I first went on an aeroplane when I was eighteen. I was on my own and bound for Sweden. I was studying environmental sciences at the time and had managed to get a work placement through my mum’s company (a paper manufacturer) over there for a week. I was massively excited as it would be my first time out of England and also, equally terrified for much the same reason.
Somehow I felt that go abroad would make my eyes wider, allow me to see things from perspectives that I had not yet considered. A friend took me to Heathrow Airport at stupid early o’clock and even being at the airport, at the time, felt to be an incredible experience. I was seeing the world at a whole new time of day, in a place that was connected to almost everywhere else, a place without an alarm clock, a fixed time for breakfast, time almost seemed not to exist there.
Being on an aeroplane to me could just have easily have been a rocket ship. Seeing the white fluffy landscape, moving from a dark rainy day into a clear sunlit sky was magical. The rolling white clouds felt to me like a new sort of ground, a new realm of possibility. Seeing the expanse of the fjords as we flew over the edges of Sweden looked like frozen arteries to an as yet unseen body. I received food on a tray, each with its own compartment, its own place to be. And when I stepped into the terminal and found my driver, I had entered a new world.
The landscape from the car was unlike anything I had previously seen. Over the week I saw forests and factories, lunch halls and offices. I went to the cinema (watched ‘In the name of the father’ with English subtitles), a pub (bought a bottle of ‘Newcastle Brown’ with a label saying that it was imported which made me smile), went horse riding and saw the most marvellous machines that could cut down and strip the braches from trees. I saw snow floating on the rivers with gentleness and grace. It was also the week that Kurt Cobain died, MTV being the only tv channel that I could find in English, which gave the week a strange duality, Nirvana being my favourite band at the time.
I think that I did arrive home a different person. Seeing things with my own eyes rather than through other peoples was liberating. I was experiencing high anxiety at the time in my more usual life and a week somewhere else, a week that I didn’t have to have any of the confines of English me, was so peaceful, so calm. It gave me the knowledge that I would change.
Map Point. Where do I feel most peaceful?