On August 24th, I prepared to embark on my first real journey as an adult, turning 21 only a couple of days before. I woke up that morning feeling a mixture of emotions. I felt overwhelmed with excitement as I knew that in a matter of hours I would be reunited with my best friend for the first time in three months. Deep beneath the excitement, I was a bag of nerves. I was hit with the sudden realisation that today was the day I had to get from London Heathrow to John. F Kennedy airport – alone. Like most people, flying was not unfamiliar. Flying alone was. Despite knowing it wasn’t hard (after all I only had to get from A to B) I was convinced something was bound to go wrong. During the two hour drive down to Heathrow (which involved a few wrong turns), I went through exactly what I had to do and where I had to go umpteen times. Finally, I had arrived at my first stop off point. Extremely nervous with my passport clasped tightly in my hand, I made my way through London Heathrow airport – Terminal 3, Zone A to be exact – to the Virgin Atlantic airways desk to check in my garish rucksack.
Arriving at the terminal with a headache and a 25lb rucksack I needed to get rid of, I wandered aimlessly to figure out where I had to go. I headed to the desk and was greeted by a woman caked in makeup and dressed up to the nines. I had a double take at the screen above me to make sure I wasn’t checking in for a flight to Benidorm. After a short encounter with the China doll, I was directed to the oversize baggage point (a point I now know is non existent). The only thing oversized was a Cockney in a hi-vis jacket slumped on a dirty trailer with the odd pram and suitcases suffocated in cling film. After a few grunts, he asked me where I was going and told me to dump it on top. I was convinced the bag wasn’t going to follow me to JFK – no matter how big or bright it was. Nevertheless, the bag was on the trailer – all straps tucked and tied – so all that was left to do was head to the dreaded security. I’ve always disliked going through security because you always enter with a guilty conscience. I made a quick mental note of what was in my bag and had almost convinced myself I had something absurd like a pair of nail scissors in there. It’s like a gold mine trying to find scissors in our house, so the chances of finding a pair in my bag was pretty slim.
Once I had sailed through security, I made my way into the lounge and let Amy know I had made it this far. At this point, I was wondering where she was on her travels and couldn’t help picturing her chuckling at the thought of me and my travels. During the months running up to this day, we would always joke about how I wasn’t going to make it to her completely intact. I nearly bet money that I was either going to end up on a plane to Singapore or I was going to meet her with an extra baggage of stories about my mishaps along the way – so to get this far was an achievement. I found a seat closest to the screen and with a boots meal deal in hand sat staring at my flight in hope that I wouldn’t lose it. After 15 minutes, I realised I couldn’t sit and stare at it for the next three hours. In desperate need of comfort, I paraded the lounge in hope of finding some slouchy seats. Once satisfied, I put my feet up and pulled ‘Don’t tell the Bride’ up on BBC iplayer. Three hours and an abysmal wedding later, I boarded my plane and prepared myself for the six and half hour journey over the Atlantic Ocean (after realising I had downgraded my seat during the online check – in)
Landing in JFK at 18:50 after a relatively smooth ride, I took a huge stretch and grinned at the fact I had actually made it – Aisling Monica Kiely had actually made it. After waiting for what seemed like ten years in the queue, I made my way up the desk to be greeted by the hard faced security man at customs. The hard faced look didn’t last long – it was an Irish fella. It didn’t take for him long to cotton on that I had an Irish name and from then on the jokes came flying thick and fast. Typical, as always I was the first one in and last one out. I managed to escape him, with a few awful jokes in the bank and a thick American stamp marked in my passport. I picked up my orange sack, said goodbye to the other lone traveller I had met on the plane and made my way to the double doors. Thrashing my way through the double doors, with a ridiculously heavy orange sack on my bag, I was faced with a sea of faces – among these faces I had to find my best friend – it felt like a game of where’s wally. In true Liverpudlian style, Amy shouted my name and we ran to each other, separated by a thick metal bar and squeezed each other until we nearly burst. Pacing up our separate sides, we were reunited for one final time and she asked about my journey. An array of feelings took over my body, yet relief was the most over powerful feeling of all. I was relieved I had made it, however I was so relieved to be back in the company of my best friend, still as smiley as ever – just this time a lot more tanned. Filled with excitement, we made our way to the Airtrain, shouting over one another in an attempt to fill each other in on three months worth of news. Three months apart. Nothing’s changed.