Did I just do that?!
First solo trip
Hello, hi, good day,
So I've had this incredible idea in January 2015. I wanted to travel, to see Spain and Portugal but didn't have a travel buddy to go with. Soooooooo, brilliant idea, why don't I go by myself? Right?! Who doesn't love a good challenge? And this seemed like a good one. I then proceed to buy a round-trip ticket from Montreal to Madrid for the following summer (note here that I was still in school...). I decided to leave for the entire summer, therefore I had 3 amazing months to plan out. (I'll write more about my 3 months journey in another post!)
The story I wanted to tell you guys today, is the one of a girl, on a first solo trip, across the ocean from her home, in an unknown country, finding herself in a bit of a pickle...
So, everything started out on June 9th, 2015 (wow, has it already been 2 years almost 3?). On this beautiful day, I was getting ready to catch my afternoon flight to Madrid. My bag(s), were all packed up and I was reeeeeeady to go! I started packing like a week in advance because I tend to forget a lot of things..... Sooooo I prefer to give my sell a wee bit of extra time. You kinda want to make sure you don't forget anything essential on your 3 months journey across the ocean, whatever that ocean may be. Also, I get waaaaay too excited to leave and I want to start packing up like a month prior to departure.
The morning of my flight, I get a text from my dad inviting me to a goodbye-breakfast and a little shopping spree while waiting to leave for the airport (he was kinda my lift to the airport, since my flying unicorn was at the garage, aka I do not own a vehicle). So I went to breakfast with him, we then did some light shopping. He gave me a bit of cash (euros, much more helpful in Spain than our Canadian pesos). We laugh, had fun, talked, ate, and then head back home to pick up 3 of my friends who were accompanying us to the airport and were waiting at my place while reassuring my oh-so-worried mother. So now, I give my mom my coat (don't need that in Spain, thank you very much) get my bags in the car, and take place in my lift. We're now the 5 of us in the car, I'm waving goodbye at my mom who's on the front porch shouting at me "DO YOU HAVE YOUR TICKET?!", "Yes mom!", "DO YOU HAVE YOUR PASSPORT?!", "Yes mom!", "OKAY, BE CAREFUL OKAY?!", "As always mom" (I'm always super chill when my mom asks me this kind of questions since I tend to forget things and I know it and she knows it and at this point, it's more of a team effort).
We get to the airport and it's the usual trying-to-kill-some-time-before-having-to-go-through-security-and-leaving-everyone-behind. It's at this moment that everything just hits me. I kept looking back every 5 seconds to see my goodbye committee. When I walk through the metal detector, got my bag and turned around to look at the gate. I could still see my dad and my friends, vigorously flapping their hands around (I know it's called waving, but I got emotional at that moment and I defuse everything with humour, so get used to it) so I flapped my hands back. But then, I got to the part when I couldn't see them anymore. I couldn't say bye. I couldn't flap my hands around. I was truly by myself, for the next 3 months. I felt so lonely at that moment. I was scared and anxious. I was wondering if that was the smart move to do. Was is the right decision to travel alone for 3 months? What was I thinking?! What if I get another anxiety attack, but alone, in Spain? But at the same time, it all seemed oh so exciting. All the adventures I was going to have. All the beautiful things I was going to see. And even more important, all the amazing people I was going to meet. I took a couple of deep breaths and I went on my first solo quest, finding my gate.
The flight between Montreal and Paris was alright. But can we talk about Charles-De-Gaule airport?! What in the world is that freaking airport? You couldn't pick a regular airport shape like a rectangle, per say? Noooooooo, you guys wanted to be Feng Shui or something, so you got a big circle as an airport. So while you're aligning your chakras to find your wing and then your gate, you have all the chance in the world to miss your flight (which almost happen on my way back.... but that's for another story). So while I was communicating with my horoscope to align the planets, I managed to get to my gate on time to make my connecting flight. Afterward, Paris-Madrid, this girl started to be a liiiiiitle bit tired. When I got to Madrid, that's when it hit me, I'm not in Montreal anymore. I got to that conclusion with the fact that I could here one decibel of Quebecois around me (that's French Canadian for the people who don't know, it French, but not really.... Some people in France have trouble understanding us and quite frankly we even have so problems understanding ourselves sometimes). So after my biggest realization (Madrid≠Montreal, even if they both start with the letter "m"), I had to get to my hostel. Thanks to my mom who was PUSHING me to reserve my hostels AS SOON AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE (otherwise I might have to sleep on the streets or at a train station, according to her), my home for the night was already chosen and reserved, I just had to find it... Soooo I did what every good backpacker would do, I tried to use the cheap version of transportation that is the metro. I wanted to buy my ticket with my credit card, but I couldn't find my wallet, since I was carrying a lot of stuff, and I didn't have the place to start unpacking in the middle of the airport. So, I paid with the precious euros that my dad gave me earlier on (thanks again dad for that). During the entire metro ride, I had this little anxiety voice in my head telling me "How weird is it that you couldn't find your wallet? Are you sure you have it?" and I tried to keep it cool and not have a panic attack in my first 24 hours in Madrid. I couldn't wait to get to the hostel, unpack and find my stupid wallet.
So, finding my hostel, easier said than done. I think it's a luxury that a lot of cities can't afford to actually WRITE THE NAME OF THE STREET, ON THE STREETS! I walked up and down the same streets for 30-45 mins in the Spanish afternoon sun. My translucent skin wasn't quite happy with that. I didn't want to stop my search to put some sunblock because I kept telling myself that I was ALMOST there and putting sunblock would mean that I still had a while to go and it started to smell like burnt skin so I HAD to find this freaking hostel!
Finally, I found my glorious hostel! Hallelujah! Super cute place, super cheap, but when I had to pay for my stay, I still couldn't find my Houdini-wallet and I wasn't about to empty my bags in the middle of the lobby so I paid with my daddy-money (aka the euros that my dad gave me). Once in my room, my stress level hikes up a degree or 12. I empty my bags on my bed and I start my new quest, finding my ******* wallet. I open every pocket, I flip them upside down, I flip my entire bag upside down and frenetically search through the mayhem on my bed. I look again and again in the same pockets I've already been through JUST IN CASE a magic entrance to Narnia opened when I wasn't looking and my wallet could magically appear through there. (It could be interesting to note at this point that in my wallet I have, ALL my credit cards, ALL my debit card, so ALL things that I could use to get money are missing at the moment. I'm in Spain for 3 months, by myself.) At this point I take a break. I can't panic. If I panic I become useless and this is a one-woman operation, so I need to be able to function. I get on the internet. I get a message from my mom "Lolo (that's how she calls me) you forgot in the pockets of your coat your cards. I just called your dad to know what to do, I'll get in touch later to let you know". NO F*****G WAYYYYYYYY! I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS! DID I JUST DO THAT? Did I just forget ALL my cards on another continent? I couldn't just leave without forgetting anything, noooooooooo! I need to keep calm, breathe, relax, think about kitties, because I'm not on the other side of the ocean, by myself, in Madrid, without credits cards or any other type of money cards and I not taking a plane the next day to Porto, you know, Portugal...
Praise the lords, baby Jesus, my dad gave me enough money that morning to live for a day or 2. My flight (oh I wasn't joking about this) the next day is already paid for. All I needed to pay for was my hostel (which was already reserved, thanks mom) and some food.
My parents teamed up to send me my cards by FedEx express. I still had to wait an entire day and a half to get them. So, my dad wired me money through Western Union. So, I had to walk around Porto and find a bank with Western Union, tell my dad which one, get him to wire the money there, get to the bank with my passport to identify myself and then proceed to walk back to my hostel without looking like I had a lot of euros in my pockets.
My cards finally arrived at my hostel on June 12th. I must of look like a crazy person when I jumped on the FedEx guy when he walked in the hostel. But, I got my cards and I could now breath a little bit more.
I'm still very proud of myself for not just losing it when I found out that I forgot my cards at home. It taught me that even went terrible things happen there's always a way to make it through. And even if you're travelling solo, doesn't mean you're by yourself. I've made a lot of friends during that time I was waiting in Porto for my cards. People who were amazing and that I wouldn't have got the chance to meet if I didn't leave my cards at home (I'm not saying that I would do it again, I'm just saying that it's not just black and white). The staff at the hostel was super understanding and tried to help me in every way possible. And most of all, even with an ocean between us, I know that I can always count on my family and friends when I most need them.
Thank you if you're still here, reading my crazy stories. I have much more for you guys, don't worry, I was roaming Spain, Portugal and a little bit of Rome solo for 3 months, other stuff happened. But this was how it all started.
I will see you soon,
P.S. Thanks again mum and dad for the teamwork, special thanks to FedEx and Western Union, my heroes.