My 6 Hour Flight Fling And What I Learned from It
This is the love story of a my very unscripted and brief flight-romance. It wasn't a whirlwind, passionate, earth-shattering affair—I mean how could it have been, I was seventeen at the time! But it was innocent, lovely, and definitely straight out of a movie. I've changed his name
because god-forbid he ever see this embarrassing recount for anonymity, but every event and feeling is as accurate as possible and straight from the depth of my first travel journal! Enjoy!
short I was seventeen years old, alone, and terrified when I left for Iceland in 2013. I had to connect from Virginia to JFK, and then from JFK to Reykjavik International Airport where I would meet up with the rest of my group for our two week exploration of Iceland. I'd joined this trip on a whim to get some travel adventures in my life before I started university, but it didn't hit me how big of an adventure it really was until the plane took off.
short I made it to JFK despite multiple silent existential crises and my choice of an itchy wool sweater despite it being mid-July. And after an 8 hour layover, my mind was raced as I boarded the plane that would take me out of the United States. I was such a wreck that all I was worried about possibly sitting next to someone who snored or worse, had kids, for the six hour flight—it would push me over the edge. I made my way to my aisle seat (fist pump) and as I prayed to Jesus, Allah, and Oprah I was interrupted by an, "Excuse me, I think I'm 14E". I looked up and was met big, emerald eyes looking back at me.
He was beautiful. I knew he was perfect in the first few seconds as I stared at him, but it was confirmed when he saw I was still clinging to my carry-on for dear life and offered to stow it in the overhead bin for me. After we sat down, I turned to him and started up as casual of a conversation as I could before I chickened out.
short "Nate" was on his way to do a EuroRail trek for six months with his best friend. I asked him where he was from and he replied San Diego, and that he went to UCSD (all my family is from San Diego, and UCSD was my second choice aside from VCU! Another heart string pulled). Before I knew it he and I had fallen into effortless conversation, and I quickly lost all of the anxiety I had been carrying with me until that point.
The rest of the flight I was completely consumed by him. Our conversations quickly evolved past casual as I told him how I was going to Iceland as a personal challenge to myself, and he talked of how travel had forever changed him as a person. When the dinner cart came around, we ordered the same thing and ate together like we were at a nice restaurant in the city and not in row 14 of a Delta flight. He told that at 23 he was a recent graduate, and that after backpacking Europe he would move to Ireland because to his Master's degree in Aquatic Agriculture... and then he asked what I was studying.
Yikes. I couldn't tell him that I wasn't even old enough to vote yet, so I said that I was majoring in Biomedical Engineering (technically it was true), and that I was a sophomore in college (technically, very untrue). Before I could worry about if my lie would catch up to me, he grinned and told me that he's always loved smart girls. I died again.
short Time felt so slow and yet so fast at the same time. Three hours into the flight it was the dead of the night, and we were speaking in whispers. Apparently I'd look more tired than I'd thought because he suggested we sleep before we landed. I didn't want the conversation to end, but I also didn't want to keep him up. I was wrestling with how I could tell him sleep was on the bottom of my priority list at the moment when he intertwined our finger, gave my lips a quick kiss, and pulled our heads together so we could sleep leaning against one another. It took a while to fall asleep with my heart thundering between my ears, but eventually I drifted off.
short When we woke the plane was thirty minutes from landing, and we were still holding hands. We spoke more about our plans, as he had 3 days there before he had to catch his connecting flight to Amsterdam. Then the dreaded question finally came: can I see you again?
I froze. I was still overwhelmed by just being in Iceland, let alone trying to continue this serendipitous flight-fling further than Row 14. More importantly/devastatingly, if I gave him my Facebook information (why didn't have WhatsApp yet??), he would find out that I lied about my age! And though I was mature, I wouldn't blame a 23 year old for having doubts about being interested in a person 6 years younger. So after a long pause I told him that I didn't think that was a good idea, and before he could respond the captain announced that it was time to depart the plane.
short We walked quietly together to the luggage terminal and after we grabbed our bags we both knew it was time to go our separate
ways. His eyes looked very sad and I could tell that he didn't understand why I had said no, but we star-crossed! It broke my heart, but I gave him a long hug goodbye and I told him that if it were meant to be I would run into him in Reykjavik.
short In the next few days exploring Reykjavik I held onto a small hope that I would to bump into him on the Strætó (the Reykjavik bus system), or at a big tourist attraction like the Hallgrímskirkja. But after the third day I knew that Nate would already be on his next flight, and I would very likely never see him again.
short Now that may sound like a (very) depressing end, but I don't consider it one! That six hour connection flight is one of my dearest memories, and I consider it a huge milestone in my journey as both a woman and a traveler because:
1.) At the time I hadn't known how complex love could be, so my range of emotional experiences was definitely broadened.
2.) From the beginning, lying about who I was prevented any chance of progression regardless of what either of us wanted. I realize it was better to just be honest about my age and accept however he felt because at least we could've kept in contact and still have been friends!
3.) I learned that the most exhilarating moments are usually fleeting, and it's important to know the value of enjoying a moment and also letting it go.
So while it was sort of an sad way to end such a unexpected romance, I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. It's been three years since that flight and I still believe that if it's truly meant to be I'll run into "Nate" again in the future. And if I do, I hope he's more open to the age difference now!