Lessons I Learned from Traveling Solo: You Don’t Need a Midlife Crisis to Start

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For the last few days, my excitement and adrenaline have been running high as I have been locking in plans for a big Europe trip. I will be traveling to Spain, Paris and Greece with some of my most amazing friends in July….and words cannot describe how ecstatic I am. We’re knocking big bucket list items, like the San Fermin Running of the Bulls Fiesta including the opening ceremony in Pamplona, Bastille Day in Paris and Greece for the first time. I’m 90% sure my liver will also die sometime along the way.

Yes, I know I’m incredibly lucky. It’s a rare opportunity to find friends inclined to take time off and have schedules align for a solid 2-3 weeks. I seize every chance I get it. However, most of the time it’s very difficult to find someone that is willing to drop everything and come travel with me…..but that’s ok. Being alone should never ever stop you from going on a great adventure. In fact from my experience, it brings you a different, and equally amazing adventure.

As much as I would like to say I was bold enough to make the decision to travel alone, it wasn’t too much of a choice. For one of my school rotation, I lived in Tokyo for 3 months. I was fortunate enough to have my family fly with me and move me in, and actually almost every weekend I had friends traveling through to spend time with. But for a first good month (in August when no one wanted to visit because Tokyo is disgustingly humid), I wandered Tokyo streets by myself, true Lost-in-Translation style. It was a short amount of time, but I learned:

  • How to be comfortable eating a restaurant by yourself. I will admit Tokyo is probably the easiest city to do this in.
  • How eating in a restaurant by yourself is amazing…after the first time.
  • How a travel journal or book is a much better companion than your iPhone (it’ll never run out of batteries).
  • How to be at power-level-over-9000 outgoing. As in, walk up to someone in an unfamiliar bar and strike conversation with strangers.
  • How to quickly trust and bond with people.
  • How it can be dangerous to quickly trust people (but avoidable if you’re smart).
  • How incredibly friendly travelers and locals alike can be when you are by yourself, clutching a map looking nervously at where you’re supposed to go.
  • How interesting, wonderful, friendly, amazing and colorful the travelling community is….you quickly learn this when staying at hostels.
  • How you never have to be alone if you don’t want to.
  • How it’s great to have the option of being alone when you want to.
  • How amazing it is to do what you want, where ever you want, when ever you want. If you want to sleep in until noon, do it. If you want to spend hours browsing in a unique boutique, do it. If you want to spend an evening with a combini bento and Netflix binge, do it. And don’t feel guilty about it.
  • How unbelievably wonderful it is to wander and discover a strange city without a destination.
  • To have an incredible appreciation for alone time.
  • To be self confident, even more so than you ever were before.
  • To be independent, even more so than you ever were before.
  • To be at completely peace with yourself.

Sorry at the end it got a little Eat-Pray-Love kind of preachy, and I’m very thankful I didn’t have to through a midlife crisis to learn these lessons.  The independence I gained translated into my everyday life more so than I ever imagined. A decade ago, my biggest fear was living alone, and today I love it more than ever. I’ve gained an incredible network of wonderful friends, and a relieving sense of self confidence, especially in an age where validation is based on likes and followers.

After my incredible time in Tokyo, I had the courage to venture out to Australia and New Zealand, spending the trip time both with and without company. Both trips were incredible experiences of mishaps, laughs and adventure. Opportunities come and go. We are always given a choice, but never let fear or anyone stop you from doing what you want. Go do hike the 4 day Milford Track in New Zealand. Go party your brains out in Belgium’s Tomorrowland. Go kayak through Norway’s fjords. It’ll be the best decision you’ll ever make.

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