It all started a few years ago. I had started a new job as a nurse and I finally started having a stable income. Then, I suddenly felt the urge to buy a plane ticket and fly away. I wanted to go out into the world. I had never traveled much before – the most international place I’ve been to was Cancun, Mexico. There was so much to see, so much to learn, so much to explore. The world was waiting for me and I was ready to go.
I’m not going to lie, I was incredibly hesitant. All the stories you hear about women getting kidnapped, robbed, or even worse, were in a constant loop replaying in my head. After much deliberation and hesitancy, I finally bought a plane ticket (and with the extra comfort of knowing I could cancel within 24 hours haha). My first trip was going to be London, Amsterdam, Belgium, & Paris. I was going to stay in several hostels by myself and meet new people and of course, all the fantasies of what was to come filled my head with possibilities.
My first city was London. When I first arrived in London, I was surprised that I actually felt okay. I was not freaking out or had sudden pangs of loneliness. I was fine. I checked into the hostel and I looked around. The hostel was filled with travelers, many of them youthful like myself and……..decidedly intimidating. Suddenly, I felt scared. I don’t know any of these people, how could I talk to them and start a conversation? I was 8 hours away from any friends I knew and suddenly, I had to trust some new strangers?
I have to admit, I picked up my carry-on luggage and went straight to my room (no one else had checked in yet, so I hadn’t met my roomies). After I calmed myself down from my freak out moment, I decided that I wasn’t going to be scared anymore. I had come all this way to travel to learn about myself and to overcome my weaknesses. I was going to overcome my aversion to talking to new people, trusting new people, and start building new relationships.
After exploring and getting lost in London – I had learned that I was incredibly adept at taking public transportation – I finally made it back to my hostel. I had saved my late night hour to hang out in the common area. That was when I saw another girl, who was sitting by herself, seemingly lost in her own thoughts. Maybe she was just like me, also scared to talk to other people! I built up enough courage to finally walk over and introduce myself. It turns out, she was from Kenya and she was also traveling solo. She had also spent the whole day getting lost! We connected right away and we chatted the rest of the night. The next night, I made more friends and built up more courage and confidence. Over time, I had become more comfortable with introducing myself to new people and making new connections.
Every time I travel to a new city, I try my best to make new friends with an open mind. Maybe these friends that I make are just friends for the night or connections for a lifetime. If I had never traveled on my own, I would not have learned so much about myself. The fact that I am able to get out of my comfort zone and connect with another human being on their own journey still amazes me. I’ve taken what I learned and I still apply it in NYC.
Other things I have learned about myself during solo travel that requires it’s own mini shoutout is learning to eat by myself without feeling like everyone is judging me, taking public transportation in available cities and not getting lost, incredible resourcefulness and patience when shit hits the fan (like getting robbed in Belgium or breaking your only pair of shoes and hobbling across Amsterdam), and being okay with being alone and not hearing your own voice for a few weeks.
I encourage everyone to travel by themselves – you never know what you’ll learn about yourself!