BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! I swear my alarm screamed at me louder than it ever had before. My day started nervously at 5:00 A.M. (Eastern Time) and it was a rough start to say the least. I had been up half the night slightly freaking out that I was traveling the next day and half praying that I wouldn’t forget any important document (such as my passport —which I almost forgot!) This was going to the first time in my 22 years of existence that I traveled on a plane (or been to an airport in fact) and was traveling internationally over 5,000 miles away from little old Apollo, PA. I’ve always dreamt of traveling, I just didn’t think I’d start out completely alone.
I knew I had to be at the airport really early since it was an international flight (however, I didn’t realize that my flight out of Pittsburgh actually was domestic since it was only to Philly) so I ended up getting there way earlier than I had too. Oh well! I’m a beginner, okay?! Anyways, getting back to the actual driving to the airport… My dad and brother took me and I was so excited that they’d be able to walk me in and help me figure out everything I needed to do. However, my hopes were dashed when the officer sweetly told me that I needed to say my goodbyes outside of the airport. After hugs and safety lectures, I walked into the busy airport slightly panicking. I was really doing this and I was completely and utterly alone. Even though I’m 22 I felt like a small kid getting lost in a grocery store. My fears were short lived though, I put on my big girl pants and asked tons of questions.
Once I got to the gate, I was fine. You see I’m not scared of the actual flying part-it’s the transferring between flights that really does me in. Getting on the plane was another story. I have a great job at a nursing home and truly love elderly people. Lucky enough for me, 1. I had a WINDOW seat!! 2. My first flight neighbor was the sweetest elderly woman. She joined me in my excitement of flying for the first time, especially when the plane made a mad dash down the runway. I felt the need for speed! Lifting into the air was the weirdest feeling, I’d describe it to how someone feels on a roller coaster ride.
It was raining in Pittsburgh (of course) and it took a while before I could actually look out the window. The first thing I saw—massive clouds underneath us. I wish I could have taken a picture to show everyone, however I was too afraid of making the plane crash or getting yelled at for having my phone on (I’m a chicken).
It was a short flight and I departed from my elderly woman happily. I never did get her name, however I did find out she was in her 70’s and traveling to Charleston, SC for a week vacation. Hopefully, she had a wonderful time with her young 3, 5, and 6 year old grandchildren.
Although my flight was short, my layover was not (4 hours). The philly airport was dead compared to Pittsburgh, however it had a McDonalds!! I was super excited to finally get food, since I was too nervous to eat anything before I left home. Plus, I was worried about the food in Cyprus. Being the ‘refined eater’ that I am, I was worried that this would be my last normal supper.
I wasn’t the first person at the gate this time J and I met my first Greek man shortly afterwards. He came up to me and asked me if he had the right terminal (like I’m the one to ask about correct gates and airport things). However, he was on the same flight I was so I guess I mildly assisted him by telling him very unsurely that he was in the right place.
I never caught the Greek man’s name, however he was very nice and told me more about his life than I thought someone would tell someone they just met at the airport. He was from Norfolk, VA (only 5-10 minutes from Virginia Beach) and traveled to Greece often. However, this trip was to see his very sick sister. So, if you’re reading this send up a quick prayer for my Greek man’s sister.
Not long after the Greek man, I got to meet Rachel. Thank goodness for Rachel. She was flying in from Erie, and we got to know each other some before the flight to Athens. She calmed me more than she probably knows. We discussed what we were going to do and possibly ‘excursions’ (or trouble) we could get into there. We also truly detested this horribly long layover and future long flight (9 hours and 14 minutes to be exact). As they were calling for soon boarding, JoAnna comes flying in just in the nick of time. Here we were, three girls that had no idea what they were doing or what was going on getting ready to travel extremely far away.
Luckily for both of them, they had end seats right across from each other (the lucky ducks!) I was so far in the front that I could basically see all of first class. However, I wasn’t lucky enough to get my plane ticket early. I was going to be smushed in the middle between two random people. I was dreading this 9 hour flight and on top of being between two people, there was a young kid directly behind me that started kicking my seat. Boy, I thought this was going to be a long flight. After we all finally got boarded, we sat there for over an hour; delayed due to a lady in a wheel chair that had to get medically cleared by a hospita. This was all my kind of luck.
To my right was this young, Asian girl who had a huge book and the biggest ear headphones around. Oh boy. And to my left was this older man (late 60’s) with a book called “Your Inner Fish.” What a pair, right!?
Before we even got off the ground the young Asian girl talked to me. She surprised me by complimenting my industrial bar ear piercing and we began a great conversation that surprised me. Christine was on her way to Athens to work in a hospital, specifically looking at Breast Cancer. She was a young 19 year old, sophomore from John’s Hopkins University. We talked about college, pre-medicine, and figuring out our futures. She was going alone too and would be in a program where she wouldn’t really meet anymore. A very brave girl. We also bonded over her Game of Thrones book and the fact that she watched Catching Fire for the first time on the plane. Hopefully, Christine is doing well in her program this summer and figuring out if she does want to become pre-med.
Now, the fish man. He had overheard our conversation and awkwardly asked me about going to the University of Pittsburgh. He said that he was actually from a small town in Pennsylvania that I probably have never heard of and when he said “Apollo,” my eyes widened. I looked at him so bewildered. Here we are headed to Athens, Greece and he was from the town that only has roughly1,623 people in it! What are the odds?! We both couldn’t get over the fact that we were both from this small town that most people have never even heard of before. We talked for half the plane ride discussing people that lived there, roads that had been built, businesses, etc. I couldn’t get over the fact that Ed was on this plane with me and talking to me about the very place I was leaving. He himself had been long gone from that place, residing now in Maryland. Maybe some things really are pre-destined and meant to be.