It didn't begin well, to say the least. The first time I traveled to Europe on my own, I started from Asia. I'd been in India for ten days, traveling in Mumbai and Bangalore for work. The best flights back to New York from Bangalore were all on Air France, which meant connecting in Paris---and since the price was the same whether my layover lasted an hour or a weekend, I naturally decided upon the latter.
My last evening in Bangalore was one of the best I've spent in India. We started off at TGI Friday's (apparently all the rage in 2008 Bangalore), but wound up at a divey outdoor bar, complete with picnic tables and ice cubes I that was forbidden by my colleagues from even thinking about---beer from the bottle only for me. We Americans are delicate.
At midnight, I hopped into the world's tiniest, rustiest taxi and headed for Bangalore's brand-spanking-new airport. So new, in fact, that a fresh highway had just been built to take people to it. A highway with which, sadly, my young driver was not familiar. When we passed the clearly-marked exit for the airport, I assumed he knew a better way; it was only when I found myself speeding backwards at 40 miles per hour that I knew he'd made a mistake. My life flashed before my eyes in concert with the headlights we were passing as we backed up past the ramp, then zoomed onto it and up to the airport.
After waging a fruitless battle for an electrical outlet (midnight is rush hour at international airports in India), I boarded the plane and settled into my cushy business class seat. I started perusing the copy of Le Figaro they'd handed me when I boarded, brushing up on my French ahead of what I expected to be a restful night of Champagne-induced slumber. It was when I went to recline my seat that I saw them: a hundred bug bites---at least fifty per foot---standing out in stark relief against my (let's face it) pasty white skin. The outdoor bar---while truly awesome---did not have mosquito netting. And having planned on spending the entire day inside, I hadn't sprayed my ankles with Off. And did I mention that I'd forgotten to lay in a supply of anti-malarial pills before the trip? Oops.
So there I was, one death-defying taxi ride and 100 potentially malarial nibbles into my wistfully romantic solo trip to Paris. I spent a decent amount of the flight determining just how much to tell my brother via email, lest I fall out of contact and have to be rescued from a delirious fever by the concierge. (As little as possible, I decided.) Eventually, calmed by calamine lotion from the flight attendant, Clarins products in the Air France lavatory, and, of course, champagne, I slept.
What had really relaxed me, though, was the knowledge that even if the worst befell me, even if my cab crashed in the Bangalore suburbs, even if I developed malaria alone in a hotel room in the Marais---I could handle it. I would be fine. I would figure it out. I was 29, independent, and flying to Europe on my own for the weekend---from Asia. I was a grown-up.
Seeing as Air France went on strike that weekend and I had to find a new way to get home to New York, I got to prove it to myself all over again really quickly. That's the thing about adulthood: it's a pretty permanent state, once you enter into it.