And so it begins…
Of course I had been on a trip outside my own state before; family vacations to Florida, visiting relatives in DC. But this was huge… I had just purchased a ticket to Germany at the age of 15 to visit one of my brothers in Heidelberg. The thought of flying never frightened me nor did experiencing a whole new culture. My father was an international businessman and introduced us to outside cultures with the occasional visit from foreign customers into our home. So all the brothers were taught a bit of savoir faire when faced with a variety of cultures. But I had just booked a ticket with a connecting flight in Paris, France and I had never been in a foreign country before. For me, the actual lead up to a situation never phases me. It’s as if I am formulating a plan for someone other than myself. However, once the event arrives, my anxiety rushes over me like a waterfall. I did not sleep a wink on the flight from Atlanta to Paris… My heart was pumping as the plane pulled into the gate. Once I stepped off the plane into Charles de Gaulle airport a sense of tranquility poured over me. It was as if my skin was frozen with goose pimples and all, then I was dunked into the most amazing jacuzzi bath. When you experience for the first time a complete sense of perpetual relief, it’s extremely emotional. I walked around the airport in a daze like I finally took off my backpack of detriment & was endowed with equanimity.
This lasted all but 10 minutes when I heard someone from my connecting flight utter the words, “this isn’t the right terminal…” I looked at my connecting flight ticket and realized he was correct. I looked at him with disdain because he had taken my new-found zeal for life and stomped it back into my bag of fears. Remember I was only 15 in a country not my own.. So I walked up to a few people who worked at the airport and asked where the bus terminals were for the connecting flights. He looked at me and said in perfect english, “Sorry boy, I do not speak english.” His statement snapped me out of my haze. I do not know why or what prompted me to do so, but I started walking with purpose and a renewed outlook on this trip. Maybe the frenchman’s poor attitude was a mirror into myself. I was reluctant to help myself, hesitant to engulf myself in the surroundings, and tentative about embracing the unfamiliar. Walking outside felt invigorating. My perception sharpened and I saw my bus. I stepped aboard and felt as if I had grown a little taller, maybe a little broader in the shoulders. I was not bound by my parents, family, or friends from home. It was time to truly become the person I wanted to be.
This was my first step into the unknown. I had a bag full of fears which was left at the entrance of that terminal bus. I arrived in Germany and my ears were filled with the sound of foreign languages; some German and some I had never heard. I smelled things I had never smelled before, saw ornate buildings which were older than my country, and gradually found my confidence in the midst of taking risks.
This quote seems incredible fitting; “Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.” – James Stephens