"What I Learned From My Solo Travel Experience"
Earlier this year, I took on a bold adventure and decided to travel to Europe for almost two months, alone. Yes, alone. I traveled to six countries. It was the best experience of my life. This wasn't the first that I traveled out of the country, but it was definitely the most life changing trip. I will admit that I was super nervous before I left, but that didn’t bother me much. I knew I could do it. I just needed to get over the immediate doubt that took over my mind. I kept procrastinating to buy my ticket; I knew I couldn't continue to live that way. I needed a break and this is what I’ve been asking for my entire life. One cold day I clicked the “Buy” button, and knew that I could never turn back.
Why did I do this? Why did I want to travel to Europe for almost two months alone? I always wanted to embark on a solo travel adventure. I really didn’t know how. I was working a lot of hours and had a very demanding job. I couldn't take the appropriate amount of time I needed to really see the world the way that I wanted to see it. After I quit my job, I knew that this was the ideal time to “Eat, Pray and Love.”
I admired Julia Roberts’ character in “Eat, Pray, Love” so much for following her heart and embarking on a journey of a lifetime. I am a firm believer that everyone should take at least one solo adventure in their lifetime. It doesn't have to be long. We all need time to spend with ourselves and connect with the world.
I enjoyed seeing the world at my own pace. I could wake up when I wanted to wake up, create my own schedule and do whatever I wanted to do. You are not met with complaints and do not have to accommodate other people. I didn’t have to deal with the drama of someone not wanting to do something that I really wanted to do. I roamed the world free.
I noticed, during my life, that I usually go everywhere with a friend, doing so I probably missed out on opportunities to meet new people. I met a ton of great people from all over the world, in every city that I traveled to. Would I have met the same people if I was not alone? Probably not. Your friends become a security blanket. When you are by yourself, you are forced to make new friends so you can have a good time. Sometimes I met people by complete accident. Those were the moments that I chose to embrace. As an adult making new friends can be tough, but mainly because we are never forced to. Traveling alone forces you to connect with people. That is one of the things I enjoyed the most.
I was able to face my fears and take more risks. During one point of my trip, I missed the bus to Spain. The bus I was supposed to take wasn’t clearly identified and the bus company did not send out an email stating that this particular bus was operated by a contract driver. I was nervous and afraid. I had no idea what I was going to do. But, I was alone and did not have family or friends to help me. This made me stronger. I had to figure out a way to make it to Spain by creating a new plan. I was okay. I took this challenge one step at a time and figured out a way to get through it. My biggest fear––being stranded in a foreign country––actually came true. I was able to work through it.
Eventually, I became a master organizer and planner. I could plan every detail down to a millisecond. I was on it. My coordination skills were enhanced. I was so good at logistics that it started to become second nature. Not only is this a skill that helped me during travel, but it also helped me at life. When I returned home I overbooked myself for several occasions on the same day. It was extremely easy for me to create a travel plan and sort through the logistics so I could keep my word and didn’t have to cancel one of my plans. This made me feel good. I’ve always been good at planning, but I was never this good. Traveling alone taught me how to tackle challenges, making sure I work my way through them.
Solo travel teaches you life lessons that are often out of reach. You begin to humble yourself when you see how people outside of the United States live. I received many life changing experiences. And I had time to reflect on it. I put into perspective everything that I was grateful for. I saw cultures from a different frame. I was like a photographer, catching aspects of the world from different angles, knowing that each angle told a miraculously different story. My memories and experiences became more meaningful to me. I will never forget the people I met and the places I saw. Some of these places I hope to visit again in the future. If not, that will be okay too. Traveling by myself allowed me to see cities for what they really are, and not how the world wanted me to see them.
By: Rachel M. Roberts