I came to SL in 2008 with a large number of friends from another online world that was closing. Some of them had been in SL for a while and gave all us newbies very generous assistance, including orientation tours, which were extremely helpful, and notecards about essentials like where to get a free AO. We kind of stuck together in our own hangouts for a long time. There were lots of parties - it was wonderful! We went on exploration field trips - Black Swan, Da Vinci Gardens, Ivory Tower of Prims, Starry Night, Numbakulla. Someone took me to Bare Rose, which became my favorite store for years. I was completely hooked by the creativity of it all.
My few early attempts to venture out on my own led to some encounters that are funny in retrospect but terrified me at the time. I even started over with a new avatar because I was afraid of being stalked.
The community provided a changing room refuge for us new immigrants, and that was my first home. I did nothing the first two weeks (outside of group activities) but hide out there, working on my avatar. I would dash out to the freebie stores, scuttle back home and try on all my spoils. I didn't want to spend money on a skin - they were dreadfully expensive then and mostly disappointing - so I did some research and found the Eloh Eliot files and made my own skin, which I wore for months. It was the only thing I made for a long time.
My most vivid memory of that original newbie tour is seeing this small red arrow on my screen that moved around and would not go away. I kept asking people what the red arrow was and nobody knew what i was talking about. In later days the red arrow would be there sometimes and other times not. I am embarrassed to recall how long it took me to figure out that red arrow came from opening the World Map.