As I started typing in my credit card number, my palms began to sweat profusely. I breathed in and clicked “continue,” holding my breath for the final screen telling me my flight to Los Angeles had been booked.
YYZ to LAX marked not only the first flight I had ever booked and paid for myself, but my first international flight ever.
Prior to September of 2016, having a passport was very low on my list of priorities. Part of me had always wanted to travel, experience different cultures, see gorgeous landscapes, and explore this magnificent world, but the other part of me was terrified of flying. If I had my passport, then travel would actually be in the realm of possibilities, which would mean I’d have to face my fears of sitting in a giant metal tube soaring 40,000 feet above the ground. Not exactly something I was keen to experience; but when I booked a gig out in Edmonton a mere seven months ago, my days of being safe and sound on the ground were numbered.
Leading up to that flight, my first flight, I was a mess. My stomach was upset, my mind wouldn’t stop racing, my palms were sweating, and my heart was skipping beats. Having watched one too many episodes of “Mayday” in my time, I was pretty terrified to say the least. I showed my boarding pass and driver’s license to the attendant, and was waved through the walkway toward the plane. I felt my heart beat faster with every step, the nausea deepening in the pit of my stomach. When I stepped onto that plane, and arranged myself in my seat, a calm washed over me. In that moment I was very aware of the fact that whatever may happen was out of my hands. I would just have to trust the faceless strangers in the cockpit.
As the plane started to taxi, I realized that in four and a half hours, I was going to be in Alberta. In less time than it takes to drive from Toronto to Ottawa, I’d not only be in a different province, but I’d be the furthest west I’d ever been to that point. The calm that had washed over me, quickly turned to excitement.
The plane wheels lifted off the ground; my stomach dipped and my eyes widened as trees in the nearby field became smaller and smaller. With every passing foot, I was the furthest from the ground I had ever been, and it was wonderful.
Upon landing at LAX and exiting the plane, an announcement blared over the speakers. First in English, then again in Spanish. I looked at Jason and had a Dorthy moment: We’re not in Canada anymore.
Those Oz moments didn’t stop. Palm trees, gas prices in gallons rather than litres, centre spelled with an “er,” getting strange looks when asking where the “washroom” was, the look of endearment when saying sorry (pronounced the Canadian way sôrē) or “eh?”. I might as well have left my toque on.
The culture shock, however mild, was quite fascinating, but by far the greatest part about the first twenty-four hours was being gently awoken by the brilliant LA sun streaming in through the window at 7:30am. I laid there in the silence, taking comfort in the day that had yet to begin, and stared at the stream of light shooting across the ceiling. It was then that I realized: this was the first time in my adult life that I was waking up in a country that is not my own. What a feeling it was.