Travel mornings are all the same in my head because on days like that, on days when bigger things are at stake and expectations are bouncing around everywhere, everything happens loudly, and at a pace that’s hard to catch up with. It’s like a feeling that everything and everyone is just one step ahead of you. One moment you are having a shower, the next you’re calling an uber and before you know it the sky and where it can lead you become the only limit, literally.
My brother, Angelo, accompanied my sister and me to the airport that morning. We made small talk in the car about expectations, hopes and dreams, and what exactly it would take us to stay alive in the city commonly referred to as a ‘concrete jungle’.
We arrived at Terminal 2 at Manchester airport and headed straight to check-in.
I remember stopping a couple of times to mumble to myself a kind of startled ‘I guess this is really happening’. To be more precise I bet I said it out loud a few hundred times looking in my sisters’ eyes in true honest disbelief.
If you’ve travelled, you already know what comes next, the passport checks, security checks, waits, long lines, more waits and a lot more skippable parts that make you wish you were already at your destination, looking up at the sky, wondering if it will be everything you wished it would. I’ve done the airport drill a few times now and that part is honestly not particularly any fun and most times nothing to write on and on about. For me, it’s become easy to blur that part out like a dreadful background in a picture with undeniable potential. When I’m there, I’m not there. I’m in my head, dreaming, fantasizing, hoping – in my head I’m already somewhere in the clouds.
The plane ride was a different experience than the usual. I kid you not when I say that it legit felt like a holiday of its own. The aisle wheelchair was rolled to my seat and I took it at row 30, letter G. There was a pillow, red blanket and a pair of headphones on the seat and through the speaker, I could hear Camilla and Shawn heat up the plane with their song Senorita. That experience for starters was already so far off my usual low budget flights headed to cities in Europe and I could tell that I was in for a ride as soon as I hopped on. It was the first plane I’d been on that had a staircase that led all the way up and I couldn’t help but wonder what the clouds would look like for those sat closer to the sky than I was.
For the first few hours, I was ecstatic to even be there. The air hostesses were so professional and kind and most importantly, for what felt like almost every half hour, they rolled down the passage with drinks and food that seemed to be never-ending.
Side note, it was probably the only aeroplane food I’ve had that actually tasted edible and I didn’t believe would be the cause of awful hours to come spent chasing a toilet seat.
I spent the time jotting down my inner thoughts about the experience I had just lived through knowing fully well that it was only the beginning…
After hour 4, the glamourous view of it all had completely began to wear off, and I couldn’t wait to get my butt out of that chair to be led straight into the city that never sleeps. The Netflix shows I had downloaded were no longer distracting me from the pain of having to be patient for hours while waiting to be dropped off at destination. I was already impatient and in agony with a lot of pent up excitement I had tried to ignore from months before. The worst part? I still had 4 more hours to go and there was absolutely nothing that could change that.
So, I sat tight, fastened my seatbelt, ate my whole plate of mac & cheese and allowed my Spotify playlist transport me back to blissful naïve years; before I knew the meaning of any of those lyrics or watched ‘scandalous’ VMA performances.
The seatbelt lights came back on once more, tables were instructed to be stowed and daylight shot through the windows again. It came true. I was at JFK Airport. New York.
New York was different from the get-go. I always say the best way to get the first take on a city is to analyse the airport and I believe that to be dramatically true in New York too.
Everything was fast-paced and yet so straight to the point. It was like everyone was racing to get some lost time back and sometimes that made some people come across slightly tense and brusque. Off the plane, at Terminal 4, there was a line at the entry that seemed like it wouldn’t be cleared out until the next day. My sister and I followed special assistance which fast-tracked the whole process by a lot. We were led to a machine where we had to fill in details and scan our passports and fingers before moving on to the officers who asked more questions and stamped our red passports.
We were in. We were truly in; boxes in hand and expectations in hearts.
We got lucky as we were greeted by a super-hot sun coming out of the airport and I remember holding my hands up to block it out of my eyes as I looked far out to see what was out there. We got on a wheelchair-accessible yellow cab and began a 40 minutes journey to our hotel in Queens.
Getting off the long ride, the driver charged us an extra $15 for the ‘service’ of providing a ramp in the car. Up until now, I’m not a hundred percent sure whether that is a thing or if we got totally scammed only a few hours in (New Yorkers, let me know huh!).
Hotel Nirvana was our last minute hotel of choice after many hours spent surfing around Booking.com, Trivago and any other seemingly reliable hotel booking website we could find that fitted our criteria.
We checked in, headed up to our room and finally took a moment to process all that had just gone down that day. We were there and the only limit to how crazy we could truly go was how far we were really willing to go.
At the beginning of the year, all I had my eyes set on was graduation and truth be told, I don’t even think I saw further than that. But there I was; thousands of miles away from home with so much I could finally see, touch, taste or try.
We found a spot that was a short walk away from the hotel where we had chicken and chips for dinner. The day was far gone, and I honestly felt like I had been up for a bazillion hours. I climbed on the bed, but like literally, because yes, I’m just that short! My head hit the pillow quick, but I didn’t dream that night, perhaps because that whole day already felt like one; like a daydream I would replay in my head on a normal rainy day in Manchester shielded by the comfort of my four walls. I could hear the whole city alive out the window, I could hear its heartbeat and all the dreams it had wrapped within and far across its borders.
I could hear it all, and perhaps, that day was a dream – a dream beginning…
Yout restless romantic roamer