I wrote a post a couple of months ago about why I like traveling solo, and after my most recent international trip, I figured now’s a good time to follow up with what I’ve learned in the process!
Traveling alone is it’s own adventure, regardless of where you are. I’m Type A in that I typically need to know where I’m going, when I’ll get there, exactly HOW I’ll get there, what I’ll need in my suitcase, etc. I’ve never been a “go with the flow” kind of person, because in the past, those type of people have driven me absolutely nuts. My Type A-ness makes me borderline inflexible, which is great when you need to stick to a schedule, but not great when a situation calls for flexibility. Forced flexibility has always made me extremely anxious.
Buuut then I started traveling by myself. I remember the first time flexibility forced itself upon me- I’d just arrived in Paris, I’d taken the RER train and then metro to the 6th arrondissement and was attempting to find the apartment where I’d be staying. But I couldn’t find it- the instructions were a little confusing, I didn’t have a map, my phone didn’t have international service, and my French was super rusty so I couldn’t really ask for help. I was freaking out in a big way. But freaking out didn’t magically make my French any better, or cause my directions to suddenly make sense, so I took a deep breath and began to problem-solve. And you know what? It ended up being totally fine. I stopped into a travel agency to ask for directions, wandered around for a bit, and finally found where I was supposed to be going. No harm done.
Then a few days later, when I was heading to Ireland, I had another opportunity to let flexibility force itself upon me. I’d booked a B&B in Galway, and somehow I’d misunderstood- I thought the Cliffs of Moher would be biking or even walking distance from Galway. NOPE. I’d been checked in at the B&B for all of 5 minutes when I realized my mistake, so you know what I did? I walked downstairs, found my host, and told them I was so sorry but I was actually going to leave- I really wanted to be in Doolin instead. So the host helped me find another B&B owner in Doolin, I booked a room, then I went to the bus station and booked a ticket that would take me there. No previous plan, no internet service, just good old-fashioned spontaneity. And those days in Doolin ended up being some of my favorite from the entire trip!
More than anything, traveling by myself has taught me three things:
- I am far more capable than I previously thought. Whenever things got hard during travels in the past, I’d just look to someone else to solve the issue for me. These days, I’m 100% more confident in my ability to problem-solve.
- Flexibility is a beautiful thing, and I’m learning to embrace it. I love a good old-fashioned schedule and travel itinerary as much as the next person, but having the ability to go with the flow results in less anxiety, and opens me up to new possibilities I hadn’t previously considered.
- I’m braver and more courageous than I ever knew. Truthfully, the fear of looking like an incompetent foreigner is still enough to give me pause at times, but I’m learning to push past the fear in order to get what I need or go where I’m led. And yes, I make look like a fool with my broken French, but at least I’m TRYING. And the more I try, the better my French becomes, and the more likely I am to be able to pursue something new once the language barrier is down!
Is traveling solo a challenge? Absolutely! But it’s one that I’m willing to fight for and through- the lessons I’ve learned about myself have made all the “I-just-want-to-scream” moments absolutely worth it, and I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything in the world!