The first trip I did by myself was in June of 2016 after taking the NBME Step 1 exam. There were plenty of reasons why I went traveling (#1 being the near continuous 2 years of studying in coffee shops leading up to the exam), but there were a several specific reasons why I felt the need to go alone.
The greatest of which was the fact that I wanted to prove to myself that I could.
Looking back over the years that I have been single, I have kept myself from doing a lot of things because I didn’t have anyone to do them with. I’m envious of people who have a built in travel and adventure partner in their spouse or significant other. I also have this pathological fear of showing up to things alone. I HATE it more than almost anything. So if I don’t have someone to go to a party, movie or even church with me, I probably won’t go.
Combine this with every single 20-something woman’s deep dark fear of ending up alone (insert me singing “On My Own” from Les Mis at the top of my lungs), and the bleakness of my situation brought me to a realization:
if I am always waiting around for someone to see the world with, I may never actually get to see it.
So I took matters into my own hands and I went out on my own.
In that limited time, I had moments where I absolutely hated being alone. I remember standing on the train platform in Berlin heading to Prague with tears in my eyes, and hearing them call out a train leaving for Amsterdam. I realized that I could be heading back to the safety and comfort of my mother and grandfather and I wouldn’t have to be alone for another second.
But then there were the rest of the moments, the moments where being alone was the most serene, existential experience that there is. The day before I was in that train station, I had walked through Berlin early in the morning while the rest of the city slept. I found myself standing at the base of the Brandenburg Gate completely alone. Chills shot through my entire body as I embraced the magnitude of the monument and the history that surrounded that place. I learned in that moment that feeling infinitesimal and insignificant in the course of time also has the ability to make you feel powerful and untouchable.
So with that memory in mind, I got on the train to Prague. To this day I believe that was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
After that moment, I went on to meet people who were also out there on their own, and suddenly being together in our aloneness made us not feel so alone.
In the end, I loved it. I felt empowered and liberated! “I don’t need no man” (insert sassy finger waving).
So I decided to go again.
This trip was different in a lot of ways. One of which was that it was over Christmas: A holiday famously known for spending time with family, and I was leaving mine behind (not because I don’t love my family, but because it was literally the only 2 weeks I have off all year). Because of this, there were less solo travelers for me to meet and I experienced intermittent feelings of homesickness over the holiday.
In many ways I went though the same emotions as the first trip. There were moments that I LOVED it, and moments that I sat on park benches in near tears because I felt so lonely.
But this trip was also different, in that I learned a very different lesson from it.
What I learned on my first trip is that I CAN do it alone – what I learned in this one was that I don’t necessarily want to.
I think that’s a scary thing for women (or anyone) to say: I don’t want to be alone.
I’ve always seen that desire to be a point of weakness. Like if I want to be in a relationship that somehow makes me pathetic and desperate. Instead I should desire to be alone, and if I end up NOT alone – eh, I’ll be happy too.
But perhaps, admitting to yourself that you want a partner to do life with isn’t a weakness. Perhaps this honesty with yourself actually requires significant strength.
After my first trip I told everyone I saw that they MUST travel alone at some point. I certainly have not changed my mind of that. I believe that simply possessing the knowledge that you have the ability to do things on your own is priceless, even if you are in a relationship (besides I have learned so many other valuable lessons and grown in numerous ways from traveling alone, so I think it’s just generally a good idea).
Especially as women, we need experiences that bring out our inner Viking Warrior Princess. I don’t know if it does it for everyone, but traveling alone certainly channels mine 😉 I also find that I am more purely myself when I travel on my own and it bleeds into my life even after I have come back to reality. I am less likely do go along with things I don’t like or worry about what people will think of me if I disagree with them after I have been spending time channeling my Viking Warrior Princess self.
Yes, I can, and will, do life “on my own” if I have to. I will definitely not stop traveling or living my life just because I don’t have a significant other at the moment. But that doesn’t mean I have to DESIRE to always be “alone”.
I can be a strong, independent, powerful woman while also acknowledging the desire in my heart for a deeper connection and relationship.
I’m sure you all probably figured that out years ago, but what can I say – I’m a little delayed in the whole relationship area 😉
**disclaimer: I wrote most of this before I got o Sydney, where I met some INCREDIBLE people and enjoyed the comradery of fellow travelers leaving home for the holidays. It definitely changed the perception of my trip a bit from what’s above, but I still thought what I wrote was important, so I’m posting it anyways 😉