Facts of solo travel: ‘Flying is stressful, but the airport had me more on edge than the flight’
Going abroad is fun but it can also be full of anxiety-ridden encounters, especially when you are travelling solo across the Atlantic on your first ever flight, writes Maygen Bazemore
The rectangular window adjacent to my right shoulder was just small enough and carved into the side of the airplane just deeply enough to make it possible to see only inches either side of what was directly in view.
After sitting through the procedures of what to do in case of an array of potential life-threatening situations, the wait for the flight to begin felt endless, and I couldn’t help but say a quick prayer and reminisce to myself about those I loved.
For most people, a two-hour flight from Atlanta to Boston would be nothing; I could see the unenthused faces all over the plane, just waiting for the flight to be over so they could return to their lives. But for me, a small town 20-year-old with minimal travel experience, this was the first flight I had ever been on, and it was the first of a two-stop flight process to get me to Leeds, England.
The internet is full of articles that discuss how much you will love going abroad, how exciting the journey will be, and the thrill that stepping out of your comfort zone brings. The writers behind those articles are right overall, you probably will love going abroad – I know I did.
But for the lone, unexperienced introvert such as myself, there is no doubt, the journey will be full of anxiety-ridden encounters, especially throughout the process of getting there.
“You catch yourself repetitively checking your ticket, the available schedules on the screens above.”
Flying is a popular worry for people, but the airport itself had me more on edge than the flight. You’re given a specific time to get to your flight, but you’re also placed in endless line after endless line of people waiting.
The process to get to your plane is self-explanatory, but the thought crosses your mind that you may be headed toward the wrong terminal or flights may have changed and you catch yourself repetitively checking your ticket, the available schedules on the screens above, and the signs directing you around the maze of chaos.
Also, if you get nothing else out of this piece of writing, remember these three words: Use good luggage.
“Suitcases older than you are not guaranteed to get your semester’s worth of clothing abroad with ease.”
When you’re planning a long trip, don’t settle for your parent’s 35-year-old suitcase with wheels on the long side instead of the bottom and a small, pathetic leather strap key-chained to the top instead of a retractable handle.
Suitcases older than you are not guaranteed to get your semester’s worth of clothing abroad with ease. When those wheels give out on you and you’re hauling 30 kilos around airports by hand, you may regret it; the blisters I got on the palms of my hands could vouch for that.
The flight is only half of your stressful expedition to get to where you’re going. After spending 18 hours hopping between airports, I made it to Manchester; the flying was over, but I was still an hour away from the city I would be living in.
Anyone from a rural town knows there are minimal ways of transportation; your options are to drive your own vehicle, take a school bus, or walk. Between Manchester and Leeds, I managed to take a city bus with a confusing route, an overpriced taxi with no sense of caution, and a train in which the conductor pitied my state of emotion enough to have mercy on my getting on the wrong train. I’m not trying to brag, but that was a lot of step-out-of-your-comfort-zoning in one hour.
Across the ocean
Wandering out of the train station into Leeds, England was such a novel feeling; knowing that through all the stress, moments of doubt, physical and emotional drainage, lack of sleep, and the absence of anyone to talk to about it, I travelled across an ocean on my own.
The feeling of excitement doesn’t quite hit you until you’re freshly showered, well rested and unpacked, but there is a sense of relief that you catch when you take your first glance into an entire city full of new cultures and experiences waiting for you.
Though the heavy travelling is over, you’ll cross paths with anxiety again – and that’s okay. You will survive.
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