This is the story - or the bits of the story, the put together recollections - of a trip across Europe I took in July 2001. I was 20, naive, resourceful, terrified, full of hope and travelling alone. You can read part one here.
I'd never been on a plane before. Growing up, our holidays were always to near-ish seaside towns never more than 90 minutes drive away - Skegness, Mablethorpe, Bridlington – and we didn’t have a car so we’d be dropped off by a relative who’d come back for us the following Saturday. There’d be me, my mum, my Nana, my cousin, a couple of aunties, and we’d stay in a flat for a week and have late 80s / early 90s fun (on the beach with our buckets and spades, bingo, slot machines, talent competitions…) Different trips and journeys to this one.
Two things stand out about this going-on-a-plane thing. One, I was at an actual airport – a big and exciting place I’d only imagined until now - and I was at the bit where I had to be x-rayed (customs? I still don’t feel at one with the terminology). Anyways, the Security person, officer – she was female, and she asked if anyone could have put something in my bag without my knowledge. I still had it on my back – my huge big rucksack bought a month or so before by my best friends in support of my journey. They sewed my name on it too, ‘Tree’ (short for Teresa) next to a lovely big tree, rooted the ground (ironically) ‘So you don’t forget who you are’. They may not have said that. It just feels like they did.
So could anyone have put something in this massive bag without me realising?
I glanced back at it and said, ‘Um, well, I’ve been wearing it, so I can't really tell, so yeah, someone could have put something in there.’ It just seemed best to be honest about it.
Security officer customs lady sighed. ‘OK, I’m going to ask you again. Is there any chance someone could have put something in your bag without you knowing about it?’
I scrunched my face up. ‘Um…'
She gave me a look. Eyebrows as high as they could go.
I was getting it now. I had to say NO. So I said, ‘No?’
She nodded and let me through.
The second standout memory of my first-time-going-on-a-plane experience came as we took off. This was the moment where I suddenly realised what I was doing. As we speeded up along the runway, going faster than I had ever gone before, at that miraculous moment of taking off, of soaring, I filled with tears, and for the first time I asked myself why I wasn’t doing this with a friend. But it was too late. I was on my way to Amsterdam, on my own as I had insisted I wanted to be, with no booked accommodation, just a rough route I wanted to take, and a plan that I’d be in the south of France about a week and a half later.
… more soon …