8th January 2017
My flight from Dublin touched down at 4pm local time, at El Prat International Airport, Barcelona. I waited patiently in my seat as the passengers filed out of the plane, row by row; from the front, to the back, where I was sitting. I was in no rush to step out of the plane, into the warm, hazy Spanish air. As I sat, watching those ahead of me scramble with their overhead lockers, I was in no rush to do anything, or go anywhere. This was all too surreal.
Eighteen months ago, I had returned from a year of working and studying abroad. I had spent the fourth of my five-year university course in mainland Europe. The travel bug had bitten, and, on returning to Ireland for my final university year, I decided that once I had graduated, I would take a year off to go travel the world. I ambitiously declared my plans to myself, and to my family and friends: I would begin in somewhere in Western Europe, and follow the old hippie trail of the 1960s through the Middle-East, India, and Southeast Asia, until reaching Singapore, one of the farthest points from home on the Eurasian supercontinent. And I would go the whole way using only buses, trains, and hitch-hiking; no flights!
When I dreamt up this plan, it was a far-future affair. I still had a year of study in my mechanical engineering course in Dublin, and would have to spend time afterwards working to save up the money required for my big adventure. It’s easy to be ambitious about the distant future. But, the months rolled on, as they tend to do, and the distant future became not-so-distant. I was studying, then sitting final exams, then graduating, then working for six months as a research assistant for my university professor to save funds, then getting vaccines and buying a backpack, then sitting on a plane in Barcelona waiting for my turn to disembark. And then the people in the row in front of mine began filing into the aisle, and I stood up and reached for my overhead locker. The journey had begun.