Traveling Alone

A solo trip, anywhere, is something I highly recommend everyone do at least once in their life. For my senior year spring break, I traveled to Florence, Italy where my best friend is studying abroad. I traveled over 30 hours to get there and back. When I arrived, my friend was taking an exam and so I had to figure out the taxi and get to my AirBnb all by myself, in a foreign country; essentially I was on my own at first. The first day, my friend showed me around and helped me get my bearings, but for the rest of the week I was mostly on my own. My friend had midterms and if she wasn’t taking them, during the day she had to study for them. I had to figure out other ways to fill up my time. 

Luckily, Florence is an extremely walkable city; everything is so close. There’s a half a dozen restaurants and a dozen shops right outside your door, no matter where you are. When I booked my flights, I had no plans. I just knew I was going and I would figure it out. My plans each day became wandering around and seeing what I found. I tried several different cafes, some days I took stuff to go, but others I sat down and either read my book or journal. I found it really rewarding to just sit down and write what was going on in my head. On the days I wrote, I wrote until my hand hurt or until I was too cold and needed to move into the sun or indoors. I went to a bunch of stores and a couple street markets. I would just walk until I found a landmark that I recognized and be able to make my way back to the AirBnb from there. 

For meals, I tried a different dish at every restaurant. I indulged in the waiters’ wine suggestions. Trying different flavors of gelato was a must, multiple times a day. Some of the tourist-y things I did with others, but some I did alone. Looking back though, it is the time I spent alone that I appreciate the most. I wasn’t the most happy about it at the time, in fact I was quite upset the one day I was completely alone from waking up to going to sleep. I was upset and I just wanted to spend more time with my friend, but now I am so grateful for the time I spent alone. 

The absolute best part about traveling alone, is you are on your own schedule. You want to go to a specific place for lunch? Yes. You want to take a nap before going to a museum? Sure thing. You want to have a few glasses of wine at dinner? Go right ahead. When you are exploring a place all by yourself, there are no expectations. If you want an itinerary, make one. If you don’t want to be scheduled and just want to see where the day takes you, that’s cool too. There’s no one around to tell you no, judge you, or say you have to do this activity. 

When I told family and friends I was traveling, everyone was very excited but also had an opinion. I got a lot of “You have to go ____,” “You cannot leave without trying ____,” “No one goes to Florence without _____,” etc. Typically, these comments and suggestions would make me feel the obligation to do whatever it was they were suggesting. However, the power of therapy has helped me a lot to push away those feelings of guilt for not wanting to do all the things people told me I had to do. It definitely helped being alone. It made me realize this was MY experience, MY trip; no one else’s. This trip was whatever I made of it and it does not have the power to disappoint anyone, not even myself. I came to the city to see the city and that is exactly what I did.

Of course, there were anxieties leading up to the trip. I had never traveled with connecting flights on my own and I never traveled internationally alone. I was nervous about being a lone, 20-something girl in cities I don't live in. I was especially nervous about walking the streets of Florence completely alone. But again, reminding myself of therapy and how I need to take it one step at a time. If you had told an 18 year old me that I would have flown to a foreign country, all by myself, and then wandered around a foreign country all by myself, AND had dinner in a foreign country all by myself, I would have laughed. But, I did it and it was genuinely freeing, to do something you never thought you would be able to do.

Traveling alone taught me so much about myself. I am more independent than I ever thought I would be. I am capable of navigating the world alone and I do not need anyone else’s validation for that but my own. I can say, with confidence, I can depend on myself.