First-Time Air Travel

I arrived at the airport, ready to ‘slip the surly bonds of Earth’. I had to fly from Mumbai to Florence with a connection at Zurich! After the long check-in, immigration, security checks, and several miles walk to the gate, I was ready to board my RJ100 AvroLiner operated by Swiss Air.

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I went to my seat, put my carry-on baggage on one of the overhead luggage compartments and settled down in all excitement. While I was gazing out of the window, a lady came right next to me, occupying the aisle seat. She immediately fastened her seat belt and started watching the television. My mind ran through all the “whys” and my head had set the imagination soaring. Why is she watching the TV already? Isn’t she looking forward to this journey? Isn’t she excited? What is she thinking?

My excitement turned into an anxiety when the plane started accelerating and I could hear some thuds. Moments like this hit you with the realization that you’ve no control over certain situations and this lost sense of control really scared the shit out of me. It’s something that I had never experienced before. I mean, who are these pilots? Are they experienced enough? What if we go down? It’s all up to these two strangers you’ve never met. But you simply have to trust that they know what they’re doing.

Eventually when the plane became airborne, it felt unreal. The feeling of being in air for the first time. The feeling of pressure. The feeling of being pulled back to your seat. The feeling of eardrums popping like popcorn in a microwave. The feeling of losing consciousness due to changing altitudes. Oh, I was high (not on alcohol this time!)!! Before anyone could notice me and think that I’m weird, I stared out the window trying to be normal but my heartbeats kept racing.

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Within a couple of seconds, I was high up in the sky and the view was breath-taking.
I was hypnotized with the glowing Mumbai night – the land divided into neat patterns, the buildings rising high and the roads meeting the horizons – everything seemed perfectly aligned.

The world seems to make more sense from up high. I felt like a bird flying in the sky through giant soft cotton balls. The feeling of “me” fades away and the “ego” dissipates. There I am above 35,000 feet above the ground, from where I am not even equivalent to a speck of dust, with my fate in the hands of two strangers.

After reaching at cruising altitude, the anxiety was relieved. I took a deep breath, read a book, and watched a movie while the flight attendants served dinner (I did everything I could that a person who isn’t afraid of flying would do). Then I just slept until the destination arrived.

Well, it’s not the end. The landing was again a feat but I kept advising myself, “Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. It’s going to be O.K. Breathe.” And I reached my first destination: Zurich! I can’t explain the feeling of landing safely after the immense swerve and shudder. Howbeit, when I boarded my next flight from Zurich to Florence, I knew what to expect and I was mentally prepared.

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Well, the first flight experience is always a memorable one, a journey full of mixed emotions. Despite having flown for a decent number of times, flying always scares the bejesus out of me. When I look down from the plane, I think, “We’re far up. We’re screwed. Someone get me out of here. Are we supposed to turn like that? That was a big drop! What’s wrong? We’re all gonna die!!! Ahhhh!!!”. But I’ve learned how to deal with my fear. After a few deep breaths, I calm down, enjoy the flight and marvel at the amazing science. On one hand, it makes you realize that all the control that you think you have is an illusion. On the other hand, it makes you relax and live a little.

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My First Solo Trip

Traveling alone is a one-of-a-kind experience.


I set out on my first solo trip to Italy when I was 18. Against all odds, I was awarded a one month scholarship for studying intermediate level of Italian at the University for Foreigners of Siena, Tuscany. I was nervousited because I had never really traveled before, not even within the country. I had no clue about how would I pull it off. Firstly, I was spoon-fed too much for literally everything and never had to face any challenge on my own. I was simply wired to seek comfort zone. The thought of traveling solo, lightning-fast decision making, communicating with people coming from different countries whose primary language isn’t English really overwhelmed me. Secondly, I was an introvert, nervous to approach people and uncomfortable at talking to those I didn’t know.

Travelling gave me the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone, build up confidence and push past limits which I had set on myself. I didn’t know when I would get such an opportunity again but I did know that it would be foolish to let this go only due to fear and that this could be my journey to self-discovery and empowerment and I wanted to do this.

What’s the purpose of life if not to break out of your comfort zone?

And of course, it worked.

Just one trip, that’s all I needed. I dealt with difficult people, missed buses, wrong turns, delays, bad food, and much, much more, eventually I learnt how to adapt my plans to changing situations. Life gives you lemons and you make lemonade. Why? Because you’re awesome like that. Just one trip and I got better at communication, problem solving, languages, social situations, and improved my confidence in my ability to do new things and handle unexpected situations. Just one trip and I discerned that the cliché that a smile speaks all languages is true. It’s a great ice breaker. Just one trip and it helped me become independent, be OK with change, get better with people and learn more.

Just one trip and you realize that you’re stronger than you think!

There are so many standards about the way you should look, talk, and behave according to the situation or place. If you fail to reach the standard, you are considered as a total failure. Travel empowers you to understand and accept who you really are, accept that every individual is unique. Travel has made me realize that you mustn’t apologize for who you are. It has nothing to do with being rebellious. It just has to do with being you. We humans are all made unique and it is in everything that we do or believe in that sets us apart from the rest.

Above all, I’ve learnt that travel is the best teacher.


So that is my eulogy to travel. But that’s not all – I am sure there is much more that I must have learnt and will continue to learn.
Coming to the end of the article, how often do you travel and how has it helped you grow over time? Do share your thoughts and comments.

Why “Sal’s Reveries & Séjours”?

I’ve been working as a French and Italian Translator since a year. And whosoever knows this feels that I’m pretty well-settled here in India, which is fairly true. But just at a mere age of 23 I can’t limit myself to a cubicle or a space-challenged condo. No matter how perfect I maybe for this job or how this job is perfect for me, it’s not the time to just hang loose and that’s why I chase bursaries which allow me to strengthen my language skills, meet new people and broaden my horizons!

Thank you to Dr. Roberto Bertilaccio, Tasneem Azmi, Christian Gaillac and the entire AMICIF team for considering me ideal for such opportunities and letting me know that there exists a different side of me. It’s you all who have shaped my memories more than the locations themselves. Everyone whom I met during this journey has made my travel rich.

I wouldn’t have started this blog, I wouldn’t have started traveling and working, without you people who inspire me to believe in myself, to push a little harder, to learn something new, to go out and meet people, to stand for myself and be proud of my goals, to help others, to share, to create. I really appreciate everyone who has enlivened me, lit a spark inside me, and made me want to be better, stronger, bigger, and more of who I am.

So, did I take this long trip only to end up right back where I started? No, of course not. I took it to grow. I thought I could write about my travels in order to stay in the travel-mind set, keeping the lessons I’ve learnt alive and also to keep the travel spirits high.

And because of that, my gaze will always be on the horizon, looking, dreaming, and wishing for another opportunity to get away again.

Above The Clouds!