I didn’t sleep well. I never do the night before an early flight: always plagued by the fear of over-sleeping. Even when you are already half-awake.; the sound of a 5:00 a.m. alarm always feels intrusive. I laid there for a lethargic moment, feeling an almost magnetic connection to my bed and pillow; but the knowledge that I was going to be in Aruba later that afternoon inspired me to get up, out of the house and on my plane on time—only to be made to wait.
A mechanical delay kept us on the tarmac for an hour and a half. Each passing minute solidified the fact that I would miss my connection from Miami to Aruba. It’s easier to summarize the multiple customer service errors made by American Airlines by saying that they made the idea of sitting next to a smelly, drunk, talkative stranger on a Greyhound bus from Cali to Florida; and then paddling a row boat filled with freshly caught crabs from Miami to Aruba seem like a more enjoyable travel-plan than my experience with them. Yet, I was stuck . . . and miserable. When I was finally told that I would be stuck in Miami and left with no luggage, no refund (for the hotel night I was missing in Aruba), a $10 voucher for crappy airport food and a paid reservation at an airport motel; I sat in one of the black pleather chairs by an airport window and cried while complaining to my husband and best friend. Though I travel frequently, this experience was one of my most frustrating.
Thankfully, a couple of margaritas and a decent night’s sleep soothed me into a better mood, so when I arrived back at the Miami airport the next afternoon wearing the same outfit I had on all day yesterday — including the underwear I washed out in the sink with shower gel; I was hopeful that the day would go better. It did. The day not only went well; it reminded me of a very important lesson: I am always being taken care of. Even when things feel as if they are going poorly; things are working in my favor. I was supposed to be on the flight from Miami to Aruba on Sunday instead of my original one on Sunday. I was seated in first class (score!) prepared to write and begin on the ambitious stack of books that I had lugged with me, as I ate heated nuts and sipped on red wine. An older looking Aruban man then slipped into the seat next to me. I’m not one to talk much on planes as I cherish the time where I am forced to focus and check off my “to dos”; but this man and I had one of those conversations that make you feel as if you’ve met a new lifelong friend, and cause you to exchange contact information, even if you never talk again. The only time I stopped talking with him was when I paused to chat with a Sista with whom I immediately connected (we too exchanged contact information). I shared my motivations behind my first solo journey with my new “friends” and they provided the understanding and words that my anxious mind needed.
In the seats in front of me sat a good-looking older Black couple, who held hands and laughed throughout the entire flight. I wondered if they were 2nd-marriage newlyweds, as their connection was so 1980’s-Love Boat-ish (fresh, romantic). They were so involved with each other they didn’t participate in any of the ancillary conversations around them until during landing, the man’s phone fell and landed by my feet, causing us to have an exchange that so immediately bonded us that 30 minutes later I was sitting in the back of their rental car (happily chatting away) on the way to my AirBNB rental (Momma said not to talk to strangers but these people became my friends the minute I heard the country twang, the genuine laugh and the love between the two).
From there, they took care of me –a grown-ass woman who has done a lot of grown-ass things except for traveling to another country alone. They took me to two grocery stores, a few dinners and gave me the ins-and-outs of the island. They felt like home and meeting them caused Aruba to feel like my second home. There is no doubt that my solo-trip would have been scarier, lonelier without them. On my quest to spend some alone time, I still managed to meet and be around friends. By having the worst travel days, I managed to be reminded that I am always being taken care of even when it feels as though luck, God, and goodwill have deserted me. Something about that reminder let me know that I could not only do Aruba alone; but would thrive there and on my future journeys (both geographic and mental).