Our story commences on a plane gliding through the night sky. The deafening roar of the plane tunes out the silent, pitch-black night.
A loud ding gouges through the stuffed air, plowing through my eardrums. As my consciousness begins to gather its thoughts, I hear the buzz of the intercom.
“Flight attendants, please prepare for landing.”
I begin rubbing my eyes open from my three-hour snooze, but all I see is a blur of blue through the constricted aisles of the Boeing 737-900ER. As my pupils dilate to the surrounding light, I begin to see flight attendants in all blue clearing the aisles, fastening trays, and reminding sleepy-eyed passengers to put on their seat belts. I glanced out of the foggy window and saw the wing of the plane gliding through the starry night, miniature rows of towering buildings below us.
The dark of the night was concealed by the explosive sound of the engine and the illuminating lights of the city two thousand meters below my sore feet. It was then it hit me: we were landing in the City of Lights.
Otherwise known as Orlando or the largest tourist destination in the world, the luxury resorts and flashy amusement parks lure tourists into tropical, central Florida. Less than a week ago, I was planning on sleeping in on my spring break and wasting my days’ binge-watching Netflix. A relaxing strategy to cope with the last couple of months. The last couple of months for me were rough- a timeline of despair.
However, I am reliving the happy memories, the ones that plaster an infinite smile on my face. In my opinion, sad memories never deserve to be revived because you should never let the same misery hurt you twice.
I had exorbitant expectations from this spontaneously arranged adventure. Who hasn’t been dreaming of going to Magic Kingdom since they were a teeny tiny toddler filled with immeasurable hope for the world?
Imagine you are walking through the crowded streets of downtown Disney, with the aroma of fried goodness in the air. As you search for an iconic character to take a picture with or your next thrill-seeking ride, you find yourself the perfect pair of Mickey Mouse ears. In my eyes, this was the dream. Now, thirteen years old I finally had the opportunity to walk the streets of Disney World and soak in my childhood dreams.
Ironically, I remember the plane ride to Orlando more vividly than anything else. The absence of traveling is like withdrawal. I didn’t know how much travel meant to me until I was confined to the limits of my house. As the pandemic reaches the nooks and crannies of the world, travel begins to seem scarier and scarier.
I hear the bell make a high pitched ding as the plane thrust forward onto the brightly lit runway. My ears feel stuffed, leaving me to tend to the thoughts trapped inside my brain quietly. I grip my hand to the edge of the armrest, closing my eyes as the sounds of the engine grew louder and louder as the ground approaches faster and faster.
Travelling brings me an incomparable sense of exhilaration as adrenaline rushes through my nerves. Nonetheless, my least favorite bit of traveling is the plane taking off and landing. It ignites fear and chaos inside me because of the infinite possibilities of what if? This fear isn’t unreasonable, it comes from my trip to India a couple of years earlier. As we waited to board the plane for a nine-hour flight, my dad thought it was a good idea to show me a video of a plane crashing onto a runway. Ever since that day, fear flashes through my eyes as a plane soars into the sky or strives to touch bare Earth.
As I close my eyes, this is all I see. Negative thoughts running through my head. The sense of anticipation I had before diminished in seconds. I hear a loud thud as the wheels of this 80,000 kg piece of machinery scratch the stretch of runway. I bolt my eyes shut and let out a sigh of relief, saying a quick prayer.
The bell makes another high pitched sound. Now, the seatbelt sign has dimmed and everyone is quickly packing their bags, eager to get moving. I don’t remember what I did during the flights other than sleep, gathering my energy for the sleepless vacation awaiting my arrival. All I remember is that there were multiple flights from Calgary to the final destination, the last plane ride being most one I recollect most vividly:
ATL to MCO.
Important Note: ATL is the airport code for Atlanta, Georgia and MCO is the airport code for Orlando, Florida.
As I push myself out of the seat, I am projected back as blood shoots through my body. My legs are sore and my feet are asleep, unmovable with pain. A weird tingling sensation runs my foot as I hop over to the aisle where my dad is lifting the carry-ons from the overhead bin. I lug my tired self through the aisle, greeting everyone I see along the way. Even though it’s two in the morning, I have a smile plastered on my face the entire way to the luggage carousel.
Even though the airport was empty and dimly lit during the dead of night, anyone who has seen the Orlando airport will agree with me that it is an architectural masterpiece. The inside of the airport could be a tourist attraction of its own, with palm trees bordering the entrance and high rise ceilings inside. As we awaited the train that would take us across the airport to the rental vehicles, I stood with admiration taking in the well-lit greenery enclosing the rail terminal. I hadn’t even made it to Disney World yet. But my mind was already blown away with unforgettable details of the plane ride and the airport itself.
Our vacation had begun.
Perhaps, I only vividly remember the journey because being cooped up at home made me realize how much I miss the sensation of traveling. I miss the elevated rush of the airport. I miss looking out an airplane window seeing toy cars and miniature buildings span the horizon. I miss arriving at my destination, only seen before in mere images on Google. I miss meeting new people and making small talk as we wait to head on completely separate ventures. I miss trying contemporary delicacies exclusive to that corner of the world. Or maybe I miss traveling because the journey to a destination is a step outside our comfort zone- and adventure outside our conventional day to day routine. More than that, it has made me realize how much I miss the thrill of being windborne.