Originally posted at SheLoves Magazine.
Let’s talking about soaring, for real. Let’s talk about airplanes.
I love flying. (I know Americans throw out LOVE all the time when they don’t mean it, but I mean it. I think I have a tangible infatuation with flying—resulting in heart palpitations and sweaty palms and silly grinning.)
Perhaps my love of flying is because it’s the first step to a great expedition. Or maybe it’s that I get to participate in a grand rebellion against gravity for a few hours. But mostly it’s because on the very first flight I ever took I calmly explained to a fellow passenger that we were going to be just fine, despite her premonitions to the contrary. I was just 13 and I had no idea what would happen when that flight took off, but I was sure it was going to be okay. I was right.
And I’ve been watching out for my fellow flight-mates ever since…
Leaving Mumbai I had a charades-esq conversation with a bored and beautiful 6-year-old Indian girl. Her parents used my pen and she and I played air guitar and hand games and never spoke a word. It didn’t matter though, laughter is the same in every language.
In New Orleans it was a college student who hadn’t been home in four years because he was afraid to fly. He hugged me after our conversation.
In Seattle it was the poor kid I chased down after he left his passport at the Starbucks. He was visiting a girl in Dallas and admitted he was pretty nervous.
And leaving Detroit I was invited on a cruise, in the off-chance my ginger-haired companion’s family was still stuck in the Denver snow. He never called, so I guess his family made it.
Oh, and there was that time in Amsterdam when I woke a man, because he slept through every boarding call and I wasn’t sure which flight he needed to catch. The next morning I saw his photo in a Norwegian newspaper. Turns out he’s a famous Kenyan football star. (My life is awesome.)
On the flight home from Norway I learned a few lines in Farsi and shared travel stories with a middle-aged Afgan-American. He places bets with other passengers to see if he’ll get stopped by the TSA. I owe a great deal of my coping skills to that stranger—”If you can’t beat them, laugh at them.”
I shared cookies with another Sarah on a red-eye flight to New Orleans. She’s a school-teacher. I didn’t wake her when she fell asleep on my shoulder.
And when my flight couldn’t leave Germany because of technical difficulties, I spotted a very confused French girl who didn’t speak German or English. Ines was 16 and was flying alone for an exchange program in Seattle. She worried about using my phone to call her mom and I didn’t know the French words for “prepaid.” I just smiled and pushed it into her hands.
I have loved—yes, loved—so many flights and so many strangers.
But can I tell you a secret? The 13-year-old version of me was scared out of her mind. She looked around and all she saw were other scared people. So she made a choice to “woman-up” and be brave and help out the passengers around her. And, girl, it paid off.
I want to see every inch of our planet, but even more than that, I want to share life with as many travelers from as many places as I can. And I want to see them all soar.