• Catherine Armstrong

Solo Travel Day 1: Everything Happens For a Reason

On July 8th, 2019, I was running off of four hours of sleep and caffeine.

After spending the few remaining hours before my trip with my family, I had to rush from my parent’s house an hour away to tekMountain to present my trip to the company, rush to run some last-minute errands, rush to pick up vitamin C because I felt like I was getting sick, rush to my apartment to make sure I had everything I needed, and rush back to my parent’s house to begin packing for one month of solo travel through two seasons.

Haha, my life is a broken record of last-minute prep. This pressure is nothing new.

I zipped my suitcase closed at 1:00 AM on July 9th, 2019, and laid in bed with my eyes closed until I had to get up and go to the airport. My mind was racing with thoughts of “What the hell am I about to do?”/ “This is amazing!”/ “Holy. Crap.”/ “I can’t believe I have the opportunity to do this!”/ “What the hell am I about to do?”/ “This is AMAZING”/ “A needless list of fears of what could potentially happen”/ “This is aMaZiNg”/ “What the hell am I about to do?!”

Two hours later, dark and early, my alarm went off at 3:30 AM letting me know it was time to get up, go to the airport, and begin this journey.

My sweet parents took me to ILM for my 5:50 AM flight to Austin, TX, the first stop on my journey.

My mom asked me if I was nervous.

I was not nervous per se because I had traveled internationally before. However, I had always been with at least one other person. This trip was my first trip with just me, myself, and I.

Because I would be alone, my stomach felt like it was sitting directly under my lungs, but I was excited.

My parents dropped me off with a quick hug.

I walked into ILM.

An entire year of work and anticipation led up to this moment.

I had a very important meeting scheduled for 4:00 PM that day and was so excited for what the day would bring.

I put my trusty Eddie Bauer suitcase on the scale and waited for the lady behind the counter [Susan] to print out the tag.

She was making small talk and said, “What are you doing in Philadelphia?”

I told her that PHL was my connection, and my destination was Austin, TX.

She said, “Hmmm… well, it looks like your bag is just going to Philadelphia. Let me see what’s going on.”

It turns out that my flight from PHL -> AUS was canceled, and I never received a notification…

… and every other flight was booked.

The person who I was so excited to meet told me earlier that he would be traveling for the rest of the time that I would be in Austin, so today was the only day I would be able to meet him.

Susan continued to check every possible option.

Finally, she told me that there was nothing to be done. Every possible flight was booked.

By this time, it was closer to 5:00 AM, and more people were arriving at the airport.

She handed me a card with the American Airlines customer service number. I thanked her for her help, took my suitcase off of the scale, and stepped out of line.

A year’s worth of work and anticipation + being utterly exhausted from living off of four hours of sleep that had happened two days ago + feeling sick + the disappointment that I would not be able to meet this person and make this great connection for tekMountain = Trying to keep a couple of tears from rolling down my face as I called the customer service number.

I called customer service while “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers played over the airport speakers. (Side note: since when do airports play music??)

Nothing could be done, so I rescheduled my flight for the next day. I sent an email to my contact letting him know that I would not be able to get to Austin in time and thanked him for being willing to meet me.

I texted my mom, and she came to pick me up.

Haha, she had been to Wilmington and back twice before 6:00 AM and had somehow managed to cook bacon somewhere in-between. I’m pretty sure moms are not human.

I went home, finally slept, and woke up to daylight, feeling healthy, and an email from my contact connecting me to someone else in the company to meet later in the week.

Travel Tip #1: If possible, try not to schedule an important meeting on a travel day. It adds way too much stress.

Travel Tip #2: Things happen. Let a tear or two out if needed. Then, slap a smile on your face and enjoy the journey! Everything happens for a reason. (The person I ended up meeting and interviewing on the podcast later in the week [Trevor Boehm with Techstars Austin] was, first of all, an entrepreneurial GENIUS and, second, the director of Techstars Impact, the only social impact accelerator of the entire international Techstars community. I learned so much and am so excited to finish editing his episode.)


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