In a cramped cabin on the flight from Indianapolis to Detroit, I was reminded just how big this trip is.
For 45 minutes or so, I made awkward small talk with the man seated next to me.
Mere seconds into our time as passengers, I had to get really personal with my new neighbor. I forced my body over the armrest and used it as leverage to pull the seatbelt out from under my seat.
Initially, conversation was just me apologizing for being 6-foot-3 and my obvious lack of hand-eye coordination. I soon found out that this guy – we’ll just call him D8, since that’s where he was sitting (who gets to first names during airplane small talk, anyway?) had previously lived in Muncie, Ind.
Mr. D8 and I had both spent time in the sleepy college town I currently call home. I knew from that moment on the universe had put me next to this guy for a reason.
I asked him where he was traveling, and why.
“Kenya,” he said. “Just to see it.”
He told me his extensive travel within the United States and even some time in Europe just hadn’t been enough. So here he went on a string of insanely long plane rides to see Africa and all of its majesty.
The only reason I was on this plane, mind you, was the threat of a snowstorm that could have delayed our original flight plans. For 24 hours, our group waited to find out if it’d be able to fly out early together.
Or even if we’d get an earlier flight at all. It was stressful, and people were worried. Students didn’t want to miss out on Amsterdam, parents didn’t want their babies flying out a day early.
Myself included, people were stressing out too much.
We ended up on a plane bound for Amsterdam. The roughly seven-hour flight combined with a six-hour time change packed a pretty serious punch.
Hello, jet lag.
But I wasn’t tired. I was excited to see a new country. I’ve been told there are few “culture shock” moments that compare to the one offered by Amsterdam at first meeting.
First of all, there are more bikes than cars. Marijuana is legal, and you can window shop for sex in the Red Light District. So much culture in such a small city.
Prior to leaving, I reflected on the fact that my grandfather – quite the domestic traveler – never once made it across the Atlantic Ocean.
And here I am complaining about long flights and thinking entirely too much about legal marijuana. Jokes aside, being able to broaden my horizons is pretty sweet.
Whether it’s the stressful plane ride in, a laid back night in Amsterdam or the week I’ll spend in Sochi – I’m trying to take an approach similar to Mr. D8, and just “see it.”
BSU at the Games is a freelance news agency operated by 22 student journalists reporting from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games through an immersive-learning program at Ball State University.