In the wise, and also over used, words of Adele – hello from the other side. It was only a few months ago that I applied to study an intensive summer course in France and here I am, freezing my fingers off while living out of my backpack. I’ve been city hopping since New Years Eve and I’ve been to seven cities and Paris is my last until I head down to La Rochelle for 3 weeks. The past 16 days of exploring have been a whirl wind, and the opportunity to travel by myself has allowed me plenty of time to think (and develop).
Before I left my mother gave me an insight into the views I had just a few years ago on travel. They went along the lines of ‘I’m not going to travel anywhere without someone accompanying me’ – oh little Kathleen, how you have grown. The possibility of going overseas to Europe was a great opportunity and one that I did not hesitate to grab because I didn’t have anyone who was joining me.
Solo travel can only be described as a roller coaster. Only that, my roller coaster takes riders into the deep dark blue of the ocean and reaches as high as a sky-rise. It has left me in tears, lead me to be vulnerable, face my fears, and most of all, allowed me to enjoy the little beauties that, in our day-to-day life, we often glance over. With every day it becomes a little easier to face the unknown and make something out of nothing. There comes a moment on your trip where it feels normal to be lost – that’s truly when you start to enjoy the exploration.
One fact that I had to come to terms with was that my travel experience would not be as thrilling/exciting as other’s trips may have been. I’ve seen others go out to clubs, meet tonnes of people, and tick off all the sights in a city but, that’s not what I did. My trip revolved around getting to bed early, window shopping, watching residents interact with each other, and most commonly, wandering the streets aimlessly and getting lost on purpose. There is no way imaginable that my experiences could have replicated those of a group, or if I had an extroverted streak in me. Regardless, I’ve learnt in the past 3 weeks to compare less and enjoy the small things that make me happy.
Traveling solo also has a few pros like meeting people a lot easier. When you’re in a group, people won’t disturb you or ask you questions, but when you’re flying solo you’re only a few moments away from someone talking to you. I’ve had three seperate people ask me directions, one who I had to decline as I had just hopped off the train in Bruges but, thanks to my inbuilt sense of direction, I have been able to help the other two (without Internet!).
The best part about it is that the experiences that I have encountered are my own experiences. I wish sometimes that I could share the small moments that have unfolded in front of me, but I can’t… Last night I was speaking to a woman from the USA who recently went to Prague by herself and she summed up perfectly. She found it hard to not have someone there by her side to rejoice in the little experiences and thoughts she had of paintings she observed, for example. Only when you travel to a non-English speaking country do you miss being able to have small talk with the person next to you.
Solo travel is not for everyone, and I may be one of those people but, I would highly recommend that everyone does it at least once. Whether it’s just to the other side of the country or the other side of the world, having to get yourself out of situations without relying on someone else really builds your confidence in your own abilities. If there is one main thing that these past 16 days have have taught me it would be that I’ve grown my confidence muscle. Not only in myself, but also in having confidence to trust others and being vulnerable with them (yes, it’s okay to ask a million questions!).
So, where to from here? I’ll be making my way down to Paris and onto La Rochelle where I will be attending my International Management and Global Leadership course for 3 weeks. It’s going to be hectic, fun, challenging, intensive, thrilling, and any other adjective you can relate to doing an intensive course in another country. Oh, and guess what! If you want to read a day-by-day recap of what we are doing I am the official blogger for the course and each week AIM overseas will post my thoughts onto their website for the week’s recap!
For now, au revoir, ciao, doei, and auf weidersehen!
“Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection.” – L. Durrell