In 1990, when their parents flew out to Karachi to visit a sick relative, Joanne was sent up from Canterbury to Weatherfield to stay with Flick at 7 Coronation Street. She had no sooner arrived when she turned the head of Andy McDonald, who saw her taxi pull up and helped her with her bag. The next day, she let Andy show her what Weatherfield had to offer, getting to know him as he did so. To remove the competition, Andy told Joanne that Steve was way younger than him but she was soon put straight by Jenny Bradley. Liking Andy but not crazy about him, Joanne went along to a meeting at Jim's Cafe after receiving a romantic poem inviting her. There, she discovered that it was actually Steve who had written it, despite him not having met or even seen her before. Andy was instantly cast aside as Joanne fancied Steve more and started going out with him.
As Steve was 16 and Joanne 15, Flick didn't like them seeing each other, as she was afraid they would take things too far and she would be blamed by their parents. When she caught them in a clinch at No.7, Flick threw Steve out and forbade Joanne from seeing him. Joanne ignored her sister's rules and went out with Steve to North Cross Park. To Flick's relief, their parents returned to the country shortly thereafter, so she started making arrangements to travel to France with Jenny on holiday and drop Joanne off in Canterbury on the way. Joanne tried to get Flick to change her mind by pretending to want to see more of her, but when she stood firm, Steve and Joanne left the Street on Jim's motorbike under the cover of night.
The teens headed north and arrived at the Lake District the next morning. Though glad to be alone with Steve, Joanne had doubts about not letting anyone know where they were, and after they spent the night roughing it in an derelict house, the appeal began to wear off. Steve was well equipped to handle himself away from home, breaking into a caravan with ease, but Joanne refused to to stay there in case the owners returned. They reached a low when the bike broke down and Steve had to abandon it, but Steve managed to secure them jobs washing up in a hotel kitchen for £1.50 an hour, plus accommodation. When she discovered that Steve had agreed to a double room, Joanne suspected he was going to try and talk her into having sex but when she complained about the room, he was indifferent on the matter and told her to stop moaning. Joanne then came to her senses and walked out on Steve, planning to hitchhike to Weatherfield on her own.
After sleeping rough, Joanne caught lifts from two men, the first of whom spooked her with dirty jokes, and the second tried to make her take the "scenic route" back to Manchester. Unsure of his intentions, Joanne ditched him when he went into the gents at a service station. She arrived back in Coronation Street late, after more than 24 hours travel, receiving a warm welcome from Flick and her dad, who had travelled up from Canterbury when he heard that she'd gone missing. The next day, Joanne refused to say much about what had happened and, out of loyalty to Steve, she didn't tell anyone where he was until she saw how worried Liz McDonald was about him. After opening up about her experiences to Jenny, who had once went missing in France, Joanne was taken back home by her dad.