I can’t realllly remember when I decided I wanted to do a gap year, I feel like I’ve just always known. I sat there watching as my friends packed their bags and left for uni to complete prestigious degrees in law and psychology. It’s hard to say I didn’t feel left out but I know in my heart I’m happy with my choices. I’ve been preparing for my trip to South Africa for months, filling a cardboard box in my room with things to pack, ticking them off my kit list. I’ve never really felt nervous to be travelling on my own, this makes me uneasy as surely I should be a little panicky about something? The night before I left my family threw me a Bon Voyage party, this involved balloons, food, table tennis and humorous card from my niece.
I woke up to the sound of my alarm, leaving enough time to enjoy a bacon butty and watch the Lion King (my favourite film) one last time before leaving. Me, my mum, my stepdad, my sister and my rucksack all headed to Manchester airport, blaring Foo Fighters on the way, I didn’t know when I would next be able to fully appreciate them. Before checking in we enjoyed a Frappuccino and had one last prep talk, there were a few tears as we all hugged goodbye and I felt a little bad for not being sadder. I remember once I went through the barrier I turned round every few seconds to see if they were still in view and then gave a big wave. My flight to Heathrow was delayed, I later discovered that this is uncommon for domestic flights and most passengers look like they want to throw themselves off a cliff as they are travelling for business. This being said I was sat next to a very kind woman who asked me all about my trip (she had seen my mum blubbing away saying goodbye.) Heathrow airport seemed quite intimidating at first, it’s hugeeee! (and yet doesn’t have a maccies??) I found an Irish girl at the airport who was volunteering at the same project as me so this was reassuring.
The plane was surprisingly small, I felt cramped next to the window and strangers who didn’t speak a word to me the whole eleven hours. My first long- haul flight experience was not a good one. I had developed a bit of a cough before departing and so would burst into a coughing fit every few minutes causing the woman in front of me to turn round and very rudely announce ‘do you have the flu?’ The air hostess seemed disgusted that I didn’t want an evening meal, if you could even call it that. All I really wanted was some water but it seemed to be hours before I was offered any. I tried to sleep but every time the plane dipped a little I jerked up in my seat, I can get really nervous when flying. I tried watching a movie, the selection wasn’t that great but I settled for Mad Max, watched about 10 minutes and couldn’t any longer due to a horrible headache. Instead I opted for the screen with the plane flying across it and watched that for eleven hours. I’d never been happier to be off a plane.
But there I was, Johannesburg airport, a whole new country, a whole new continent, all my possessions on my back and endless possibilities ahead of me.