Okay, I know I’ve made lots of mistakes while travelling, but this was not only the first, but it was probably also one of the biggest.
So, let’s go back to 2012. I’d just broken up with my boyfriend (high school sweetheart) and I was convinced getting out of the country for the summer was exactly what I needed. Having wanted to go to America for as long as I could remember, I decided to apply for a BUNAC Work America programme.
As always, I was very last minute and only really had a month to plan EVERYTHING.
That meant choosing a state to live in, finding a job, getting a new passport and a visa, finding a place to live and arranging all of my transport. For someone who has never travelled alone before, it was A LOT. I was definitely overwhelmed but the excitement of spending 4 months in America meant I was motivated to get everything sorted as soon as I can.
I finally decided on California and found myself a job as a receptionist (that’s a completely different story in itself) and once I’d found a place to live, it was time to book my flights. I filled out everything, applied for an ISIC card and paid £500 and that was that.
A few weeks later, and just five days before I was due to fly, my ISIC card arrived and my mum noticed a mistake. I had spelt my name Leanna rather than Leanne.
One small typo, one very big error. We checked my flight info and I’d done exactly the same.
As Leanna wouldn’t match up to the name on my passport, there was a huge chance I wouldn’t be able to fly if I got to the airport. I decided not to chance it and called the airline to find out if I could change it.
Apparently, I couldn’t as it was so close to the flight date, but I could cancel and rebook. Just days before I was due to fly and an extra £175 was not something I had lying around but if I wanted to go, it was a sacrifice I had to make.
I paid the extra and thought that the rest of the trip would be plain sailing (or flying, I guess?)
Oh, how naive I was. Poor innocent 19-year-old Kirsty
When I got to the airport I went to check-in right away and handed over my passport only for them to tell me that my details weren’t registered on any flight. Obviously, I started to panic. I was there alone and was being told that I didn’t actually have a flight booked. I showed them my receipt and they still couldn’t find my details, so I called STA, the travel agent I had booked with.
Turns out, they had sent through the receipt but hasn’t actually booked me onto the flight. About an hour and a half has passed at this point and it was getting dangerously close to my gate closing and I hadn’t even been through security.
After a lot of stress (and tears) STA booked me onto the flight and the airport arranged transport for me to get through security and to my gate. I was warned that my bag might not make it on time and I wouldn’t know until I got to California.
I was the last person to board my plane, of course, but once I sat down I felt an instant feeling of relief as I was finally off on the biggest adventure of my life.
When I arrived I was lucky to find that my suitcase had made it with me! I am so thankful for the staff at the airport who helped me this day. They probably have things like this happen all the time but I was alone and young and they made sure that I was okay!
I guess as it was my first travel mistake, I should have seen it was a sign of my travel style to come! More mishaps coming soon