If you, like Hedyieh from Colorado State University, are coming from outside of Europe to join the Study Abroad Programme at Reading, you’ll find Reading an ideal base for exploring the Continent, either with friends or solo…
Now this is not for everyone, but I wish it could be. If the fear of being alone or traveling alone scares you and bothers you more than it benefits you I do not suggest you travel alone BUT if you are just making excuses, stop making them. There are many different types of traveling: going with your family, going with friends to a party destination, going with friends to sight see, small group travels, large group travels, solo, etc. All of these types should be experienced if possible because you learn something different with each way of traveling and it helps make you a better individual overall.
Traveling completely solo was something I had never done before. I have travelled alone to meet friends or go to camp but I have never just travelled to a destination alone and stay alone. My first trip was to Paris and I was completely hesitant on whether or not I should do it because all the friends I was supposed to travel with could not make it to the trip. That fear was the only thing that was holding me back.
After a week of thinking I knew that if I did not make it to France I would highly regret it and at the end of the term I did not know if there would be time to squeeze in France, so I just went for it. I was in Amsterdam with a friend the weekend before visiting Paris which was perfect.
Once Monday came around I caught an 8 hour bus ride from Amsterdam to Paris and it went by so quickly. I was super nervous about so many things from navigating alone, to eating alone, and to having my evenings alone. I have always had friends to lean on and join at hostels when making more friends, almost like a safety cushion, I was nervous that I was not going to be able to make friends on my own and that I would look silly or desperate approaching strangers at the hostel. All of these nerves are normal and good, the best way to get over them is by just being yourself and going for everything you want. You have already arrived and booked the trip so why not do more.
Since I arrived into France at an awkward time, there was just enough room for me to see one place before the sun completely set, I quickly made it to the metro station and chose to see the Eiffel Tower. It was absolutely stunning in person. I could not believe something I see in pictures and learn about was finally in front of me, I was in awe. I made it back to my hostel by dinner time and I was able to chat amongst a few people which was not so bad for the first day.
On the second day I really experienced traveling alone. I had to eat breakfast and lunch alone, the thought of that made me so anxious but then I realized so many people around me were doing the same and no one was watching. Sight seeing alone was also nerve racking at first but slowly everything came together. When you travel alone you really get time to think, travel at your pace, and just dive into peace and quiet.
The third day was absolutely perfect. I woke up early to get into the Louvre near opening time. Going alone was the best choice I made because I ended up spending 6 hours inside, doing everything at my pace. If I were with people I do not know how it would have all happened. Afterwards I walked down the Seine to the Notre Dame and I finally got a message from my stomach telling me it was hungry. Lunch was perfect. I walked down the Seine with a baguette in one hand and a liter of Prosecco in the other. It was so beautiful and quiet and the sun was out shining down on Paris.
I got to make my way back to the Louvre through the gardens and down the Champs Elysees and I finally reached the Arc de Triumph. As the sun set I was smiling and soaking up all the incredible time I got for myself in the 3 days. I do not know if it was because no one was around influencing my thoughts or if I never put in time for myself like I just did but everything fell into place. I really appreciated myself and my capabilities. I learned the city within 48 hours, never got lost, never got robbed, and learned to accept that it’s okay to be alone, it’s actually really healthy to do so once in awhile.
We can get so caught up in our daily routine and get sucked into this bubble we never noticed. Traveling really wakes you up from all the closed curtains and traveling alone challenges you as an individual to think. You think about what you are doing with your life, you think about what you want out of life, you think about everything you are seeing and experiencing. It is like doing a puzzle on your own and you finally see the big picture instead of each piece alone.
So if you are reading this and you run into a weekend or a few days where no one can travel with you, it’s okay you should still go! Do not skip out on a trip because no one else can come with you, go for you! Bring a book and a journal or camera and just indulge in everything you do!! Be safe, be smart, and be cautious!!