My First Time Travelling Alone: Solo Travel

If it's your first time travelling alone, read about my first solo travel experience.

by Layla
Published: Updated:

One thing I’ll always remember when I left for the first time travelling alone to Australia, is being in the arrival airport bathrooms.

I know right, weird. But bear with me, you’ll see where I’m going with this.

After my first long-haul flight experience and my first time flying alone, exhausted and anxious, I stumbled off the plane at Perth International Airport arrivals and went over to passport control.

 

First Time Travelling Alone – To Australia 

Of all the places in the world to choose for my first time travelling alone, I picked Australia. Huge, vast, diverse, REALLY far away and full of things that can kill you.

My visa choice was the popular 1 year Australian Working Holiday Visa (or WHV as you’ll fondly come to know it).  

The Australian Working Holiday Visa allowed me to live and work in Australia for 1 year. (Also can be extended for a second and third year).

I had the required funds to support myself, which was stipulated in the visa conditions – but I didn’t have any more money.

I was worried immigration would pull me aside and demand to see my bank account. Or interrogate why I’d left my life behind and travelled 10,000 miles to live in Western Australia, all by myself. 

Once I’d passed through passport control with no issues, I realised I was still asking myself that question.

Why did I decide to do this? Why did I give up my job, my flat, my life in the UK, sell my belongings book a ticket and leave?

You see, if you rewind to about 24 hours ago, to me getting on that first plane — I was a mess.   

 

First Time Flying Alone: Airport Farewells

The few months before leaving were so full on. Sell, pack, book, repeat.

In 3 months I had managed to squish in the following: moving out of a flat, selling my belongings, quitting my job, putting belongings into storage, seeing friends & family, booking flights, accommodation, and travel insurance, buying everything related & getting finances in order.

And trying to recover emotionally and find the courage to actually go. 

Everyone seemed to want a piece of me before I left, naturally, they were curious about my plans. But it was unrealistic to fit in farewell engagements with everyone.

It was my first time flying alone. The airport farewell was brutal (and subsequent ones don’t get any easier).

My Nan came with me to say goodbye. We spent some time walking around the airport chatting, avoiding thinking about the looming farewell.

She wanted to buy me something, I said no, she bought me something anyway. It was a Peter Rabbit soft toy.

Here is the little guy. (And I still have him years later).

The first time travelling alone is easier if you have a Peter Rabbit.

Peter Rabbit has been everywhere with me on my travels ever since. It was a perfect gift and the last thing we did before edging towards departures.

So we said our ‘goodbyes’, our ‘I’ll miss you’s’, hugged a lot and we cried a little. I started the walk through the departure gate and I waved until I couldn’t see her anymore.

Then I just sobbed the whole way through security, through departures, through queuing at the gate, through finding my seat, through take-off. It was just a blur of tears and blubbering, interspersed with crippling fear and anxiety.

You’re probably thinking, there must be more to this… and you’d be right.

 

Leaving Friends and Family Behind.

I was indeed very sad to leave my Nan for so long. She raised me as a baby, and as a result, we are very close. But I was also anxious because I’d recently suffered ear problems and knew they’d cause me some pain on the flight.

And I was struck with fear because I was leaving my life behind and literally flying alone into the unknown.

However, I was also heartbroken. Only 3 months before I had gone through a break-up from a relationship of 5 years. Even though the relationship was difficult, the break-up was somehow worse. 

 

My life had somehow become the stuff that all runaway stories are made of. 

Travellers sometimes get labelled as either ‘running away from something’ or ‘looking for something’. I happily admit, I was doing a little of both.

My ex-partner and I had already received our visas, a few months before the relationship ended. But it turns out for him, getting the visa approved is the one thing that made him realise… he didn’t want to go.

And then he bailed on the entire relationship too, for many other reasons.

So I went anyway—alone.

And it was the bravest thing I have ever done.

My first sunset when travelling alone at Cottesloe Beach – Perth, Australia.

 

Travelling for the First Time Alone: Facing Your Fear and Going Anyway

I may have sobbed my way around the entire airport alone, but I got my sobbing ass on that plane and did it anyway.

I felt terrified of what I was about to do, in the weeks before leaving.  

However, my gut instinct made me push through it.  It made me believe this was the right thing for me at this time.

I thought if it didn’t work out, I could jump on my return flight and just go home.

But if I didn’t try it, if I didn’t go, I’d never know.

Turned out to be the best damn thing I ever did.

Travelling alone rocks! Me with Kangaroos in Perth, WA

 

My teary demeanour got me some concerned sympathy from a couple of fellow passengers on the first flight.  

I’m so grateful to them for being so caring towards me. It made all the difference, I hope they know that.

On the second flight, I curled up in the window seat and just stared out of the window at the sky. After the torturous relationship, it was the first time in so long that I’d felt peaceful.

 

If You’re Travelling for the First Time Alone, Know That Taking the First Step is the Hardest Part 

Travelling for the first time alone is hard because you ARE alone. There’s no one else by your side so you have to find inner courage and strength to get you through each tough moment. 

And when there are lots of tough moments, reaching for that courage every time, becomes exhausting. 

I knew when I got off the plane, there’d be harder times ahead. But taking this first step felt so momentous to me. It couldn’t be taken away from me, I’d got on the flight and my journey had begun. 

I’d done it. Alone.

However, when I realised we were landing, reality kicked in and I was anxious again.

So I stumbled off the plane, completed passport control, hit baggage claim, and dodged the duty-free sales corridor. Then I realised I was about to meet my friend in departures, who I hadn’t seen in two years.

Feeling emotionally exhausted and having had my skin’s life force sucked away by the plane’s air-con for the last 20 hours, I ducked into the bathrooms to make myself look human again.

First time travelling alone: Perth skyline view from King’s Park.

 

Then I turn on the sink tap and the water drains down the plug – in the opposite direction! Wow, the water really does do that here. 

That’s when it hits me. I’m in Australia, I’m in the southern hemisphere. I’m on the other side of the equator!  Shit, should I be looking out for poisonous spiders in bathrooms now I’m here? Don’t they lurk under the toilet seat?

My mind suddenly shifted gears. I’d forgotten all about being that heartbroken sob monster that got on the plane and immediately went into practical, adapting-for-change mode.

The hard part was done. I’d made it.

So when I stepped out into the arrivals hall of Perth airport and saw my friend waiting for me, I felt complete freedom.

Now it was all about me and Australia. And travel, travel, travel.

 

Happy, safe travels

Alial 🙂

 

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