My First Plane Ride at 20 Years Old

Ever since I was a little girl dreaming in my big red house, I called Clifford, I knew I wanted to travel the world. I dreamed of going to Italy, France, Tokyo, and Australia. During my free time I’d spend hours scrapbooking cool places to visit because it felt like I was one step closer to my dream. My family wasn’t very big on travel.  Most of my immediate family had never left the country, let alone the east coast, but I never let that discourage my passion for adventure.  At the age of 15, I started a bucket list of all the activities I wanted to conquer before I died but I never thought I’d accomplish so much of my list so fast. My first goal was to study abroad and at the age of 20 I made that goal a reality when I boarded my first plane ride.  My destination?  London to study abroad at the University of Surrey.


I was calm but somewhat nervous the few days leading up to my trip.  While I had packed everything imaginable to help ease my anxious nature, my biggest fear was saying goodbye to my parents and extended family.  Despite my adventurous side, I had never been away from home for more than a few weeks.  I was a true homebody and spent many of my college weekends traveling back home to see my family.


I transitioned back into a childlike state and clung to my dad for dear life when he dropped me off at the airport.  But surprisingly after we said our goodbyes, I felt fine while waiting to board my first plane, a quick flight to a layover in New Jersey.


The plane to New Jersey was extremely small, it could only hold about 50 passengers, and my heart race faster than ever before in the crowded environment.  So, I tried to drown out my uneasiness with my favorite tunes while I braved myself for the upcoming adrenaline rush awaiting me when the pilot announced we were ready for takeoff.


Takeoff was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  A weight of pressure pressed down upon me making me feel heavy and somewhat distorted while the plane accelerated. Then, I felt a rush of excitement like how I feel on my favorite carnival rides once the plane took off from the ground and into the sky. Once we were in the air, I looked out the window for my first look at my home state of Maryland from above. Witnessing the geography and terrain from this new perspective was incredibly surreal and slowly, tranquility slipped its way back into my body.  Finally, I was able to relax and take in everything around me.


After my quick layover in Jersey, I boarded a plane to my final destination, Heathrow airport in London.  This time around I was much more comfortable because this plane was a lot bigger and flying wasn’t a mystery to me anymore.  As soon as I sat down in my seat, I spent the whole flight in a deep, peaceful slumber. Luckily when I woke up, we were already approaching London as the city lights beamed from our tiny circular windows.


I felt so accomplished stepping off the plane into England, but I was just getting started.  I still had a lot to prove to my younger self who had set these goals 5 years prior.


Six months later, on my departing flight from England, my journey had come full circle and I thought back on the places I had gone, people I had met, and experiences I had.  One thing that stuck out to me were the answers veteran travelers gave me when I asked them this question, “What’s the biggest piece of advice you’d give to someone like me that’s just starting adulthood?” While the responses varied, they all had the same theme, “Keep traveling while you can.  Time is short and you can never get it back.”


I always thought that I would let my family’s fears hold me back but once I finally took that small act of bravery my eyes were opened to the beautiful world around me.  Now, I won’t ever stop pushing myself to experience our planet’s greatest treasures.

Chantell Highsmith

Blog Contributor


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