Amy Dodson once said, “Don’t ever accept anyone else’s preconceived limitations. If there’s something you want to do, there isn’t any reason you can’t do it.” Don’t you hate when someone else gives you an opinion on what you should be doing? And yes, I’m just as guilty as the next person allowing those same people to dictate so many aspects of my life. But if there is one thing is this world I will never apologize for, never stop pursuing, it’s travel.
When Gus had an exciting career opportunity come up and could no longer make our planned trip to Europe, I had a choice. I could either cancel my ticket or I could go alone. I have traveled to many US cities alone with no issues. But I had never been overseas without Gus. So when he asked me what I wanted to do, I instantly knew I had to go; and if that meant going alone, well then bring on that adventure, too. I learned so much about myself and the world around me during my solo travel. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you feel comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable. -Clifton Fadiman
Imagine landing in a foreign country with just you and your carry on in a sea of strange words, faces, and surroundings. Now take that and throw yourself on a train where they only announce the stops in German, and you can’t read your train ticket. I’ll never forget throwing caution to the wind and begging the people around me to help. The doors darn near closed as I barely squeezed onto the platform. Talk about a rocket launch out of my comfort zone.
That was the first of many “uncomfortable” moments. But without those? I wouldn’t have forced myself to stop and pay attention to the details. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to really listen to a language in all of it’s foreign beauty and somehow just barely learn to make out the words I needed to get by. In travel and in life, there is so much to be gained from taking just one step in the ‘wrong’ direction.
Traveling solo does not always mean you’re alone. You meet marvelous people along the way and make connections that last a lifetime. – Anonymous
So many questions run through your head when you’re alone in a foreign city. Do I look like a tourist? Is there an ‘easy target’ on my back being a woman traveling solo? What I was most anxious about prior to my trip, turned out to be the biggest blessing and most beautiful lesson I learned.
I met some truly amazing people during my time abroad. Complete strangers who showed me the utmost kindness in some of the most stressful points of my trip. They gave me faith in humanity, in the world, in different cultures finding a way to navigate this world together. It was encouraging. It was life-changing.
Now, while I met so many wonderful, friendly people, I still felt very alone….often. Seeing some of these sights for the first time literally took my breath away. I wanted to turn to someone and say, “Can you believe this?!” When I’d see groups or a couple together, I felt isolated. But then something happened. I realized in a sea of people, I wasn’t ever quite alone. I was my own company, and you know what? I’m not half bad to hang with. I learned how to be alone and be content and happy.
Life shrinks or expands in proportion with one’s courage. – Anais Nin
I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a few bumps in the road. When my ride didn’t show to take me to the bus station; when I got soaked walking to the train station in the dark; when I was told my ticket was non-transferrable…not exactly fun moments for me. I was ready to pack it up and go home, y’all. But even thousands of miles away, I have a husband who keeps me grounded. I called him with teary eyes and told him my ordeal. You know what he said to me? “What is your gut telling you to do? You have to do this on your own, Hay.” And he was SO right.
My gut told me to buck up, buy a new ticket, and figure out a game plan. My gut wasn’t going to let a few hiccups in the road stop me from my adventure. I listened to my gut many times this trip. From the sketchy roads I decided weren’t necessary to walk through, to the crowded subways where I had to be careful with my belongings. Sometimes you need those challenges to remind you just how capable you are to make it.
It’s good to have an end to journey toward, but it’s the journey that matters in the end. – Ursula K. Le Guin
Every single decision I made on this solo trip was entirely of my own choosing. I got to decide where I wanted to eat and when. I chose the path I walked and how long I lingered inside shops. There was no rush to see things. Honestly, it was the first time I didn’t have any rigid plan for travel. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what my days would look like. But I did know that every second would be full of decisions I made and things I wanted. We all deserve moments like that. Where the spaces in between the final destination is where the beauty lies. And all those moments big and small? They’re ours for the taking.
There is a kind of magicness about going far away and then coming back all changed. – Kate Douglas Wiggin
Every time I go and come back, something inside me changes. I feel liberated. Travel is the best form of education. I visit a place and my every sense is awakened. We occupy such a small space in this world. To be able to travel to even a fraction of it with open hearts and open minds is a luxury we cannot take lightly. I am passionate about the world. I am fascinated by different cultures. Since my first solo trip, I’ve found myself being drawn to the places less talked about. My heart is ready for an adventure unlike any other. Who am I? I’m not sure yet…but I know that there is a big world out there waiting to help me figure it out.
So, I’ll leave you with one last quote. One last urge to get you to just…. go. You don’t need a companion. You only need yourself. Give it a shot. I promise it’s worth it.
Traveling alone will be the scariest, most liberating, life changing experience of your life. Try it at least once.