There is nothing like the first morning in a new, foreign place. At first it seems like any other morning; I’m half asleep and my body and mind has no recollection of the journey last night. Then the magical moment happens. Usually it’s an unfamiliar sound that jolts me out of my dozing state. Where am I? It can take a second before my mind manages to grab the memories. Then it all comes back to me. I feel a surge of joy rush through me. The best part is yet to come. I sink happily back into the pillows and let the cascade of foreign sensations seep in.

Everything is different from back home. The bed, the room, furniture and colors are all different. Even the texture of the sheet gives my skin an unfamiliar sensation. But the immediate surroundings are seldom what excite me. My focus stretches outside. I blend the sounds, scents and what I can glimpse through the window with my imagination.

I can lie there forever and dream about the day awaiting me. I make plans of what to see, dream up scenarios with people I might meet and fantasize about what food and restaurants I will find to thrill my appetite. I scratch the plans and start all over. Part of the fun is that I know it’s impossible to make solid plans. This place is new and my imagination is just that, imagination. I am totally aware that the day will start and create itself when I step out of the hotel. But still, what joy it is to feel the anticipation of the events ahead creeping into every cell and fiber of my body.

The first steps out from the hotel often set the tone of the day. Sometimes I find myself looking at a map to find whatever place I have preplanned to see. Other times, and those are usually my favorites, I just start to walk and let the day unravel. Strolling down streets, looking at buildings and taking a random bus to look for interesting neighborhoods. When I find a cute coffee place or café I sit down to my absolute favorite pastime: people watching. I can sit through a coffee or two just looking. I make up stories of where the people are going, what professions they have, if the couple walking by is happy or just had a huge fight. Does the businessman in the tailored suit have a different side to him on weekends? He might be the wildest heavy metal fan and hide tattoos under his shirt. What if his hobbies are a bit kinky? I find myself blushing and gaze down as he kindly smiles when he passes by. Did he read my mind?

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I HAVE a vivid memory of how excited I was the first time I was going to fly. I can’t remember my exact age or even where we were going. But that feeling of joy, amazement and thrill remains so very vivid. My body seemed to have a life of its own back then. I could hardly stand still. For days I told people of my pending flight high up in the sky. I would even point up to make sure they got the point, so that they could see the shiny little plane way up there. I planned to make one of those cool white stripes behind the plane. I just didn’t know how. I didn’t ever get round to asking my dad, mom or the pilot about that. Nor about how they shrink the plane so that it gets so small in the sky.

Then the travel day came and it seemed so loud and busy. There was no time for my endless stream of questions and bursts of joy. At the airport, tons of people rushed back and forth with big bags and suitcases. They looked like ants running with their stuff back and forth. They seemed so focused, not at all approachable. And then there were the lines, the papers to check and those small books called passports. A lady put our luggage on a black belt so it would go on a journey of its own, or so I thought. Mom said we would get it back later.

Now the years have passed and I can hardly detect any of the excitement of my first day on a plane. Of course, I still get excited if I’m on my way to a beautiful resort, a great meeting, a new place or a thrilling city. But the journey itself brings little exhilaration. Now it is all about comfort. I’m delighted if I fly with an airline that has good seats, meals and service. But none of that makes my heart pump an extra beat.

But maybe today will be a little different. I have been sitting at the gate and admiring this really handsome gentleman. There is something about this man that really interests me. He has a most charming smile that makes his eyes twinkle. I noticed that when he was talking and laughing on the phone. I also noticed the absence of a ring on his finger, and then I heard him ending his phone call by saying, “OK John, I’ll see you back at the office.” He wasn’t sweet-talking a girlfriend! I try to hide my interest and start boarding the plane.




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