This past weekend was the first time I have traveled solo to another country. The first time I took in the culture of a new city by myself. The first time during my study abroad experience being truly alone.
As nervous and scared as I was to go to Dublin by myself, the experience of traveling solo was so much more liberating than I could have imagined.
I booked my flight and hostel on a whim after searching on Skyscanner for cheap flights that weekend to “anywhere.” When I told my parents, their first reaction was “Wow, you’re so brave!” when I’m sure they really wanted to say “Please, please don’t go by yourself!!” I could tell they were worried (as any parent would be), but nonetheless they supported and encouraged me to follow my heart.
Traveling solo was something that I had read romantically about on travel blogs – seeing how solo travel positively impacted these people and ignited a spark in their lives inspired me to take this opportunity for myself.
So here’s the five truths I came to learn from my first solo trip:
1. Sometimes you will feel awkward and uncomfortable.
Throughout the weekend, there were countless times when I had to eat by myself at a café or restaurant. Since i’m used to always eating with friends or family, it felt slightly unnatural to me and made me a bit uncomfortable in the beginning. I was nervous that people were judging me for being by myself. After a few days, I had to get over myself and realize that nobody cares. People are so wrapped up in their own lives that nobody is even paying attention to you!
2. You might not always feel safe
I arrived at my hostel in Dublin at midnight. As I walked to my room I was verbally harassed by two men in the recreation room. A bit shaken up, I found my room and opened the door to more disaster. I was on the top bunk and there was already a man below my bed whose snoring sounded like a dying animal. There was nowhere to put my luggage, so I crawled up to my top bunk with all of my valuables and tucked them under my pillow. After about an hour of restlessness, a group of men came into the room and did illicit drugs. I did not feel safe in that 12 bed mixed room. I had only payed $45 for 3 nights accommodation, and I now understood why. Thankfully after a desperate phone call to my dad, he managed to find me a nice hotel that would let me check in so late at night.
Lesson learned: never sacrifice your safety or comfort for a cheap price tag!!
3. Even if it seems like it, you are never truly alone
After one day alone in the city, I was craving human interaction. I decided to join a free walking tour of Dublin where I met a mother and daughter from the Netherlands. The daughter was studying nursing in Dublin so that she could become a volunteer nurse in Africa. If I was with a friend on that tour I doubt I would have even met those two wonderful women and learned their stories. Being alone allowed me to open myself up more to strangers and connect to people around the world.
4. You will learn to trust yourself
After saying goodbye to my friends in Madrid, I set off to the airport by myself. Since the airport is so far from the city center, I had to navigate two trains and an airport shuttle using only my brain and a map. I was so nervous and I barely trusted myself to reach the airport on time. Magically, I did! This was only one of the milestones and moments when I surprised myself and achieved more than I thought I could alone.
5. You will feel a new sense of accomplishment when you finish
Traveling solo has taught me a new level of independence and courage. I feel so empowered now – like I can take on anything I really put my mind to. I have never felt so mature and strong as both a female and student.
So from one solo traveler to another, I urge you do things that are uncomfortable. Make new memories. Learn. Travel. Be selfish. Be safe.
I promise you won’t regret it.
Ria Taylor is a junior studying integrated marketing communications. She is studying Spring semester in Madrid, Spain.