21hrs of travel, 5000 miles, all by myself. My first time flying solo, how my experience went.
Travel is not a reward for working, it's education for living. -Anonymous
Throughout my life, I have been lucky to travel a lot with my family. Whether it be the east coast, west coast, Latin American countries, and even South American countries, I've done my fair share of traveling. However, it's always been with family.
This summer though, I was able to fly from Paraguay (where I currently live) to Michigan, to spend time with my family and friends. Now, being 16, traveling alone is a lot more complicated than it may seem, especially while leaving Paraguay.
Paraguay to Sao Paulo, Brazil
Leaving Paraguay didn't go as well as we had hoped. There was some confusion with my documentation and permissions from my parents, but I got out of the country and that's all that matters. (with the help of my mom having to return to the airport)
The flight was fairly short, only about 2hrs, not crowded. My day of traveling was starting off pretty darn good. Next time though, when I'm heading back to Paraguay, I'll definitely eat a good meal before leaving. Tip: Plane food is usually pretty gross and if you have a sensitive stomach like me eat something good before you have a long day of travels. I had left around 1:30 pm but hadn't eaten anything for lunch and let me tell you, that was a bad idea. It kind of set me up to have a stomach ache for my entire day of traveling. Live and learn I guess.
When I arrived in Sao Paulo I basically knew where I was going since I had flown through that airport many times. I got my first Starbucks in 6months everything was good. It was until I was looking for my gate and ended up staring at a wall that said my gate was in that direction but not having a door I could go through. Let me tell you, I was very confused. Thankfully, I had a 5hr layover and just sat down for awhile before trying to find my gate again. And yes, the wall did open up later on. I'm assuming it was closed because no planes were in that section or I just didn't know what I was doing.
Sao Paulo to Atlanta
The longest flight. 9hrs of sitting in one uncomfortable position, only getting up to use the restroom. What joy. Really it wasn't horrible though. It was an overnight flight so if you can sleep on planes great, and if you can't (like me) you watch movies until you barely function. Like I said before, my stomach was upset the entire time but drinking lots of water helped.
Tip: Drink lots of water while flying, the lack of humidity in the cabins can really dehydrate you. Also if you eat anything with sodium while flying and aren't drinking water you can swell up a little (At least for me. This was another live and learn)
I was able to watch three movies without completely exhausting myself, slept on and off a bit before giving up on that. It definitely wasn't the worse flight I've been on.
When I landed in Atlanta I had to first go through customs, which was a lot easier than leaving Paraguay, before I got my luggage, moved it, and then headed over to my next gate. At this point, I was pretty darn exhausted and ready to be in Michigan. I took the tram to section B, because yes the Atlanta airport is so huge that it needs a tram that goes to each section of gates, and laid down across a bench.
Since it's an international airport it had good free wifi and I was finally able to use my phone again. I spent my layover, about 3hrs, talking on the phone with family who were excited to see me.
Atlanta to Grand Rapids, Michigan
Probably my best flight overall just because it meant I was finally close to seeing my family. One of the hardest things about being so far away is never getting to see family in person, this flight was like the bridge to finally get to see them.
It was only about a 2hr flight, a little bumpy, but the excitement was making me smile the entire time. Tip: Don't forget to pack earbuds. They're great for on the plane and in airports when you have nothing to do and no one to talk with. I just listened to music as I waited for the time to go by, the excitement bubbling up every time the pilot spoke.
Arriving in Michigan reenergized me. I sped walked towards the exit, knowing my family was waiting for me on the other side. And when I saw them the first thing I did was give them all a huge hug. Now that was the best part about flying. Bridging the gap between loved ones will always be the best feeling.
I would recommend everyone to travel alone at least once in their lifetime. If you can't or it's too challenging as a minor, then as an adult. Either way, I know for myself I want to keep traveling and experiencing as much as I can. Because this way of learning has always been more fulfilling to me than anything else.