Most people don’t view traveling solo as an option, well at least I didn’t. Just the thought of traveling somewhere by yourself, without friends or people you know, is frightening and sometimes unimaginable. That fear takes over your mental thoughts, and you imagine every horrible thing that can happen to you…. until you actually take a solo travel trip. At minimum, it’s nerve-wracking, but at most it’s exhilarating and eye-opening. After that, solo travel becomes an option.
My first solo trip was when I studied abroad in Denmark and Amsterdam, although I didn’t consider it much of a solo trip, since I was meeting up with the instructors and students from other schools once I landed in Copenhagen. So I wasn’t technically alone, but I didn’t know anyone who I was there with me. And let me add, this was the first trip I took without my parents or siblings. Considering this was my first solo trip and I was flying internationally, with a layover, I was sooooo nervous, but it somewhat came normal to me. I waited for my flights, maneuvered through 3 different airports (JFK, Charles De Gaulle Airport & Copenhagen Airport) and safely made it to my destination, with the help of my trusty headphones and playlist. When I found the group that read “Danish Institute for Study Abroad” I let go a sigh of relief, because I had just travel cross continent, without my parents, for the very first time and had no real troubles. Now I just had to get through these 3 weeks, without them and then I’d be back in my comfort zone. That was my thoughts when I first got there, but I assure you, it changed when it was time to leave.
I made friends while I was studying abroad, good friends too. People I still think about today and wonder how they’re doing or where they are. It wasn’t hard either. During the application process, I chose to live in a student shared dormitory with students from different schools, not just DIS. So when I arrived, I was living with both DIS students and a plethora of other students, who had no idea who we were, in a dormitory that was further away than traditional dorming and required a longer commute, but allowed for more independence, since I didn’t have to share a room, only a kitchen. I say all of this to say, I chose the most immersive and independent experience I could, but I was still scared. I had to do laundry on my own, cook on my own, commute to school on my own and make the best of my experience on my own. Now prior to this, I was away at school, so I already had to do a lot of this, but now I was in a completely different country and continent, miles away from my family. I was essentially living on my own in Denmark. It was a new experience for me.
However, once I got into the swing of things, it felt like I was a local. Although I did live with other DIS students, none of them had class with me. My classmates were completely different from my dorm mates, which forced me to meet more people, but again it pushed me further out of my comfort zone. I would wake up, have breakfast and then head to class on the bus. I learned how to use the transit system and I actually knew where I was going… most of the time. After school, if I didn’t want to head home, I’d explore the neighborhood around the school or just sit and observe. On the weekends, my friends and I would do touristy things like canal tours and eating in Nyhavn. During the nights, we would go out to bars and restaurants feeling like locals, even though everyone knew we were tourists. In Denmark, I typically hung out with my dorm mates but during the week in Amsterdam, my classmates were the people I explored with. Yet, nothing changed, we still acted as locals, went out as locals, ate out as locals, while studying the history and experience of the human sex trafficking trade and prostitution. There was even a point where one of my closest friends and I went out to a bar in Amsterdam late night, by ourselves and walked home by ourselves after. Now, it probably wasn’t the safest thing to do, but at no point did I feel unsafe. And it’s an experience I’d never forget. I couldn’t believe I was in the streets of Amsterdam, walking back to our hotel, as if we had lived here our entire lives. It just felt normal!
By the time the program ended, I was no longer scared, and wished I had stayed for the longer program instead. Realizing my fears got the best of me, I certainly regretted not going for 6 weeks. It was this experience, that started ALL of this. My passion for travel, my love for exploring and understanding the world around us, started the moment I stepped foot off that plane in Copenhagen. It was the moment I stepped out of my comfort zone, that I realized the importance of travel. But I didn't realize what I was doing then and that it was considered solo travel. I didn’t even realize the magnitude of the affect studying abroad had on me until later on in life. It’s the reason I started this blog. Yet I was still not fond of solo travel. If I couldn’t get someone to go with me, going was out of the question. It was almost as if I had forgotten that I had already done solo travel before. I was forgetting the way studying abroad made me feel, especially as a solo traveler.
And now 5 years later, as I took my first official solo trip as a blogger and second overall, I was reminded of my experience in Denmark. I was reminded why solo travel is an option. During my trip to Atlanta, I was able to do what I wanted, go where I wanted and see what I wanted to see. I didn’t have to worry about booking a trip with a friend and waiting for them to be ready or seeing if they could get the time off, etc. Additionally, the solitude of being by myself and maneuvering through a city I wasn’t familiar with, really taught me a lot about myself and what I’m capable of. I had the same experience while studying abroad. One minute you’re like how am I going to do this? Where am I going? What if I get lost? and then the next minute you’re not even questioning yourself, you’re just exploring and commuting by yourself and seeing the sights and learning new things. At first you may be nervous, but don’t let that be the reason you don’t do something. I let fear determine how long I studied abroad for and I almost let fear dictate whether I was going to Atlanta or not. But the most important thing when considering solo travel is to never let fear stop you from doing something great! That fear or nervousness or anxiety means you are heading in the right direction. It means you should prepare yourself for growth, because you are moving out of your comfort zone. And once you’re able to do that your opportunities are endless. Now it’s definitely not to say all your trips should be solo travel, because it’s always fun traveling with others, but if there is a trip you’ve been dying to take and none of your friends or family can take the trip with you, book it yourself or at the very least consider taking the trip solo as an option.
LIFE BEGINS AT THE END OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE