The first time I ever traveled by myself I was 23. I’d just graduated college and was an Au Pair for a family living in Switzerland. For my birthday, the family gave me a weekend in Paris. My hotel and train ticket were paid for and I thought nothing of going alone to the City of Light. I’d always wanted to see the Eiffel Tower and I couldn’t wait.
I remember my first day in the city stepping out of the Metro and turning around to see it staring back at me. It was the most beautiful picture I had ever seen and I turned around to tell someone, only then I remembered it was just me. It was just me taking in that structure that I’d always dreamed of seeing and yet, I had no one to share that moment with.
And I was completely okay with that.
From that trip, I later went on to travel London, Athens, Rome, and Venice with a few stops in Luzern, Zurich, Munich, and Frankfurt. I started to see just how much I enjoyed traveling alone.
Traveling alone gives you a truer sense of independence.
You are the tour guide for yourself. You pick out the restaurants, the sights, the museums without anyone to give you their opinion on whether or not they want to do that particular activity. You also get to do nothing if you want to. One of my favorite things I did in Paris was sit at a café and people watch while drinking a Café Au Lait.
I also enjoyed a ferry ride from Crete to Athens while sitting on the top deck and listening to Nsync. There I was, crossing the Meditteranean with JC Chasez singing in my ear and nobody around to tell me they didn’t like my choice in travel music.
Traveling alone helps you discover yourself.
I wrote in my journal a lot on that trip to Paris. I wrote about how I’d seen sites that I’d only dreamed of seeing when I was a kid. It only furthered my love of travel more, but it especially showed me how much of myself I was discovering on my own. Since that trip, I’ve traveled with friends and thoroughly enjoyed every venture, but there is just something about being by myself in a foreign land.
In July, I’m taking another venture alone. For ten days, I’ll be co-leading a school trip to Ireland, Wales, London, and Paris. When it ends, I’m flying to Krakow, Poland to discover another unchartered territory for myself. I’m excited about what I’ll find out about me. I’m a lot older than I was on that first Paris trip alone. But I’ve always wanted to see the sites in Krakow. Not to mention, I’m planning on sitting at another café and people watching just like I did in Paris.
Traveling alone teaches you to become confident in yourself.
Getting lost in a foreign city might sound like a terrible idea at first, but really, it is getting lost without a sense of direction that helps you to gain a sense of confidence. I have plenty of stories where this scared me to death (i.e. dusk at a random port in Greece and I couldn’t find my ferry that would take me to Italy) but I also have plenty that I can look back on and say, “I did that alone.”
I love Jewish history and, when I was in Venice, I had been trying to find the historic Jewish History museum in the old ghetto. Upon wandering around the canal, I looked around and realized I had no idea where I was. I wasn’t scared or worried because I had a pretty good idea of how to get back to the Rialto Bridge (the landmark where my hotel was) and so I continued my trek. I ended up stumbling across a hole in the wall place for lunch and had the best pizza I’ve ever tasted. And yes, I did find the Jewish Museum and got free entry because the person who was collecting money was convinced I was Jewish. But that’s a whole other story.
So do I suggest traveling alone while you’re still single?
Yes. Absolutely, yes. You will open up a world of possibilities within yourself. You’ll see things the way you see them, not how other people see them. It will bring you closer to the things you may not have seen otherwise—things about yourself, about God, about the world around you.
Go. Be. Do. You might not have this opportunity much longer.