ISEP student Leigh B. is a part of ISEP Voices Spring 2016. She is a third year kinesiology student from Louisiana State University, and is studying sociology while abroad at University of Sunderland in the United Kingdom.
Are you thinking about going on a trip by yourself? Go for it! It is so rewarding in many ways. Here are six reasons why I think it’s very important to take at least one trip on your own.
1. You learn so much about yourself
If you have never traveled by yourself, you will learn a lot about how you can handle different situations. For example, when taking transportation, you have to figure out how it works by yourself or you won’t be able to get anywhere. This can be especially hard in a country that speaks a different language. The first time I traveled by myself I went to Glasgow, Scotland, where they at least speak English. But I did have to navigate my own way through the city using a paper map, as I was without wireless Internet. When I made it to my first destination, the feeling of accomplishment was simply amazing. I didn’t know I had it in me to figure out my way around a foreign city by myself. Every time you accomplish something by yourself, the reward will be greater because the only person you have to share it with is you.
2. Traveling by yourself forces you to take responsibilityThis idea manifests itself in a few different ways. First, because you’re by yourself, you don’t exactly have to follow a set schedule of activities. When you’re traveling alone, you might just want to take time to sleep in and relax. You need to be responsible for your own schedule and make the most out of your time! Don’t sleep in; get out and do things you’ve never done before. Secondly, you have to take responsibility for taking care of yourself. There is no one else to fall back on. Make sure you stay healthy by drinking plenty of water, and eat three meals each day. Don’t let being by yourself deter you from eating at a restaurant.
3. Doing things by yourself teaches you about your individualityI would argue that eating in a restaurant by yourself is one of the most challenging and anxiety-provoking things to do. Going out to restaurants is largely seen as a social activity, but how can you be social if you’re the only one sitting at the table? Engage in conversations with the staff! You might be thinking about what others are thinking of you. To that I reply: What does it matter what they think? You’re being confident enough to do something by yourself, and you’re going to enjoy the delicious meal cooked for you! It’s a liberating experience when you can move past worrying about everyone else and focus on making yourself happy. It seems like such a simple thing, but I challenge you to eat at a restaurant by yourself. You will come out on the other side as a stronger and more confident individual.
4. Your sense of awareness will be heightenedIt goes without saying that your sense of awareness will be heightened. You’ll be looking after your own safety and you will automatically focus more on things going on around you. A benefit of this is you might experience things you never noticed before. The act of people-watching itself can also be really interesting. You will observe those around you, and you’ll be able to get a glimpse of people’s lives that are different from yours.
5. You get to decide what you doOne of the major benefits of traveling by yourself is the fact that there is no one else there to tell you what you can and can’t do (within reason)! You get to pick everything you’re going to do, and you don’t need to consult other people about it. You won’t be wasting time trying to compromise on a restaurant to eat at; you just pick it for yourself and go! There might be something on your bucket list that you just need to do but can’t get anyone else to do with you. Go by yourself! I recently went to London alone so that I could see the production of Les Miserables. It was absolutely beautiful and worth every penny I spent on it. When it comes to things you want to do, don’t be afraid to spoil yourself every now and then. Your life will be better for it!
6. You become more culturally aware of the world around youThis last one is important. In my opinion, it is a crucial part of life to learn about other cultures than our own. It’s a beautiful thing observing how humans all have our similarities. But we have our differences too, and we need to see these as well. You’ll be able to interact with more and more people, and it is very fulfilling. I think it is easier to go through this process easier when you’re alone. When you’re traveling with other people, the tendency is to just stick with your group because it’s safe. When you’re by yourself, you’re almost forced to talk to and meet new people. No one will be able to intrude on the human connections that will be made.
Tips for traveling aloneIt’s important to act confident even if you don’t know what you’re doing. People will most likely leave you alone, and then it can be on your own terms how you interact with others. If you need help with something though, just ask. Be respectful. Wherever you’ll be traveling, you are a guest. Where you go, life might seem funny or strange. But just because it’s different from yours doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Embrace people’s differences, and you will gain so much from that. Before you leave to go to your destination, know general safety information. Be aware of local laws and local authorities. Emergency numbers are not universal; familiarize yourself with different locations. Last but not least, have fun. You’re getting the opportunity to experience more of what the world has to offer. Enjoy this beautiful planet that we call home!
Are you ready to study abroad? Find out more about all of your options on the ISEP website. Want to see more from our ISEP bloggers? Learn more about our ISEP Voices Spring 2016 group.
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