The plane purred into the humid early morning air, as if it was rousing itself in preparation for the journey ahead. Strapped not-so-comfortably into my seat, I was doing exactly the opposite. Literally minutes away from lift-off, I was plagued by a sudden and unfamiliar urge to run back the way I came.
I plugged in my iPod, leant back in my seat and closed my eyes, and when I opened them again, we were taking off. Glancing out of the window, my throat constricted as I watched the ground rush away from me. I hadn’t expected to miss home barely before I’d left it. I blinked hurriedly but a couple of embarrassing tears slipped out before I could stop them. If I hadn’t been feeling so sad, I could laughed at the irony. I am the ultimate escapist – always wanting to run away, always dreaming about new beginnings. But there I was, at the brink of changing the direction of my life – literally – and all I could think about was what I was leaving behind.
The journey passed in a haze of literal and metaphorical cold feet. I don’t remember much of it now, save for a brief chat with the passenger sitting next to me; an elderly Australian man who allowed me to indulge myself by telling him all about what was now essentially my old home, old job and old life. In turn, he told me about his and we swapped snippets of each other’s lives in between the odd movie, or whenever we paused our separate viewings to eat a meal.
All I really remember, though, is being consumed by thoughts of home. My parents, my friends, my job. The small, sometimes chaotic, but still precious little world I had built for myself in the three years I had lived there as an adult.
The announcement of our descent towards the Sydney airport roused me from sleep. Half submerged under my blanket, I attempted to drag my thoughts to the present as the plane turned its nose to land. My stomach lurched, half from the elevator-like sensation of our descent; half from something else altogether. I got my belongings together, clutching my bag to me protectively, feeling suddenly rather small and alone. The plane landed, shuddering on the runway, gaining a rush of speed before it slowed down to a mellow amble. As its slow motion faded into stillness, I held my breath and glanced up. The yellow light of the seatbelt sign blinked off.
I had arrived.