Then There Was That Time…….I Got On a Plane With a Stranger

A plain black 'visa' stamp on white paper, with the stamper lying next to it.
Image by VIN JD from Pixabay

In a former life (the one where I exhausted myself daily, suppressing my fear of everyone and everything to present what I thought was a cool and carefree exterior), (for full disclosure, I still exhaust myself with my fear of everyone and everything, I just no longer suppress it), I had the opportunity to go on an adventure that called my bluff on how cool and carefree I really was. A friend, along with a host of people I didn’t know, were going to Turkey for three weeks. I was invited to join them. Alas, I could only get two of the weeks off work. As it turned out, one of the guys in the group was in the same situation. So – because I was cool and carefree – I said;

‘Hey, Stranger, let’s grab a plane together, rock on over to Turkey and meet them there’.

And that’s what we did.

I had just started seeing someone and thought it completely appropriate to ask him for a lift to the airport, so that I could fulfil the plan to grab a plane with the Strange Man and rock on over to Turkey for a fortnight in the sun without him. Unbelievably, he agreed.

Let me just put a spotlight on how out of my depth and comfort zone I was; this was only the third time I’d ever been abroad, I was all but 30. The previous occasions were school trips. This was only the second time I’d ever flown anywhere and, given the previous sentence, it was my first flight as an adult. I had NO IDEA how airports and the activity of boarding a plane worked. I don’t remember ANY details from my teenage flying experience, so had nothing to draw from. I was in over my head and – stay tuned – this was the easy leg.

I met up with the aforementioned Stranger and luckily he was a Bonafide Adult, so we navigated the airport and its system like pros.

As per my childhood flight, I have no recollection of this one whatsoever. When we landed, I think I gave a man some money. It may have been for a visa. It may have been a bribe. I was so inwardly terrified, that I was now dangerously open to manipulation and totally reliant on the goodness and kindness of others.

Now that we had arrived in our destined country, all we had to do was meet with the rest of the group.

We had to find them first.

There are some crucial cultural and historic details needed here. This trip happened before mobile phones were mainstream. I was still two years away from sending my first ever email. All communication was done by landline, letters, and in this case, hand-drawn maps. We had the name of a town and instructions to head to the Tourist Information kiosk which was near a bar. The bar would provide liquid entertainment for the others as they waited for an indeterminable amount of time for our arrival.

Meanwhile, over a hundred miles away, I was attempting to harness my inner nomad, in the company of a guy I’d only known for about five hours, conversing with people who didn’t speak my language, in a bid to ascertain what transport would take us to our meeting point.

Against all odds, we found a bus that would do just that.

The rest of the trip was incredible. Thanks to the ‘insider’ element of some of our group, we paid Turkish prices, not Tourist prices. We travelled and stayed in different locations, including five days at sea. The two weeks flew by and all too soon it was time to go home.

For the others that is.

You see, as we’d all booked our flights independently, our returns were unavoidably staggered. And guess who was the last to leave?

Not only was I the last man standing, I was the last man standing for the last night on her own!

By this point we were in a cute little Turkish run B&B. I was assured I’d be safe. A taxi was arranged to take me to the airport in the morning. All I had to do was entertain myself for a few hours, eat, sleep, pack, pay my bill, wait for taxi.

I braved an evening walk to the town’s market to kill some time and get used to the idea I was ON MY OWN IN A FOREIGN LAND.

Morning rolled round and the taxi turned up as planned. Being on my own in a taxi is nerve-wracking enough for me, but this took it to another level. The language barrier didn’t help, but I’d bought a mostly English-printed newspaper to give me something to do and help give off that ‘Yeah, I’m relaxed, I travel in Turkish taxis all the time. Boring.’ vibe.

I side-eyed the road signs as we travelled, confirming we were heading to the airport. Thankfully the symbol for ‘aeroplane’ is fairly universal.

And then we were no longer heading for the airport. We were turning off the main roads and going most definitely off the beaten track. A shortcut? I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I say something? I was promised I was safe, this taxi driver was well-known to our hosts. Even if I could cohere any words, my heart pumping in my mouth would’ve made it impossible to speak.

We stopped.

The driver got out and went into a house.

I contemplated running. But then what?

Sit tight, Lockwood. Play it cool. There’ll be a perfectly logical explanation.

Damn. Unable to think of a perfectly logical explanation.

The door of the house opened and the driver reappeared.

He was heading back to the taxi. I concentrated on the blurred words of my newspaper.

He was laughing and waving his arm at me as he got back in the car. What was he holding? A wallet?

A WALLET! THIS WAS HIS HOUSE AND HE’D FORGOTTEN HIS BLOODY WALLET!

I nearly smacked him round the head.

I smiled, wryly, and swallowed my heart. And my stomach. And the imagined next day’s headlines.

We set off again, and as the airport loomed into view, I relaxed having cleared another hurdle.

The only thing I recall from the return journey was of a kind traveller guiding me through the airport process. She had a lot of luggage and, in gratitude, I offered to give her a hand. Thankfully, she was one of the good ones and educated little naive me to NEVER offer to carry someone else’s luggage in an airport. The pennies fell into place and I apologised for being so helpful and stupid. A security dog came and sniffed my bag. Thankfully fear smells different to cocaine, so I was let be.

I arrived back in England with no memory of the flight or the process. The next time I was to get on a plane was two years later. That return trip was ‘The Big One’, and my last.

Or so I thought.

We have just booked and paid for flights for a short break in the Autumn. It is a very big deal. But I’m trying to take the power out of the fear by talking about it. All the chuffin’ time.

I shall leave you with some of the lessons I learnt on my Turkish Adventure;

  • I’m seldom cool or carefree.
  • The stars go all the way to the horizon.
  • There are flying fish in the Aegean Sea.
  • I read newspapers upside down when I’m nervous.
  • I lived.

Thankyou so much for reading and joining me on this little excursion. If you’re up for more tales of this ilk, I’d love you to visit The Lockwood Echo’s Travel Section. Dip your toes in anywhere. The sea is warm and the sand is cool. Beachside cocktails two-for-one on Wednesdays.

You can also find me on Twitter, where I ……. errr ……. twitter.

 

 

26 comments

  1. Hi, well done, glad to hear you have booked it! We are contemplating separate trips to India to cover cats, they are not back yet but may be coming back to us. Am I brave enough to do solo five weeks in India? I feel like I should be. Would it be good for me? Probably. Do I want to? I don’t know!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You have so much knowledge and experience, but only you know how you feel. You seemed to be comfortable with the parts of your trip you did solo. I sense another book coming on! We’re really excited now we’ve booked something. It should be an easy 5 nights, but interesting enough that I’ll get on a plane for it. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve done a lot of travelling on my own and also to hot spots (I’m ex-military). It doesn’t occur to me much that people might be everything from mildly uncomfortable all the way to scared stiff about travelling (I’m very aware of that as regards flying). And when I think about it, it can be loud, confusing and overwhelming. But, as with most things, practice and familiarity can make everything easier. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • What a lovely comment. And you’re so right, I am making the idea of travelling everyday conversation, which might seem like overkill and at risk of it all being an anti-climax (spoiler – I know it won’t be!), but it’s proving useful and is helping make the unknown known. It helps that I’m hyper-organised and enjoy that process, so I’m finding the prep is helping to keep excitement a rung higher than nerves. I hope you enjoyed your travels and it wasn’t all work and no play. My Dad served in the forces and got to see a lot of the world with them, so I have lots of postcards from exotic climes!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Your wallet story reminded me of the first time I mowed solo in the ghetto.

    I know, I know. I need to set that up better.

    My step-father owned a lawn maintenance business and, when I was in my twenties, I took it over. One of my great fears starting out was not failure or figuring out how to keep up, it was mowing lawns solo in the ghetto. I was a skinny white kid in gang territory and I just feared, for some reason, being accosted.

    Well, as it happened, the very first time I was in the ghetto, solo, I had unloaded all my equipment and was ready to start when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a large, dangerous-looking man coming up the street with a large gun in his right hand. I did the “don’t notice me, don’t notice me” thing under my breath but, lo and behold, he noticed me and made a beeline for my location. I was sweating, scared, afraid to run or drive off and leave my equipment so I said “Be calm, Tom, you’ve talked your way through things like this before…”

    Seconds later he was upon me, and he lifted that gun in my direction and said “Hey man, wanna buy a power drill? It’s brand new, 40 bucks.”

    I thanked him, told him I didn’t need it, and he moved on. I laughed myself silly and went about my day. In 8 years in business I was never accosted once in the ghetto.

    Although I did have some bullets whiz by me once and never noticed. But that’s another story.

    Great tale, Lockwood, and have a great trip!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Tom, that story had me fearing for your life! Had to remind myself, you’re here, writing it, must’ve got out ok. Fabulous anecdote, fabulously told. I feel it’s worthy of it’s own show. ‘Mowed solo in the ghetto’ sounded like street-speak for something dubious, till I realised you meant you literally MOWED in the ghetto! Thankyou so much for sharing it and thankyou for calling by. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I flew by myself for the first time two years ago, at the age of 51 and it was pretty scary. But you were lucky on your trip–I had a colleague who went to Peru last summer by herself and she ended up in a taxi that took her off the beaten track. Instead of going home to get his wallet, her taxi driver held her up at gunpoint! Luckily, she’s ok–just pretty traumatized.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Holy crap. Thank heaven she’s ok. It’s not a part of travelling I wish to repeat. Brave you for flying alone. I have absolutely NO recollection of my flight. Don’t remember getting on the plane. Or off! Your comment also reminds me that I need to re-highlight the ‘no travel-woe comments’ rule! πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I had knots in my stomach as I read this:) I’m not a cool or carefree traveler, either. I can’t even stand to be in places that remotely resemble airports. In any case: “Rock on over to Turkey”–I love it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • My reward was landing back in England πŸ˜‰! Thankyou for commenting and for your honesty. It’s a relief to know my anxieties are not wholly unfounded. And how lovely that we can all be mutually supportive for the times when we need a bit of bravado. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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