[Today a Month Ago] Further Than I Ever Thought I’d Go
Until about a year ago, I didn’t think of travelling to America as a thing I’d ever do. It’s just not something people in my life did. My mostly-online friends, yes, but not my real-life friends or my family, at least not in a very long time. (I think I have one uncle who’s been to the US, and an aunt who went to Guatemala, but that was long ago, possibly before I was born.)
But then last year, after the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, in the midst of “I want to do this again”, I started to consider that maybe I could…
And a month ago today, I did. Getting up at an inhumanely early time to go to the airport in Vienna, and, barely awake, starting the day with a few minutes of panic because I couldn’t find my ESTA certificate. (The stupid thing was playing hide and seek inside one of my many notebooks.)
I hoped that this would be the only stressful part of my travels, but no such luck. After one short flight, I continued my day with a mad dash through Heathrow airport and making it to my gate with three minutes to spare.
The flight itself was nice and quiet, but then, the flying itself never bothered me. Except for the fact that it’s so boring.
I had a lot of time to think about how flying doesn’t really give you that sense of travelling, of being on your way, that you get when you’re at ground level, watching the landscape passing by. (No, I wouldn’t want to travel to America by ship. That would be even more boring, not to mention time-consuming.) Really, I don’t do anything different when I’m on a train, I sit and read, doze and write in my journal, and even though I could get up and move around more than on a plane, I don’t usually do it. But I get to do all that with my head leaning against a large window, looking out at fields and forests, mountains and rivers, peering into people’s back gardens as we pass through towns, noticing how the houses look more and more different the further I get from home.
While on a plane, there’s nothing much to see even if you happen to be close to a window, nothing but clouds and maybe, with some luck, the ocean.
I did have the luck of catching some glimpses out of the nearest window (no window seat for me, during any part of this trip) as we were approaching Washington, D.C. After all my musing about not getting a sense of travelling, I did see a difference that let me know that, yes, I was above a different continent now. There was the sheer size difference, the fields so much larger, the towns farther apart than what I’d seen of England.
But that, I suppose, might vary between different parts of the same country. What really stood out to me, though, was the colour of the trees. I had seen pictures of autumn trees in America, but I hadn’t realized until then that the autumn colours were really that much more intense. Autumn in Austria (and, I’m assuming, in Europe in general) is yellow and brown, and when you spots of red or orange, they’re usually not native trees. I really want to look into why there is such a difference.
Once we’d landed, I spent an eternity waiting in line until I made it through immigration.
Eventually, I made it through customs and found people waiting for me, waving wildly and coming to hug me, which is absolutely the best way of arriving anywhere, but especially somewhere so intimidatingly far from home – Ylvs and Cyan, whom I’d met several times before, and Firsfron, whom I’d never met, despite having known him online for what feels like forever.
It’s difficult to write about those lovely people, because it makes me miss them so much, and they’re all so far away again.
Into a cab and off to our hotel, there’s nothing much I can write about that – also because I don’t remember many details, and there’s not much in my notes. Although I do remember the connecting door between our hotel rooms, which was quite nice. Going out to buy dinner, and I spent much of that time looking around at trees and shrubs (even though it was dark) and thinking about how many of them I didn’t know (which is something that very rarely happens to me at home, or anywhere in Europe I’ve been.) It was the first, but not the last time I had great difficulty deciding what to eat. I feel like I spent more time trying to decide than actually eating.
And then in the midst of eating, I was nearly killed by my salad, because my terrible friends made me laugh too much. Laughing while eating is dangerous at worst, and mildly unpleasant at best, when you end up with food up your nose. And to add insult to injury, Firsfron threatened to pour salad dressing into my nose so the piece of salad wouldn’t be lonely.
And a grand exchange of presents, of sweets and books and a few other things – Tad Williams-related, of course, since we all know each other through his message board.
And then at some point, we must have slept, which is also what I will do now. It is past midnight, and I must be up at an inhumanely early time again.