Back in 2013 I embarked on not only my first solo long haul flight, but my first EVER long haul flight. Up untill that point I had only ever been as far as the Canary Islands. I was going to Canada to meet my friend who was studying over there. We first started talking on Tumblr in 2010 and quickly became close. Cut to three years later and I am flying halfway around the world to meet her. Of course, the start of my journey did not go without hiccup. With explaining to customs officers that Yes, we met online. No, not a dating site. Tumblr, we both just really like Harry Potter. I can look back and laugh now but missing luggage on my first solo trip led to a stressful few days.
When my parents dropped me off at the airport I wanted to get through as fast as possible. Just as I was walking through the gate I turned around to see my mum in tears. I was only going to be gone for 3 weeks but that was longest I had ever been away from home at this point. I remember rushing through secruity and as I was scrambling to get everything back into my hand luggage.Shaking so much that I I was dropping everything. Trying my best to appear calm and collected because god forbid someone see I am a novice traveller? How embarassing!
Goodbye Scotland, Hello Canada
The trouble started in Toronto. I was stading at the baggage claim and one by one everyone collected their bags and left. I had a connecting flight to catch and didn’t know how much longer I could wait. When I noticed the steward had started taking the remaining bags off the belt I went over to check if mine was there. Nope. The people are the help desk were no help at all. They basically told me to sort it out in Montreal . I filled out a form with my details and had to run to my connecting flight. By this point I am trying not to have a nervous breakdown in the middle of the airport, and I also have a splitting migraine.
The woman at the Montreal airport could not have been nicer. Her name was Amelie and she was the best. I had prepared myself for the same difficult airport staff from Toronto but she was so helpful and reassuring that they were going to find my missing luggage She also spoke French which I was so impressed by that I forgot I was angry. Turns out when you have a 50 minute layover in Amsterdam and your flight is delayed, chances are your luggage won’t make the trip. They were going to fly out my luggage as soon as they could (which took 3 days). But in the meantime I was given an allowance of $100 to buy any essentials for the next 3 days. Shout out to WestJet for still being the best airline I have ever dealt with!
Lost and Poor in Montreal
After finally making my way to the Bus Station, getting lost and accidentally spending £20 on roaming charges I settled in and waited for Hannah to arrive. From there we made our way to our Hotel – Auberge & Hotel Montreal Espace Confort – which was super quaint and lovely. After three days of exploring Montreal and trying not to think about my missing luggage I got a call from reception telling me my suitcase was downstairs.
It was definitely nice to feel like a person again with my own clothes, toiletries and make up! To be honest I can’t really remember what we did in Montreal for those 3 days. I know we had an awful lot of Tim Hortons, and went to some massive mall that was underground? (did I dream this?) But it was only 3 days of a 3 week trip!
Honestly, I’m happy that my first solo travel experince went this way. I lost my luggage, got lost myself and survived 3 days on limited funds in a new country. I geuinely believe it gave me a much more chilled out approach to travelling. Yes, things will go wrong. But it’s not the end of the world. Just take a breathe, deal with it, and enjoy your trip.
Read Next: Women Who Wander: Meg’s Solo Expat Life in Malaysia a new blogger series that shares fellow solo female travellers stories. If you would like to submit a story for the series please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org