It had been a decision quickly made over my birthday weekend in early December, signed and sealed before the still-hot melting wax of thought had time to cool and dither and faff. Yes, there had been last minute nerves mixed in with all the excitement, and as I looked down from the jet's cold metal belly at the mounds of snow encrusting the runway I tried as hard as I could not to even attempt to picture what lay ahead. Not just yet, anyway.
It is probably to overstate the case to say that I'm afraid of flying, but I've always understood why some pre-flight passengers might dose themselves with alcohol or tranquilisers; comfortably numb could well be a most commendable flight path. The cups of tea and fizzy water I'd had during my long wait in the snow-bound airport were very small beer by comparison, necessitating only loo trips rather than sweet oblivion. But no matter; the plane was only half full and I had the block of three whole seats to myself by way of some compensation. The staff busy themselves with the ritual of take-off - bolting the doors; closing the overhead lockers; the safety talk; the seat belt check; the first small movements; that slow-growing rumble that turns into a growl that becomes the powerful roar of the engines that thrusts you back into your seat and has your brain muttering half-remembered prayers whilst seeking religious conversion.
There had been times in the five weeks between my decision to go and actually reaching 35,000 feet that I really thought it might not happen at all. Britain had been enduring its coldest, snowiest winter in more than three decades. All the airports had been forced to shut several times, including up to a day before my own departure. It had also been a very tight time squeeze to get a whole three-jab course of rabies vaccinations done at the travel clinic. But cruising now, relaxing high above the clouds amid brilliant jewel blue skies, miniature plastic glass of Diet Coke in one hand and in-flight meal on the fold down table in front, all that was left behind.
All that lay ahead was the ocean, America, and a month in the middle of nowhere surrounded on all sides by wild animals. Grinning, I finished my drink, folded the table away, tucked myself up under the bright red blankets and fell asleep. Next stop: Florida.