What Traveling Alone Taught Me

by Kandace Irvine
The idea of traveling alone is both one filled with excitement and absolute terror, well, at least in my mind. Prior to my first year of graduate school I had traveled alone only a few times; day trips here and there to small towns which I knew a lot about and had been with friends, so I could navigate easily. When I got my acceptance letter to graduate school, I made a deal with myself. I would travel as much and as often as I could, alone. I made this deal with myself for two reasons, one—I had not explored the world very much in my undergraduate years and felt like I still had so much to learn. Not only in terms of being a well-rounded individual but also as a professional. Two—graduate school would afford me that opportunity to travel. More autonomy with school, less frequent classes, harder but still manageable work, etc. These next two years were going to be spent finding and pursuing opportunities to travel as far and wide as time and quite frankly my bank account would allow.
I have still had relatively consistent opportunity to make those aforementioned solo day trips but, I’ve also been able to travel across the country. This past year I made solo trips to both Seattle, Washington and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As I look to the future, I will be traveling solo to New York for the summer as I embark on an internship. Seattle was filled with excitement and apprehension as it was my first stint at fulfilling the deal I had made with myself. Philadelphia less so, even though it had a multitude of traveling hiccups. As I look to New York, a sense of anxious-calm washes over me as I think about what that experience will be. Anxiety in the fact that it is a new geographical area I haven’t explored and calmness because I am confident in my abilities to navigate myself where I need to be. Traveling alone has taught me many things but what I want to share are the four most impactful pieces I have gathered from my few experiences.
You realize just what you’re capable of
This could not be truer. Traveling alone makes you realize just how much knowledge you have of the world, and fast. Navigating flights, departure times, Ubers, trains, block to block, etc., can be some of the most frustrating aspects of the entire experience. However, with that said, I realized that I was quicker at thinking on my feet than I had originally given myself credit for. Traveling to Philadelphia was filled with one delay after the next, all requiring my attention to quickly arrive at a solution.
Independence actually means Interdependence
I am all for being a strong, independent woman but, I am also all about interdependence. Something I have struggled with is the understanding that interdependence does not mean you are not independent. Throughout my travels, I held the mantra in my head that I could handle everything alone and didn’t need anyone’s help. Farthest thing from the truth. People need people. I realized being in a city meant that I had individuals, systems, organizations, and services I could rely on to help me get where I needed to be. Once I tucked my pride in my purse and started using them, travel became easier and the experience began to be fun.
Being alone is scary…and that’s okay
#Realness. Being alone, in a new city, not knowing anything is just plain scary, and that is A-OK. Not having anyone in your corner and being only able to rely on yourself brings me back to my first point: I learned very quickly what I was capable of and when to ask for help. The world, I realized, isn’t as scary as the media chooses to portray and that some people are just downright helpful. Reaching out to locals made my experience even more amazing than my expectations had planned and alleviated stress.
Trust in your dreams
Groupthink can really kill dreams, aspirations, ideas, etc. I’ve fallen victim to it many times and I’m sure everyone who reads this can relate to some degree. Traveling alone allowed me to share my ideas with not only myself but also to complete strangers and broadened my perspective on a variety of ideas and topics. I would also venture to say that it allowed me to be a little bit more spontaneous and impulsive. Two words that can be seem taboo in the workplace but not with travel. My spontaneity lead to some of the most memorable moments of my travel and allowed me to experience things I never would have had I fallen victim to groupthink.
Travel in small and large groups can be equally exciting and fun; however, given the opportunity, I encourage you to take that leap of faith, trust your instincts, travel alone, and learn something about yourself!

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