Every since I was little I’ve dreamed about traveling the world. It’s been a passion of mine but raising three young children, a husband who is a ‘home body’ and not having a lot of extra spending money, made following that passion harder than I’d expected.
A few years ago some opportunities came my way where I was finally able to travel, but I’m going to be honest…there was a huge part of me afraid to travel by myself. For my first overseas trip a girlfriend tagged along, showing me the ropes, opening my eyes to why I shouldn’t be afraid to explore on my own, why the world really is a friendly place and after holding my hand through London and Paris, we said goodbye and I took her advice and headed to Belgium.
My first time alone, in a different country where everyone spoke a different language and I was terrified. I’ll admit it. I took the train from Paris to Brussels, sat by myself, stared out the window and listened to the people around me. There were business men, older couples and families with small children and they all spoke a language I couldn’t understand and yet I didn’t feel segregated.
I had my one and only bad experience at the Brussels train station (and when I say my one and only bad experience, I mean it…in the past four years of traveling I’ve never had one of my nightmares come true like this time.) I lost my purse. My purse that contained half my money (the other half was in my suitcase) and my passport.
Let me repeat that…I lost my purse with contained my money, my credit cards and MY PASSPORT.
I had just boarded the train to Bruge for my personal chocolate tour and went to pull out my phone when I realized…I didn’t have my purse. I panicked. I rushed out and was stopped by security at the door. When I explained what happened, one of the stewards walked with me back down to the main waiting area while the other was on their phone and calling down to the security desk. Those next few minutes had me imaging all my worst case scenarios. At the door which led back into the waiting area someone stood there with my purse in hand and I had tears in my eyes.
I had apparently left it on the chair I’d been sitting on. I’d been surrounded by dozens of high school students and apparently one of them noticed I’d left it and took it to the security desk.
Nothing had been stolen. Nothing. My worst experience just ended with a happy outcome…I’d been expecting everything to be taken, leaving me stranded and yet that didn’t happen.
My time in Bruge was magical and life changing for me. Being alone meant I was able to focus on myself and my goals. I could sleep in or go to bed early, I could stop to eat whenever I felt like it and I wasn’t concerned about timing or checking things off a list or ensuring my travel partner was happy.
Traveling solo meant I was focused on me. That well that empties up because I’m always focused on others started to fill up. Instead of following someone else’s lead, I only followed my own. It pushed me out of my comfort zone…I wasn’t about to let a trip of a lifetime go to waste because I didn’t know what I wanted to do or wasn’t feeling comfortable asking for help.
Why do I love traveling solo? Because I discover a little more about myself each time I take a trip. I find a strength I didn’t realize I had and I push myself all the time…which is what I need. I’m never lonely – I’m an introvert who is happiest when I’m alone – but I make sure I keep myself surrounded by people – whether that is sitting at a little cafe sipping coffee and people watching or strolling through museums and along crowded streets. Yes, it’s sometimes hard to sit in a restaurant by myself but if I feel conspicuous, then I chat up those around me if they are also alone or be friendly with the servers.
I enjoy having a travel companion, whether it’s my daughter, my husband, my mother or one of my best friends but I will never be afraid of traveling by myself again. Ever.
Where I’ve been on my own (so far):