After having been on the move for a solid 2 months I am very happy to have finally unpacked my big bag for one last time. I nearly teared up putting my toothbrush in the cup by the sink. I smoothed out my clothing and hung it up for the first time in months and smiled at the arrangement. I sat in bed and looked at the White wall next to me, wondering what it soon will become. These past two months were hard, but I learned so much about myself, the world, and life.
I am a very independent person. I don’t think every person has the capability to travel two months all alone (into the unknown). I thought I was the right person in the beginning, but during my trip I doubted that. I felt helpless, alone, scared, and even bored. By the end though I can look in the mirror and see myself as a different person; a stronger and smarter person. I am much better at adaptation now. Culture shock got easier and easier to deal with in each city I visited. I was able to figure out the basics of the city so I could quickly get around, find food, learn about the culture, and meet others.
The world is so much bigger than I ever thought. Of course I knew it was big, but there is so much more to the world than you can read about online or hear about from a friend. I’ve learned about new ways of life; new ways of speaking and communicating. I’ve seen and learned about all the history I had to learn back in high school from a new perspective. I can see firsthand how the world wars affected people, the cities, and how the city is shaped. I didn’t know the Berlin Wall was put up in one night; I didn’t understand that Berlin was in east Germany but allowed to be split. That is just one of the many things I learned and experienced. All throughout Europe i look at these wonders and ask myself, “how did these survive the bombings?”
I’ve learned that the only person you can truly rely on is yourself. You have to be careful who you trust, but you also have to be willing to take some risks. When you start to meet a lot of people, you get better and better at reading each one. It gets easier to quickly decide if that person is trustworthy, if that person is a good person to be friends with, etc etc. I had to use this judgement when i was Couchsurfing. A lot of people are impressed when I tell them I confidently stayed with strangers. Even through the web I figured out a way to read them and figure out if they were trustworthy. I used previous reviews, I judged their ability to speak English (it’s hard to trust someone who is hard to understand), I judged them through the conversation we had, and then I could figure out if they were. Everyone I stayed with was absolutely wonderful!
The unpopular opinion: Sometimes you have to rely on stereotypes. You can’t always risk getting to know a specific person before judging them. Sometimes you have to take their culture, their dress, and their first impressions into account, especially if there is no one there to say, “hey don’t worry about them, they are nice.”
In regards to life, you really learn how to use your time wisely. It was difficult to get up each day, but I pushed myself to at least make the day worth it. Sure I had a few days where I barely did anything, but as a human you NEED time to do nothing and let yourself rest. I learned to value my time (and my money), but not let myself stress out. I had two mottos:
“Tomorrow is a new day.”
“It’s a sunk cost, so oh well.”
Telling myself these two sentences helped keep me from not getting too stressed, and to stay positive.
In the end I am happy I went alone. I remember crying and telling myself going alone was a bad idea, that I would never wish this upon anyone, that I would never travel alone again. Looking back, I’m glad I did it. I became stronger and had the experience of a lifetime. I don’t think I would want to do another big trip alone though. I found while overall I liked going alone and getting to meet people and do new things with them, just constantly longed for a buddy. It was hard making all the decisions on my own; going out by myself sometimes; going to the aquarium all by myself.
I encourage others to try a trip alone, or at maximum one other person. Western Europe is pretty safe, you just have to be alert, play it smart, and don’t venture into the rough areas. Don’t be like the girl from Taken, inviting a stranger into her empty house. Hostels are typically safe. Check out Europes Famous Hostels if you want a really good and social hostel experience. They are a little pricier, but are always nice and really fun! Happy travels!