Missed Flights and Food Poisoning: My First Solo Travel Experience

I’ve read for many years about the wonders of solo travel – why it’s good for you, how to stay safe, why everyone should do it at some point, etc. I’ve always wanted to travel solo, but the first time I ever did, it was completely by accident.

bell tower river in zurich

On my way home from Barcelona last summer, I had a stopover in Zürich for one hour. That airport’s a big one, but seasoned plane-chaser-afterer that I am, I figured an hour would be more than enough to make my connection. But of course, there would be no story if all had gone as planned.

In typical Spanish fashion, my plane departed late from Barcelona… exactly one hour late, meaning I had exactly zero minutes to sprint across the airport at full speed. I arrived at my gate sweaty and breathless, just in time to watch my plane pull away from the terminal because of course, in typical Swiss fashion, that plane had left exactly on time. 

city street zurich swiss flag buildings

This was the first time I had ever missed a flight (shocking, I know, considering I’m late for everything) so I was quite a bit stressed. Throw in the fact that back in Boston, my dad was at the doctor’s office for a very serious visit, and I was on the verge of a breakdown. Luckily, a kind man at the counter was patient with me while I choked out my story. 

Swiss Airlines rebooked me for the same flight the next day, gave me a room for the night at a 3-star hotel, a dinner at said hotel, and tickets to ride the train into town to explore before my flight the following day. It was definitely a major relief, as I know how expensive Switzerland can be!

All checked in at the hotel, I prepared to go downstairs for my first-ever dinner alone at a restaurant. Traveling solo has always been something I’ve wanted to do, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t nervous when it finally came to it. With a Zürich guide in hand that I took from the night desk, I headed downstairs with my meal ticket.

zurich lake ducks swans sunset

Looking for something authentically Swiss on the menu, I recognized Käsespätzle, a German-style mac n’ cheese that I had previously tasted while skiing in Austria. Perhaps you grew up eating mac n’ cheese like I did, but let me tell you, this version is on a whole other level and does not play around. The dish is perhaps 75% cheese, 25% noodles, and 80% chance of a stomach ache (even if you aren’t lactose intolerant,) but 100% delicious. I thought I was equipped to handle it.

I was wrong.

Immediately after finishing my dinner, I felt wrong. It was definitely pain beyond a lactose overdose. I went upstairs and immediately got into bed, somehow falling asleep despite the massive stomach ache. At 2 in the morning, I awoke in a pool of sweat only to run to the bathroom and battle it out with food poisoning. It really wasn’t the first solo travel experience I had in mind.

It was very hard not to say “why me” in the moment, but luckily for me, I have a very resilient stomach and was able to get up the next day and make it in time for a free walking tour of Zürich in the city center. It’s definitely on my list to go back and explore the city and surrounding areas another time when I’m not super sick the night before. 

Sometimes when you imagine something over and over again, when it actually happens, the experience is nothing like you ever imagined it would be. However, despite my rather accidental and pathetic first attempt at traveling solo, I’m excited to give it another go in the future. Next time, though, I’ll go easy on the cheese. 

church tower river in zurich

May 14, 2018

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