I learned a few Things about Myself from Traveling Solo

Traveling is all about experiencing more of the world, and broadening your horizons both physically and metaphorically. Some of the things I discovered about myself, I wasn’t expecting. After being home, I have spent so much time reminiscing and reflecting on who I am now, versus who I was before I boarded my flight to Iceland and beyond. Since today is the first day of the New Year, I have found myself contemplating the changes in myself again. I grew as a person in so many unique and fascinating ways! Travel truly is a mirror in which we get a chance to see ourselves more clearly and more fully. So, here are a few of the things I discovered while gazing at myself from that vantage.

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Edinburgh, Scotland.

1. I can find my way!

I get lost so easily. SO VERY EASILY. Even in my home state, I use the GPS on my phone to get around most places. My first time leaving the country, I went to Iceland. Armed with my t-mobile phone plan, I thought I would have data and service in all the countries I had intended to visit. However, this was not the case in Iceland.

My entire time in Reykjavik, I had to wander around with a map, attempting to find my way. This was surprisingly pleasant, and I suddenly found myself enjoying being lost for the first time. I also found myself learning to navigate more effectively, which was helpful during the rest of my trip. I proceeded to get hopelessly and cheerfully lost countless times beyond this, in numerous cities. For the first time in my life, I didn’t find myself full of panic when not knowing precisely where I was. I implore you to do this in Edinburgh and Florence especially, they were my favorite “meandering” cities. Edinburgh will surprise you over and over again with its hidden courtyards and quiet gardens. Don’t hesitate to turn down those narrow alleyways!

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Streetsigns in Reykjavik, Iceland

2. My ability to Communicate Extended far Beyond Language barriers

I speak English quite well. I am slowly teaching myself Italian. However I can barely stumble through a handful of German words. And Icelandic? Dear lord! Forget about it! Thankfully I mainly visited metropolitan areas, and it was fairly easy to find an English-speaker to assist me when necessary. I had some difficulty in Berlin however. Being lost in an area outside of the city center, the only person I saw around me was an elderly woman. I stopped her, and carefully asked if she spoke any English. She smiled, but shook her head and shrugged. I ventured to pull out my map and pointed at where I was trying to go. She could tell right away that I was lost, and she stood there with her little dog, and gave me directions using hand signals. She was very patient, and seemed very concerned that I find my way.
This kindness from strangers, I found repeatedly. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I am a very small girl, who was quite obviously lost. Perhaps it was simply that I approached each of these encounters with a smile. I use language quite proficiently, and when it failed me, I found that I was able to rely on other sources and means to communicate. Prior to traveling, I had never really had that experience, and it was quite eye-opening and lovely.

3. I really like Train Travel

In the USA, traveling by train for long distances is both expensive and generally uncomfortable. I occasionally take the train into Boston, about a 45 minute ride, and you generally keep to yourself, and hope that the sticky stuff on the floor doesn’t end up on your shoes!
For one month, I traveled using a eurrail pass to get between countries and cities. The trains were comfortable and clean. Oftentimes I would strike up conversations with the passengers around me. There are little trash bins, usually places to plug your phone into, tables to work on, and a surprising number of trains had “private” seating rooms, where you would sit with 6 or less other passengers. Instead of being surrounded by a crowd of disgruntled travelers, you had the chance to hold full conversations, or just enjoy a bit of quiet. Watching the countryside flash by was spectacular, and with the Eurrail pass I could easily hop off to explore a city along my route. My favorite route was from Vienna to Aviano, Italy. Riding through Austria, I felt like a small child. My nose was to the window for most of the ride, and I must have squealed aloud with glee at some of the landscapes we passed.
 

4. I can live with very Little

For my two month trip, I brought one carry-on sized backpack. I planned my outfits meticulously for months before I left, I packed and repacked that bag to keep the weight down, and leave room for souvenirs. I was worried that I would have to check a bag on the way back, because I assumed I would need so much more than what I brought, and would end up buying that all along the way. Never mind souvenirs!
As it turns out, I left a lot of items along the wayside. I gave things to other travelers in hostels when I found that they were unnecessary. I limited my souvenir purchases to things that were both essential and memorable, like a sweatshirt when I inadvertently lost my jacket in Florence, or new shoes in Riomaggiore as the sneakers I had brought were getting very worn out. While I still enjoy all the things that I own at home, I came back with this amazing sense of wonder over what actually brings value to my life, and what I truly need or want. I learned a lot about myself, and my own creativity at solving problems that arise with just the limited resources at hand.
895 Exploring a bit of London!

5. I love and Trust my Body

As I packed very lightly, I didn’t bring many “beauty essentials” that I use at home. I didn’t bring my wardrobe pieces that I particularly love, on the offchance that my bag get stolen, or the items become ruined. I wear corsets regularly when I’m home, because they make me feel femenine and powerful and pretty, but I didn’t bring a single one because they are also inherently impractical.

For two months, I wore my skin. I felt healthier and more beautiful than I ever thought I would. I ate better, I was more active. I didn’t care so much if there were wrinkles in my shirts, because how can you care about a wrinkle if you are listening to street musicians in Berlin? My hair may not have been straightened but I was navigating the alleyways of Edinburgh so who cares?! I found that I could rely on my legs to propel me around the city. I often skipped over taking a bus somewhere if it were within an hour’s walk, because I knew that walking a few miles just meant seeing more of the place.

Before heading out on my adventure, I had taken a little self-defense. Krav Maga, specifically. And though I never had to use it, I felt strong and confident in my ability to handle any issues that could potentially arise. This is perhaps the first time in my life that I felt completely happy in my own skin, and I carried that feeling home with me.

6. Homesickness is Worthwhile

Despite all the amazing and wonderful things I saw and experienced, I still felt homesick now and then. In this manner, I learned a lot about what I value at home, based on what I missed. Thankfully my Dad and I spoke every day while I traveled, so that assuaged a lot of the feelings. I truly loved being able to share each of my experiences with him so easily and openly, the same way that I do at home.

I missed silly things while away though, like driving my car with the music blaring, and drinking iced coffees. I missed my two rambunctious birds. I missed my work as a massage therapist and often wondered how the office was getting on without me and how my clients were doing. I will openly admit that there were a lot of people and things that I didn’t miss at all. This doesn’t mean I don’t care for them, or that they aren’t a valuable part of my life. In most cases, I didn’t miss , them because I knew the distance would not affect our relationships. I knew that when I came home, the communication and love would still be there, unchanged and unwavering. And I found out that I really enjoy knowing that my friends and I can joyously live separate lives and celebrate each other no matter the distance in between.

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Street art in Prague, Czech Republic

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