Yes, yes, you on the other side of the screen. I heard you want to make a solo trip, but that you’re scared.
I hear you buddy. I was scared too when I embarked on my first solo trip ever a year ago.
I found myself booking a trip to Europe, to visit London and Stockholm for the first time. My Swedish friends were going to be my guide and my mothers, if you would, in Stockholm. But London was an entirely different thing: there, I was alone.
I had to figure out how to move around on my own. I had to find the money exchange boot, on my own – and I knew how crucial it was to find it because, otherwise, I wouldn’t have gotten my Oyster card (blame my credit cards for not having chips).
I still remember my first hour in London.
There I was, standing by the station, waiting for my train to take me to my apartment. Up until the moment it arrived, I had no idea how the tube worked, if I was getting on the right train, if I would understand British English well enough to tell the stations apart (thank god I did).
I was on alert. All the f*cking time. I was scared of people being nice to me, helping me with my bags. I was scared of trying to get off the train and getting smacked by the doors (what…?). I was scared of walking alone at night, or even scared of asking police officers the way.
Looking back now, I laugh at my naivety. I was so inexperienced; a blank canvas ready to be painted with dunno what. I remember having read guides and how-to’s before my trip: wearing a wedding ring so you won’t attract unwanted male attention, never say you’re alone, always say you’re waiting for a friend, do your research in advance… and while all the advice was well intentioned and overall good, I knew, since the moment I stepped out of Heathrow Airport, that they had forgotten to tell me how mind blowing it all was going to be.
This is why I decided to write this post.
It is not just overwhelming because you’re alone. Thing is, that is the last thing that will truly cross your mind when you arrive at your destination.
You will be agape by the cultural shock you’ll experience as soon as you walk out of the airport. The sounds, the smells, the people speaking in a different language (even if you can understand said language), the voice of the lady calling out the stations at the tube (“mind the gap, between the train, and the platform” *actually says it out loud in a velvet-y voice*).
Yet, when you finally emerge from the depths of the station, you will realize YOU ARE REALLY THERE. You made it, my friend. You were able to transport yourself to your desired destination depending solely ON YOU (alright, alright, lets give Google Maps, the pilot who flew the plane and the airport a little bit of credit, shall we?).
But seriously, let it sink babe: you got there without mom and dad’s help.
Your first adventure into the world
The moment of you coming out of that hotel will be mostly engraved in your head in a Disney-like manner: birds will appear to be chirping and you will go around dancing, singing and jumping like you’re an actual Disney princess (plus points if you just happen to see a cute guy crossing the street!). In fact, you might even be tempted to go out in a dress to make it all more dramatic. I personally remember that my first trip to London happened a couple weeks after the movie of Beauty and the Beast with Emma Waston came out, so there you had me, singing like Belle (or trying to, cause I ain’t got a wonderful singing voice). “Little tooown full of liiittle peeeeooopleeeee, waking uuuup to saaaaayyy~~~”.
Getting around the city, taking the public transport, buying coffee and paying it with your own money, ooooh nothing strokes the ego more than independency. Knowing that you can depend on yourself to be happy, feed and provide is a wonderful feeling that, in my opinion, compares to nothing else in this world.
You will feel such a boost of confidence because of this independency, especially if you’re an introvert like me. Since we are kids, introverted kids, we are made to believe that all the things extroverts can do are out of reach for us. It seemed to be unthinkable that an introvert could make a trip on their own to a place they’d never been to like I did. We are not exactly the daring type, aren’t we?
The thought of “I wouldn’t be able to feed myself in a foreign country” has translated into “I can actually choose what comes in my salad at a foreign country” for me.
The thought of “I’ll just stay within City Hall” has translated into “hell yeah I’m going to travel 2 hours into the country to go to a Tour on a deserted place”.
In the end, you come back home a different person.
I am certainly not in a place of comfort anymore. My day to day life has gotten busier in my head, but not because I have a shitload of things to do personal and work wise, no. It’s busy because I am looking for the next adventure, even in the perimeter of my own daily, mundane life. Be it a trip, a book or a new type of food I’d never had before, life is now just an adventure for me. And all of this is possible because one 2nd of June of 2017, I dared to travel alone.