The Allure of Traveling Alone
Brief encounters, life-altering adventures, and lasting memories from travelers who have struck out on their own.
I was on a plane on my way to Madrid. Across the aisle sat a sweet family with two small, impressively well-behaved children. When it was time to land, we descended onto the runway, our wheels touched the tarmac, but we suddenly took off again. As we climbed back up into the sky, the captain announced that our landing gear wasn't working properly. We tried landing again, with the same result. By now everyone was getting nervous, and the cabin was filled with a sort of silent fear. On the third attempt, we were instructed to assume the crash position. Some flight attendants were telling us to grab our ankles, others to place our hands on the seat in front of us. The conflicting directions only added to the tension. No one was talking, and loved ones were hugging each other with near-death intensity. The children across the aisle were snuggled into their parents' arms. I was by myself and had no one to hold on to. I just kept looking over at the family, trying to steal some of the comfort I saw in their embrace. Finally, the wheels touched down and stayed down. I could feel the brakes working hard to slow the plane because we were traveling faster than usual, making it that much more of a relief when we finally came to a stop. I could feel the tension dissipate, and then the silent cabin broke into applause. It was one of the best sounds I've ever heard.