Lessons Learnt

As a traveller I have never really felt alone as I have always been with someone when I’m globetrotting to different places. However on the day I left the States and headed for the land of maple I felt completely alone. I’ve read blogs from female solo travellers and I was ready to become one. Reading their amazing stories and adventures in foreign countries, I wanted to be a part of that world. Solo Traveller! I can do this! Even though before this holiday to the States & Canada I had always done tours but done them with no one but myself.

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I had just spend an incredible first week with my friend, Adam, and it was that moment at the airport that I didn’t want to leave him. Knowing I was going to be by myself for one day was a little harder than expected and it was also the worst day of my trip. One I have learnt from.

Boarding the plane I was excited, scared, nervous and lonely. How could one possibly feel all of that you ask? I think I was just completely overwhelmed by the thought of flying to a different country by myself. I knew no one was there to greet me at the other end, I had to go through customs and we all know how intimidating most of them can be and I had to find my own way from the airport to my hotel, which wasn’t as easy to find but more about that later.

My expectations of Canada were high. I couldn’t wait cross this country off my list but what I didn’t expect was all the French that I heard around the airport and on the aircraft. I knew Quebec was known for its French but I didn’t know how often they spoke it. I know only a few French words like hello, yes and thank you. I thought to myself “What have I got myself into?” What I should have done was learn a few more words before I left Australia. I was definitely out of my comfort zone. Lesson number 1: Learn some local language before you go off exploring to an unfamiliar country.

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After what felt like a long three and a half hour flight we landed and I made my way through customs. A long process and one I was happy to get out of. The queue took around about 45 minutes to get through and then I was finally called up by the customs officer.

Now I’ve been to the States twice and while I thought they were intimidating, Canada, I would say, were even tougher. I got so nervous that they wouldn’t let me in even though I had nothing to hide. It felt like they had asked more questions than the American Customs Officers. “Who are you meeting? How long are you here for? What are you doing? Are you meeting up with a boyfriend? How much cash do you have on you? What do you do for work? How did you get so much time off work?” blah blah blah. I answered all of the above and wanted to get out of there.

The next part of my afternoon was finding the bus in which a friend told me to go on. I was lucky enough to have a nice guy who was directing people which way to go tell me where to get my ticket and which stop to get off at because I showed him where I was going too. I journeyed via bus for about thirty minutes before we hit the bus stop I needed to get off at to catch the next lot of public transport – the train. All the while it was raining. And just my luck, I didn’t have an umbrella.

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This train station was probably the one I came across that had an elevator. However I got a little stuck looking for the platform I need to use and asked for help from the help desk located in the station. I was polite and asked the lady to help with directions. She started speaking in French and while I couldn’t understand her, I couldn’t hear her because of all the trains down below. I walked away and looked around. I found the platform I needed to get on, bought my ticket and headed for it. The only way to get through was the metal barriers. Stupid me put my luggage through first and wouldn’t let me go through. The ticket man saw me and told me to go through where his desk was.

This wasn’t the best start to my first day in Montreal and I hated it. My next hurdle was to tackle the stairs leading down to the platform. Lugging 15 kilos of luggage in my suitcase plus a weekender bag was tough! No one offered to help me. I just wanted to get to my hotel. The station was only 6 stops away and I knew I would be there in no time.

The train ride was fast and I was there within minutes. I had more stairs to climb up again no one offering to help me. As I walked outside the weather hadn’t gotten any better and I got stuck. I forgot to print out a map of where my hotel was. I didn’t know which way to turn. Left, right, straight ahead? I stayed there for 20 minutes wondering if I should asked someone for help but I knew with the language barrier I felt a little scared that no one would help me. I took a guess and headed left coming to an intersection. I looked around and finally saw my hotel. I was so thankful it was only just a block away from the train station.

I stopped as soon as I got to the front – more stairs but this time a nice gentleman offered to help me as he and his girlfriend were going in. I took the offer and was so thankful! I checked in, again finding it hard to understand the guy at the front desk and took the wrong directions to get to my room. Little did I know that at the time and tried opening a room which I thought was mine but was already occupied.

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When I finally got to my room, I put my bags to the side, sat on my bed and started crying. I connected to the WIFI, looked at the clock and decided to call my Mum. Of course as soon as she heard me crying she panicked. But all in all, I was just having a really bad day. After talking to her I realised that life is life and sometimes you get thrown in the deep but in the end it all works out. It just goes to show that not every day you travel is a good day. You will come across obstacles and they are just that. You get over them. It has definitely taught me to do more research before leaving to go on another adventure again and learn some of the local language. I can now understand how foreigners feel when visiting Australia with little or no English.

After having such a terrible day, this does not mean I dislike Canada. I love Canada! And I can’t wait to revisit one day.

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