I was scared, nervous, anxious, and any other possible synonyms you could think of. I had to travel across the globe by myself, and I only ever flew on a airplane ONCE in my life which was two years ago, so I barely remembered the process we had to go through within the airport. I could not even purchase tickets with students who were apart of the program due to the financial issues I personally had, but I refused to withdraw, and I ultimately decided that I will travel by myself than to not travel at all. I purchased three different flights with three different airlines to reach Toulouse, France, and I saved a lot more money than my other peers for travel, but it brought a lot of stress as well.

My first flight was to New York, because international flights out of New York tend to be cheaper than out of Atlanta, and the cost to fly there was practically nothing. My flight was set for 6 AM to JFK, and my parents and I decided that we would leave our home at 2:30 AM – no later than 3:00 AM. I set my alarm for 2:15 AM praying that all goes well for me, but of course, you cannot expect perfection. I never heard my alarm go off, but luckily, I woke up at 3:20 AM, but immediately I was frantic. I ran downstairs to see where my parents were, and asked why they did not get me up if they were awake. It turns out they did not hear their alarms either, and all of us by the grace of god got up at 3:20. We rush to get ready, and we leave the house at around 3:30 AM, and we make it to the airport around 4:00 AM, but as we are driving, my father drives to the international section of the Hartsfield airport and parks. Confused as to why we were getting on the shuttle towards the international section, I asked, and my parents’ faces becomes apologetic because they completely forgot that I was traveling domestically first, so we had to wait roughly 15-20 minutes for a shuttle to take us to the domestic section. I get to the Jetblue area around 4:30-4:45 AM, and I again in a rush go to get checked in and check my bag in. As we finish with that, and I begin to walk towards TSA, my purse falls out of my hand, and the zipper breaks. I am just a mess at this point. I have a broken purse, I’m running late, and as I walk towards TSA, I am confronted with a HUGE line, and I begin to feel doubtful that I will make this trip on time. By the time I made it to the front of TSA, it was roughly 5:30 AM, and I had to say bye to my parents. I started to believe maybe I had a  chance, maybe it was going to be okay…. NOPE! As soon as I began to take out my liquids and laptop, I hear, “BREACH!” Someone begins to run, and security yells for everyone to stop what they were doing and remain still. That took roughly 7 minutes. Security allowed us to continue with business, but once again, “BREACH” was yelled, and another 7 minuted passed before regular business could continue. Some of my items did not pass protocol, and that took up extra time to get through TSA and on the train to my corresponding concourse. While I was on the train, it was about 5:58 AM, and now I only had 2 minutes to attempt to catch my flight. I got off the train, and I dashed towards my gate, but I immediately became out of breath, and just had to accept defeat. I walked to my gate, no one was there, and I knew that I missed my flight, so I spoke with the people at the desk, and they rescheduled me for an 11:00 AM flight to JFK, but I begin to feel the pressure again because that only allowed me about 2 hours to try to make my next flight, so I called my parents, explained the situation, and my mother came to where I was, as shown in the picture above, through using a guest pass. Frustrated, feeling defeated, and now even more nervous than before, I cried a bit, and my mother basically told me to suck it up, because I’m doing adult stuff now, and I cannot allow myself to show fear in public, and the reason for it in her own words is that “people will take advantage of you when you’re weak, and you’re going to be by yourself,” so I sucked the tears back in, dried my face, and my mother and I began to scheme up a game plan to feel more at ease for when I arrive to JFK.  I checked in online and my bag should already be at JFK when I arrive, so all I needed to do once I get there is recheck in through the new airline. My mother left once I’ve calmed down, and I was set to go.

I arrived in New York about 45 minutes early and that gave me a boost of confidence. I was able to swiftly attain my bag, head to my next terminal, and check in with ease. All is going well, and I’m feeling great, but of course that had to come to an end. I booked a flight to Paris through a French airline called XL airways, and they have a known reputation to have delayed flights. I had another flight in Paris booked for 6:30 AM, and I should have arrived there at 4:00 AM if everything went as scheduled, but my XL Airway flight was delayed by two whole hours, and I arrived in Paris at roughly 6 AM, and again I needed to go through their form of “customs”, grab my check bag, and recheck in for my next flight within this 30 minute time span. I didn’t make it in time. I was in an entirely different country, with different rules on missing flights, and I could barely speak French.

My flight from Paris to Toulouse was through AirFrance/HOP!. I was told by one of my peers that in France, there is a known discounted deal for young adults between the ages of 12-24 to receive different forms of transportation with AirFrance at a discounted price as long as you purchase and have the Youth Pass card to verify it. Because of this deal, I was under strict and stern regulations for if I needed to change my flight, cancel my flight, or even if I missed my flight. I called my mother to inform her on what happened, but France’s time is 6 hours ahead of EST, so when I had called at around 7:30 AM, it was 1:30 AM, so i knew my mom had to be asleep. Luckily I already dealt with this similar situation in Atlanta right before this voyage occurred, so I tried my best to handle the situation on my own. Fortunately enough, unlike America, ALL employees can speak English as well as French and any other possible languages, so I was able to talk to anyone and receive help, but barriers continued to rise. I went to a ticket station within the terminal my flight was suppose to leave from,  but it was closed, so I figured I could take a train, but all trains to Toulouse were on strike. I even figured I could take a bus, but the buses would have taken about 9 – 15 hours to reach Toulouse. I honestly felt like I was stranded with no help, but my mother calls me back at 3:00 AM EST, so it is 9:00 AM for me. I told my mom everything, and she was a bit more worried than I was at this point. She quickly tries to figure out how to help me, and within 2 hours, she helped me find another ticket location in a completely different terminal to talk to someone about getting a new flight. Unfortunately I did have to pay extra money to obtain a new flight because it was not AirFrance’s fault as to why I missed my flight, but it outweighed being stuck at the airport or taking a bus to Toulouse. With the new flight booked, I checked in, checked my bags in, and I was off to Toulouse. It took a few hours for the trip advisers to meet me once I arrived in Toulouse, but at the end of the day, it ended well. It was definitely a struggle to get there, but I made it to France!

Posted in: , ,