Departure Thoughts

As I sit here at Gate M24 in Chicago’s O’Hare airport, I am graced by the sunlight that shines forcefully through the clouded windowpanes displaying the organized chaos that litters the tarmac. My day was filled with last minute packing, my last homemade matcha latte, a smooth little road trip to the Windy City with my sweet mother, and a few not so smooth experiences as I attempted to make it through the airport to my gate.

Travel Companion Reunion

The first memorable experience on my new adventure happened just about as soon as I stepped out of our trusty Honda Odyssey. I checked my bag, weighed my carry on, and acquired my boarding passes; I had not however managed to remember my water bottle. My beautiful water bottle equipped with a compass, flint and steel, and a Paracord handle was still hanging out in the car with my mom who already on her way home. As soon as I was able, I gave my mom a ring on my “Handy”(German for cellphone:) and very humbly asked if she would be willing to reunite me with my water bottle. I am deeply grateful for the overwhelming kindness she displayed by making the 20 minute trek back in Chicago traffic to deliver my travel companion.

my travel companion! (thanks mom)

Reunion #2

The memorable experiences kept coming! Feeling grateful for the recent reunion, I looked down to discover I in fact did not have my neck pillow hanging on my carry-on. It was true. I called my mom once more this time asking if my neck pillow was hanging out in the van. She again met me with grace, but this time was not able to confirm the neck pillow was in her presence. Realizing it was not in the van, I came to the only remaining conclusion: I had dropped it. With a weary smile on my face, I peered through the foggy, upper-level window to discover my neck pillow patiently waiting for me on the road outside. Descending the escalator for the second and final time, I causally trotted to the road and humbly retrieved my neck pillow from the friendly pile of salt that had kept my neck pillow company while I was away.

A Win for Sustainability

Brushing off the dust and salt, I then encouraged my neck pillow to stay connected to my carry-on as I made my way towards the security check-point. I was excited to see the line for security was virtually nonexistent, just like my knowledge of what was to come.

I proceeded to take off my trusted Blundstone boots and place them in the plastic trays, retrieve my laptop from my bag and place it in its own tray, empty all of my pockets, take my jacket off, and send all of my remaining items through. I entered the full body scanner in my socks that read “CHRIST STRENGTHENS ME,” and I smiled and felt a little more at peace. I then stopped smiling because I thought that might seem suspicious. That peace attempted to flee my body when I saw my bag had been taken aside for further inspection. I made peace stay with me as I gathered up the items that had made it through the scanner unscathed. I waited patiently to be called over to the bag inspection area and was told not to make any movements towards my bag. I acknowledged the command and watched as the TSA agent attempted to locate a “sharp metal object” in my bag. I was thoroughly confused at this because although my packing was last minute, I was confident no “sharp metal objects” had made their way into my carry-on.

I was pleasantly surprised when the TSA agent pulled out my reusable chopstick container and asked “are these chopsticks metal?” I simply could not hold back my smile maybe a little laugh as my bag was handed back to me. It brought me joy to know that my sustainable efforts had been noticed, even if for the wrong reason. Maybe the TSA agent will decide to invest in a pair of reusable utensils after our interaction! My first sustainable win of the adventure!

Memorable Moments

After a memorable first hour of travel, Ben Rector and I are hanging out at gate M24 excited for the plethora of new adventures that await. His song “Paris” streams through my noise cancelling headphones that will most likely prevent me from hearing important flight announcements. Despite this, I listen on and reflect on what I have learned so far.

I have learned to welcome memorable moments. Some may replace the word “memorable” with words such as “unexpected,” “stressful,” or “uncomfortable.” I, on the other hand, hope to welcome these moments with expectation rather than dread. Memorable, uncomfortable, and stressful moments are a part of every journey big or small, how will I choose to embrace them?

Oh, I have also learned to double check I have all of my items multiple times.

Well, I’m off to Paris with my water bottle, neck pillow, and heart full of gratitude!

Catch ya later friends!

Published by Natalie Hammer

Class of 2024 Social Work and German Major IES Berlin - Language & Area Studies

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