7 years ago, when I was 18, I was on my way to the airport to head solo to Rome. I can still remember trying all the fragrances at Duty Free and stocking up on every snack I could see. My excitement continued all the way until I was standing in the line ready to board the plane. I was somewhat in the middle of the queue, not too eager to stand up first but not too laid-back to stand up last. In front of me I had a group of students. Nothing unusual I thought. I turned around behind me and could see a middle-aged male. Again, nothing unusual. Or so I thought…
The male behind me started to shift closer and closer towards me. Everywhere I moved, he would follow. If I stepped to the left, so would he. If I stepped to the right, so would he. I wasn’t panicked at this point, as I was surrounded by people, but I could see I was being followed. I remember turning around and saying, ‘Stop, I am uncomfortable’, but there was a language barrier issue. I couldn’t speak Italian. I moved away, and a few seconds later, the male followed.
I must have looked annoyed at this point as the group of students started speaking to the male in Italian. I turned away. A few seconds later, the male starts to undress! I am not even kidding. I could see his underwear and trousers lowering right behind me. I screamed. The group of students saw the whole thing and started shouting in Italian. I couldn’t understand what was going on but I didn’t need to do so, as a few seconds later I saw a fight break out between the students and male.
Security was quick to arrive to the scene. I was taken out of the line with the male and asked to wait until more security arrived. I was almost in tears as I didn’t know what was happening, but I explained that the male was being inappropriate. The kindness of the airport staff really blew me away. They kept me comfortable whilst I was giving a statement on what happened, and reassured me the male wouldn’t be on the same flight. However, at this point I noticed everyone had boarded the plane. I was terrified I’d miss my flight. Staff told me the plane wouldn’t fly without me but I wasn’t sure. How would the plane know to wait for me? I really didn’t want to miss my flight as my Airbnb host would be waiting for me at the airport.
After ten minutes or so, one staff member told me I could board. I felt so flustered running through the tunnel leading to the aircraft, as I was well aware the passengers were waiting for over 20 minutes. I didn’t know if the reason for delay was announced, however. As soon as I got inside, everyone was seated. To make things even more awkward, everyone started CLAPPING. I remember putting my hood up to avoid glances and just acted like nothing was wrong for the whole flight. Although, as soon as we had landed, I had so many people stop to ask if I was ok which was sweet. I felt so fortunate to have so many genuinely-concerned strangers around me, wishing me well. I managed to bump into the group of students to thank them for their help and continued on my way to meet my host. Well, it turned out I had no mobile data so couldn’t even communicate with her to say I had arrived, but that’s a story for another day!
See you in the next post!
P.S… If you missed my two other adventures, I’ll link them for you here :Adventures Of A Backpacker: My Accommodation Flooded? and Adventures Of A Backpacker: Scammed in New York City?