My first trip abroad. I had annual leave I had to take and no reason to take it. I had been planning to move to the UK (from Australia) since I was 18. I was now 21. I had "travel" in my thoughts but never anyone to push me towards it. I decided to take a stand… to take my first solo flight! Now, don’t judge me on this post and please remember that I was so young! None of my family members or friends were travellers. They couldn't offer any advice. So with my head full of the unknown, I was about to embark on my first solo flight!
I knew I wanted to travel, but where? I receive guest posts from brave women whose first trip were in places like India, Africa or Asia. I was NOT that brave! I chose New Zealand. I knew nothing of New Zealand and did no research. I just knew they spoke English, accepted dollars and the flight wasn’t too long. There was no way I was getting friends to come with me. Although, I wanted to go alone. The safest option was to do a group tour. I chose Contiki Tours (more on that in another article.) I figured I wouldn’t be completely alone and wouldn’t have to worry about how to get around and what to do. (I mean, what did I know about travelling) - Honestly, I took the easy way out. Though it turned out to be the best way in a weird learning lesson/self discovery kind of way (Explanation in a latter post).
Ready for a laugh?!
Oh how times have changed, I made all my arrangements through a travel agent! A TRAVEL AGENT! Now I just jump on Skyscanner and it takes me about a minute. I even had a going away party, I was going for 2.5 weeks! What a dork I was! Although, any excuse for a party right!
I will never forget that moment when my sister and her boyfriend dropped me off at the airport. The whole building felt so “transitional” So cold! Very “let’s get down to business”. The huge glass windows and quick sliding doors, the cleanliness, the quick 5 minutes drop-offs and say goodbye procedures. It was all so grown up!
The quick goodbye was done and I remember feeling like it was for eternity. My biggest fear was getting homesick. This was my test to something greater and if I failed this, then what? God forbid all my dreams of the UK coming to an end before they even start. We lingered the goodbyes, it seemed kind of sad, we had been fighting a lot and now I was leaving (be it for only 2.5 weeks). We were close in a weird way, 1 year apart in age but with very different personalities. The break then the constant fighting was welcome. At the same time, what would it be like without the person I see and talk to every single day. The closest, yet weirdly most annoying person of my 21 years. This was the longest we would ever be apart and I didn't realise it until then nor did I want to admit what it meant.
The journey really started when I walked into the building and they drove away. I was left with my extra large suitcase packed with 5 pairs of heels and 7 dresses! (for NZ in the winter, clearly, someone did no research). Boy, was I a different person back then! Comon, I had a giant suitcase and 2 checkinns... now-a-days I carry with a school bag sized backpack.
Looking around the building at these flashing screens with destinations that meant nothing to me. Everything seemed so harsh, so final, so adult, so much larger than me... From the fonts, the colours, the shiny tiles and large glass windows, all the people around me and the monotone announcement with the fake happy voice. It was so overwhelming, the many counters to go to, which one is mine? What did this giant board even mean? I have a flight number? Whats a flight number? Was this the right board to be looking at? I hadn’t even thought about the aeroplane boarding process! why was everything so fast, spacey and clean!
You see, I am the kind of person who goes into things without thinking of the dangers, especially at that age. I just don’t think ahead. I have never been one to check the weather, deadlines, read instructions or think with common sense. It wasn’t until I was standing in the airport alone that I realised I didn’t know what to do!
I did what I did in the early days of catching a train alone, I asked! Someone pointed me in the right direction and suddenly, everything seemed smooth. I was excited! I was ALONE! There was no longer anyone here to judge me, to pick up my mess, to talk to if I didn’t want to, to stop me from eating a meat pie even though I already ate lunch…. I was free! (and I loved meat pies)
I was flying with Emirates. I was startled by how beautiful these women were, how friendly and calm and smiley they were, how inviting! I felt like I was in first class (I can assure you, I wasn’t).
The plane was one of the coolest experiences! I had 7 hours to watch movies, be given food and listen to music. The food was good, the seats comfy. What were people complaining about plane food for! And so much of it… and wine… I could drink wine on a plane?
Rockie mistake #1 - my first solo flight
When the landing happened my ears "popped". This is standard for me, they "pop" every time. However, this being my first landing, I was so scared! I remember texting my sister (Oh the days of sms!) and telling her that I am really scared because I think I am death. I really believed it! She laughed at me and ensured me that it was simply the landing process. Nothing she said could have convinced me, I was sure that the plane cause unrepairable damage.
Rockie mistake #2 - my first solo flight
Getting my bags! I was anxious to get my bag from the baggage return. (I still get nervous). What if someone takes my bag and steals everything. (Really, whats to stop them! That system needs to be sorted out). I rushed there, quickly grabbed my bag with relief and started to walk out.
There I was staring at the Christchurch” sign with nothing but excitement. I had done it! I was here! In New Zealand, not Australia! I stopped to take a photo and suddenly hear my voice over the loud speaker! Fearing the worst, it turned out, I took someone else bag. I took the wrong suitcase and was two seconds from walking outside of the airport with someone else underpants!
That was the worst of it. I had nothing to be afraid of, I managed to figure everything out. I asked about getting into town, I was pointed to a shuttle. People were so friendly and helpful. Once in the shuttle bus, a girl who just happened to be on my tour started talking to me. I was no longer alone… I was awkwardly death with no courage to tell her that I couldn’t understand a word, but I was not alone and had made it thus far.
Everything was going to be alright.
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