I actually thought I might vomit before I could leave the house last Friday. Part of it was anxiety about the trip — I tend to worry much more than is called for over missing buses, planes and trains. Part of it was being uncomfortable with traveling alone — as much as I’m a well-seasoned European traveller (this would be my third time to London), I’ve only travelled a very little bit on my own. But most of it was worry, stress and sadness at the thought of leaving my boys for just over 65 hours. I’m just not used to it.
It was my first trip away from Liam, and my first trip away from anyone since we’ve been in Austria. I’m actually a little grateful for my over-anxiousness about missing my flight. Without it, I might not have overcome the paralysis I was feeling about actually going. Eventually, my stress over missing my flight overwhelmed my stress about leaving the kids, so I was able to actually go.
Within the first half hour I was away (I hadn’t even caught the bus to the airport yet) I was stunned. I had so much downtime. What was I supposed to do with myself? For most of the trip to the airport, I just sat and looked out of the window. I have lost all of my habits for idle time — most of the time I’m with the kids or attending to something pressing, and in the few moments I actually have “free”, there’s always at least SOMETHING that needs my attention (outlining my next blog post, sending cute pictures of the kids to my family, making a grocery list, planning our next outing). I had nothing that I had to do. No errands to run, nothing that needed my attention, no endless questions to answer, no one to keep entertained, no one to shush or calm down or keep safe. It was really weird. I had no one to talk to and lots of time on my own. I truly did not know what to do with myself (and I’d been out of the house for less than an hour).
I adjusted. It took a while to even think of reading, watching a movie on my phone, or listening to music. Once I was able to get used to actually being able to focus on something for leisure, it was really pleasant (but still, there was no place I would rather have been right at that moment than home getting ready for movie night with my family). The flight was great, and eventually I stopped jumping to attention every time a child on the plane would cry. It actually became pretty pleasant to snap out of my focus on my book only to remember that my kids were at home and I could go right back to reading — a little like waking up before the alarm in the morning and getting to enjoy snuggling back into bed for a while.
On my own, I had a lot more time for random thought, too. Standing in the forever-long “all other passports” UK Border line, I contemplated what passport control must be like for moderately famous people. I imagine they have to wait in the same line as everyone else (unless they’re SUPER famous and this disruptive to the process, then maybe there’s some other provision), which must be awful. I figure they’d get bothered, asked for autographs or whatever, but there would be nothing they could do to get away! That must be even worse than just waiting through the line as a regular person, which isn’t any fun, either. (This is what happens to my mind when I don’t have kids to entertain, apparently.) Also, I spent a little time contemplating how/why people can’t tell where I’m from. I had a British person think I was British (after talking to me?!?) on the plane and a woman in the Customs line came up and spoke to me in an impressive stream of Russian — then, after seeing my confusion, apologized in fluent English, saying she thought I was Russian, too.
It was odd to be on my own — not just being an off-duty mom, but being completely solo on my journey. It was strange to not have anyone to coordinate with. When my train from the airport was delayed by an hour and a half, I didn’t have anyone to hash out an alternate plan with, nor to pass the time with. And when I finally made it to Victoria Station after midnight, there was no one with whom to debate the various merits of taking a cab or the subway, so I got to decide on my own. (After midnight, raining, with luggage and not 100% sure where I was going — I opted for a cab, and I think it was the best £10 I spent the whole trip.)
I made it, all on my own, from Vienna to London. I managed to remember how to read a book on a plane, hail a cab and watch TV in a hotel room (that wasn’t a cartoon). The trip was going great already, and the really fun stuff hadn’t even started yet!