More often than not, in my experience discussing traveling alone, I endure apprehensive warnings of caution and horror stories. There is a stigma around the idea of being alone. Human nature is meant to be shared, which is why we all have a yearning for companionship and ultimately fear being alone. But here I am, appealing to all the adventurous people out there, to go off and explore alone. I hope that my experience traveling alone might convince others to take a leap of faith and step outside of their comfort zone.
Over the past four months in Europe I’ve been lucky enough to visit 12 different countries. Three of those trips consisted of me going to a new place, completely alone. At first I was uncomfortable with the idea. Largely due to the warnings and stories of family and friends. Somehow they made it seem like the world was large, scary, and out to get me. I’ve never viewed being a woman as something that put me in a compromising position. But being a female, of average build, I was extremely paranoid that I’d somehow get abducted and shipped off to god knows where. Regardless of where you are in the world, there are horrible people who do horrible things. However, in this day and age, people should not avoid extraordinary opportunities to experience life because the fear of (very improbable) calamities. The best advice is pay attention to your surroundings and don’t put yourself into compromising situations.
At one point I was deciding between traveling to Kraków, Poland and visiting Auschwitz alone or not at all. I was hung up on the idea for a couple of days. Some of the students I met in my class told me to be cautious as it is an Eastern European city, which they consider to be less safe. There was a split second where I said, “better safe than sorry, don’t go”. Then I thought about my Grandma and my Mom, both extremely independent women, who would hate for me to miss out on the chance of a lifetime.
Luckily I booked the flights. Poland ended up being one of my favorite trips. The best hostel I stayed at in Europe was in Poland. Some of the coolest people I met in Europe were from Poland. To say visiting the concentration camp was an experience I will never forget, is an understatement. Traveling alone is liberating. You can visit the places you want, when you want. You can eat at the places you want, when you want. I hate to think that I was so close to missing out on what became an unbelievable adventure. I urge you not to hold back in life because of the what-ifs. In the wise words of Neale Donald Walsch, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”.