For this special edition of ISEP Voices, three of our student bloggers share their parallel experiences of traveling alone while studying abroad. Hailing from different regions in the U.S. and studying in different corners of the world, Emma, Julia and Kelsey all took a leap and stepped out of their comfort zones to explore on their own.
Destinations Around the World
Emma: Exploring London by myself was probably the most invigorating experience I have had while abroad. For the last hour, I have been sitting in a coffee shop that has a breathtaking view of The Royal Court of Justice. I’ve enjoyed simply people watching, seeing how locals interact with each other and how foreigners snap pictures from every possible angle, all in a very social, diverse and welcoming environment.
Julia: I’m currently writing this from my hostel bed in Naha, Okinawa, where I’ve decided to spend my Golden Week (Japan’s equivalent of spring break). It’s tiny, cramped, feels more like a wooden couch, but let’s be real– it’s cheap. I’ve been dreaming about going to Okinawa since I was little, and I wasn’t going to let my fears get in the way.
Kelsey: I had a week-long break in the middle of May so I decided to go see more of Germany by myself. My plan was originally to travel to all the major cities in Germany: Cologne, Hamburg, Berlin and Munich. It was a quick decision I made on my own and one of the best experiences of my life. I booked hostels the day before I decided to leave and started my journey the next morning.
Doing Whatever You Want, Whenever You Want
Emma: I can sit here and enjoy my surroundings for however long I would like, focus on the things I want to do and make my own plans. Today, I spent over three hours in the British Library. It was the most mesmerizing place I have ever seen! My breath was taken away when I saw first edition of the Bible written in English, with its beautiful script and colors dancing across the pages. There was an exhibit on over 140 years of sound, and I took my time soaking in the sounds of the world from the past century. I stood for 15 minutes just glancing over all the books in King George III’s book collection. I was able to just “get lost” in London without worrying if my travel companion is enjoying it as much as I am.
Julia: Okinawa is the epicenter of traditional Japanese martial arts, and as a martial artist I want to experience the history for myself. Okinawa is also a beautiful subtropical island, and I’m looking forward to some time relaxing on the beach.
Kelsey: One of the best things about traveling by yourself is being able to do anything at any time! You can eat whatever you want and stop to take hundreds of pictures without holding anyone back. As soon as I arrived in Berlin, I absolutely fell in love with it and I decided to stay an extra day, a flexibility I may not have had if I wasn’t alone.
Emma: When I first thought about solo traveling, I was very apprehensive. Was this a good idea? Will I get lonely? Will I be safe? Well I am typing this, aren’t I? I have yet to feel unsafe while in Europe. I’ve always been told that numbers are better for safety, and this is true. But if you use your brain and common sense and stay aware of your surroundings, you will be safe.
Julia: This is so far out of my comfort zone it’s not even funny. I’m all on my own, no one else is traveling with me. Everywhere I want to go, I need to figure out how to use the public transportation to get there. I’m responsible for everything. And while Tokyo is pretty English-friendly, I don’t have the same luxury in Okinawa. Is it scary? Definitely. I’m anxious about…well, everything, but more specifically about getting where I need to go on time. But Google maps and being prepared has served me well, and my first two days here have gone swimmingly! More importantly, I feel proud of myself for choosing to come despite the unknown. It’s empowering to know that I can go someplace new and scary all on my own. I don’t know if I would have been able to do this a year ago. If there’s anything the past few months have taught me, it’s that I’m stronger than I realize. There are things that I thought I wouldn’t be able to do or endure, but I can.
Kelsey: Five days of traveling is a lot to handle, especially when you’re by yourself. I was nervous because traveling on your own for the first time in a foreign country is scary, but eye-opening in so many ways. You are literally stuck with your own thoughts the whole time, which is a good thing! I learned aspects of myself that I never really noticed before and in a way, became more comfortable and aware of myself as a person. Spending time with yourself in unfamiliar places is a good way to understand more about who you are as person. It’s the perfect opportunity for self-reflection and growth.
Meeting New People
Emma: Was I afraid of feeling lonely? Absolutely! But I had to remind myself that I moved halfway across the world to Sweden, a place where I have been able to make new friends. After just one day alone in London, I have been more willing to talk to random people. The more you put into your experience, the more you will get out of it. Do not be afraid to talk to the people in your hostel, because chances are, they are also solo traveling and would love to hear your story.
Kelsey: I will admit that traveling alone can get a bit lonely when not talking to someone else for a whole day. Staying in hostels allows you to easily meet people from all over the world and conversing with them is refreshing. I met some really nice people from China, Portugal, the U.K. and France on my travels. You must talk to locals when traveling, too! People can be very kind, and most of the time, they will give you the best recommendations for places to visit or restaurants to eat, along with an insider view of their traditions and cultures.
Julia: I’ve also met the nicest people: the hostel owners, backpackers from France, a guy in the Australian military and more!
Take a Leap!
Emma: If you are considering traveling solo, go for it! As a young woman, this has been a very empowering experience. The world is at your fingertips, go out and experience it for yourself! I promise you won’t regret it. I am super happy to meet up with my friend later today for the rest of my trip, but I will never forget the experience of visiting London by myself.
Julia: If you are worried about traveling while studying abroad, I encourage you to take the leap. Things will go wrong. There will be stressful moments. But breaking from your comfort zone and opening yourself up to new experiences will reap incredible rewards. Choosing to study abroad is an act of bravery. Don’t stop now, you’ve only just started!
Kelsey: Self-travel through Europe is amazing and is an experience I wish for anyone. Check out my video from my time in Northern Germany if you don’t believe me!
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