped to the roof and the makeshift waterproof cover (an old gazeebo) flapping in the wind like a superhero’s cape.
After dragging the soggy bike box through to check-in, saying adios to mamá y papá, I headed for security. I know I’m not one to talk, but I was genuinely astonished at how many imbeciles were in such a confined space. Moving trays of valuables at the pace of a sloth, standing there with blank faces and staring into space while a herd of passengers overtly fretted about missing their flight.
Luckily, I made it on board the plane without any reason for panic. After almost an hour on board, the plane started to move towards the runway and the engines began to rev. That’s when the pilot made his announcement; something was wrong with the left philangee.
We had to temporarily abort our mission and head back to the terminal. I waded my way through the sighs, tuts, moans and groans and headed to Starbucks to indulge in a coffee and croissant whilst awaiting the news of take off.
Four hours later, I was finally on my way and whilst in the air I was struck by a lightning bolt of logic.
I decided that my plan to get out a spanner at baggage reclaim to reassemble my bike then cycle 15km uphill to the retreat with a very heavy backpack is a little bit ridiculous. So for once, I’m going to do what normal people do and get a taxi.