Rarely in my life have I had to travel anywhere on my own. I reflect on this fact whilst sitting in the Brisbane International Airport Departures Lounge without husband, family or friend beside me. I wonder whether this is due to good fortune or has this lack of independence hampered my personal and professional life? Well, at the age of 58, I cannot rewrite my history but I can influence my future which is why I find myself undertaking a 5-week working trip to Europe to reinvent myself.
Already I am experiencing a feeling of loneliness and I haven’t even left town. This feeling started when my gorgeous understanding husband drove me to the airport and rather than park the car and come in with me, simply dropped me off at the Departures area. Hurried awkward good-byes are horrible. This loving man isn’t publicly demonstrative, and after placing my suitcases on the pavement, he turned, gave me a fierce awkward hug and a kiss, possibly muttered ‘love ya’ then drove off. No point in looking back; he had driven away by then before the parking controller could tell him to move on.
How could I feel so alone when there were people everywhere, pushing trolleys overloaded with luggage, trundling suitcases behind them, gathering errant children and lost companions, airport staff walking purposefully and groups of confused travellers all looking upwards trying to identify where their check-in counter was located. It hit me suddenly that there was no husband to turn to and discuss where to go and which passport to use, no-one to share the intimate laugh with as we people watched, no-one to cajole me when I was confused or tired. I was it. I had to make all the decisions on my own.
I start talking to myself and realise that unconsciously I am following my philosophy of manage what you can control, minimize the risks and by doing this you already start to feel that other factors will be less of a problem. So I check-in to Cathay Pacific and trundle through Security. First hurdle down, I am now on the right side of the fence, so to speak.
The problem is, that because I am so early I have plenty of time to think. What did I forget to pack? Even my carry-on bag is heavy. Did I pack too much? Have I packed enough clothing for 5 weeks? Have I remembered the chargers? Do I need any more memory cards for the camera? The fridge: did I clean out all the old food? Were all the plants watered? Is there sufficient food for the cat? For goodness sake Susan, relax, Andy is at home, and he is a very capable man. Stop fussing.
When I shift focus I become aware of a lot of noise around me. The clatter of the bags going through security with a constant burble of instructions from the security team, then electronic announcements, gate changes, calls to board, late passengers being sought, people chatting to each other and on their phones. You realize how many people still speak loudly when on the mobile. The loud insistent pinging of cleaning carts and passenger trolleys. The clunk of trolley bag wheels on the travellator.
I walk aimlessly, pretending I have a purpose. Travel lounges – they are so varied in quality and ambiance; how best to use them. This is now my purpose and will easily fill the time until I board.