There are days that go by and, in three more, you can barely remember what happened. Then there are days where, even years later, they remain permanently cemented in your brain.
A year ago, I was living in a tiny room at a university in London, England. Many of my London days blur together, but last October 24 is one of those cemented-in-my-brain days.
It began at five o’clock in the morning. My bag was mostly packed, but I threw in last minute essentials, took a quick shower, and was out of my flat by six. Carrying nothing but a tiny duffel and a backpack, I took the 72 bus to Hammersmith, where I caught the Picadilly Line to Heathrow International Airport. Several hours later, I was on an airplane bound for Germany. After a couple hours, the rolling fields surrounding Frankfurt came into view as the airplane prepared to land.
That, friends, is when things got tense. You see, the Frankfurt airport is enormous. It takes hours to get from one end to the other. And I had less than an hour to catch my next flight. Stress was high as I pushed through passport check and security. “What if I don’t make it?” I pushed the thought to the back of my mind where all the dark thoughts go. People miss flights all the time, and they also get new ones all the time. Thankfully, when I was spewed out of security, my gate just-so-happened to be the closest one. I made it with fifteen minutes to spare!
The next flight was tiny–one of those little airplanes made to hold only twenty or so people. I remember being crammed in next to a young man in a green athletic jacket. It didn’t take long to realize I was the only non-German speaker on the flight, so I kept to myself. Within an hour of takeoff, I could see the Alps coming into view. Gorgeous mountains soon sprawled as far as my eye could see. It was incredible.
We came into a large valley and began to descend. The plane shook and banged about. For a minute, I thought we were going down. And then we landed in Innsbruck, Austria.
I exited the plane onto the runway and followed my fellow passengers into the terminal. A few doors later, I exited the terminal completely. There, sitting in a chair, was my friend Anna. She took one look at me and, imedietly, we were hugging. I looked over her shoulder and there was her mother, smiling kindly. They were the first familiar faces I had seen in almost two months.
We then went to Anna’s house. Exhausted after a full morning of travel, I sat on their patio basking in the warm sun. All I remember is laughing so hard my stomach hurt. And then, when we were done laughing, Anna’s mother came out of the house with a plate of homemade schnitzel.
Later on, I got to see my other friends, Anna-Laura and Sebastian. I also met Anna’s sister, Emma. We wandered around Innsbruck the rest of the afternoon, through narrow streets, grand cathedrals, and along the winding river Inn. Eventually, we found a bench to park at. We sat there for what felt like hours, talking and sharing stories.
After two months living with strangers in London, it felt like coming home.