As expected, the moderators in our online oasis started cracking down due to our playful antics. They could not continue to allow the madness that was taking over. They insisted we stick to the topics at hand and only post about “that” subject matter. Our joking around in there was to come to a complete halt. We were to remain on topic, strictly business.
Where’s the fun in that?!
And … our involvement there began to decline as we took our friendships to another level. Nightly chat sessions turned into phone conversations and eventually meeting in person.
That was a scary thought for my family, but not for me!
I had already been in battle throughout my separation and divorce. Once shy, timid, and naive, I was forced to stand up for myself and fight, determined that evil would not prevail. And … it didn’t in the end. This role I was forced into as Warrioress has remained with me. I quickly learned to fight and protect myself, taking a firm stand not only for myself but, most importantly, for my daughter. Then, I set goals and developed new strengths along the way. Determination became my friend.
I was gifted a wonderful opportunity by a dear soul, one I simply could not pass up. I remember the reaction when I announced my traveling plans to my family. They were quite concerned. I had never traveled that far away from home before and never by airplane at that. My family also was leery of meeting people on the internet and did not support my plans. They were so against it, they would not take me to the airport or see me off. I remember feeling disappointed at their disapproval, especially to the point that they would not even see me off as I planned to travel across the map! They were probably just as shocked and disappointed at my plans, though, as surely they felt I was in danger. Just as determined as they were not to help me with this, I was even more determined to see it through. I clearly was NOT passing up this opportunity of a lifetime!
I planned my adventure for when my daughter had to be away for a week. Instead of allowing sadness to overwhelm me this time, I would be surrounded by love even in her absence, as I met some of my online friends for the very first time in person! I packed my suitcase, threw it in the little blue Honda Civic, and set out for the airport all alone. This Southern Belle was not letting anything stand in her way at this point. Upon arrival at the airport, I found the long-term parking and made my way to the terminal and the counter for Delta Airlines. I didn’t have time to feel anxious or nervous. Looking back, my newfound freedom and independence were exhilarating! I was no longer a prisoner, for I was free to explore and see the world!
Imagine me at 28 years old stepping foot on an airplane for the very first time as I embarked on a 14-hour trek to Anchorage, Alaska. Back in those days, you were allowed to have people inside the airplane terminals seeing you off as you departed and greeting you as you arrived back home. This was long before 9/11 happened, of course, when they had security measures, but they weren’t as tight as they are now.
As you can imagine, I had several layovers traveling from South Carolina to Alaska. My online friends had become my family, and I had no inhibitions about meeting them at this point. Excitement empowered me throughout this journey.
My first layover was in Atlanta, Georgia. I was not even slightly concerned with the vastness of this airport or changing concourses. Upon my arrival, my friend, known as Browneyes online and Tara in real life, was waiting for me at the gate. What a breath of fresh air she truly was when I first laid eyes on her! We hugged, and we both had the biggest smiles on our faces! While I didn’t have a long layover here, I was thankful for the time spent with her. She walked with me through the airport and sat with me chatting it up until time to board the next leg of my flight. We said our goodbyes, and on to Salt Lake City, Utah, I went!
Imagine me, just a small-town girl, plastered to the airplane window looking out at the beauty I never knew existed! All my life had been spent at that point in South Carolina, with occasional “mountain” trips to North Carolina. I truly never knew there was this much beauty out there, until now!
The plane lowered, and pretty soon we rolled to a stop at the gate. Gathering my belongings, I walked off the plane and into the airport where my friend Chris, known online as Stardust, was waiting for me with her beautiful family! We were all smiling ear to ear and gave the biggest hugs before we walked to the next gate. I had a longer layover here and was so thankful for the time spent with Chris and her family. We shared so much online before meeting in person, so it was truly like spending the afternoon with an old friend. We knew so much about each other and had helped each other through so many tough things in our lives up to that point. She was such a beautiful free spirit, and my heart will always be thankful for having the opportunity to spend time with her and her family that day. As I bid them farewell, I walked onto the airplane.
I managed to sleep a little on this leg of the trip. Fully recharged, once again, I sat plastered to the window as the plane lowered and I started seeing more of God’s beautiful world. I laugh now thinking of me calling the little mounds in North Carolina “mountains.” I was overwhelmed with the beauty in Utah, but my eyes could not believe the natural beauty of Alaska seen only from the window seat on the airplane at this point. I’m sure my mouth was agape as I sat amazed at what I was seeing below. As we arrived at the gate, I deplaned to see my amazing friend, who made this all possible, standing there with flowers in hand just for little ole me! We hugged, we squealed with delight, and then we walked out of the airport almost skipping to the car!
I was truly clear across the map from my hometown where nothing was familiar and everything was amazingly beautiful. My eyes thought surely they were deceiving me as I gazed up at the humungous snow-capped mountains before me as we drove along the scenic highway. I was in awe of God’s country and His creations!
I could not believe I was really in Alaska! The entire day was surreal. The thrill of meeting THREE of my online friends in person for the very first time was more than I could have ever imagined it would be! But Alaska was a true adventure of a lifetime!! I will forever be grateful for this trip and the opportunity of a lifetime to spend time with some of the incredible people I met online.