Vacate!"Who are you going with?"
"You are going.... ALONE?! Wow. That's gutsy!"
Everyone seems to assume that I am going to Europe WITH someone. I resent that. People travel solo all the time! Sometimes I think it is because they expect me to be married by now or something, like I SHOULD BE taking someone with me. Or is it because I am a woman and somehow I am less safe than a man is? Or is it that somehow men know how to travel BETTER than women? Once again, I am a big girl and I feel confident that I know how to handle myself in unfamiliar places.
The great thing about traveling alone is that it is so much easier to meet people when you don't have a companion. As an example, when I was in Guatemala, all of us were there alone which allowed us to form a bond that we would not otherwise have formed. Strangely, we instantly trusted each other. We traveled and socialized together. We had something in common- we were in the same place.... ALONE.
I admit, I was a bit terrified of Guatemala before I arrived (I actually prepared a will beforehand) and in a couple of instances while there, but I truly believe that what happens to you is 80% how you carry yourself, 10% what to look out for and 10% how you react to a situation. (Funny, since it seems I really only deal well with challenging situations abroad.) I think I am fairly well traveled, so I know what to look out for, I know never to let my guard down and I remind myself that in all my travels around the world, I have never been so scared for my life as when my blonde friend Kristi and I found ourselves being gawked at and harassed in Harlem..... we were whiter than white and we were the only ones.
If it makes anyone feel better, I will only be alone in Europe for the first week, really. The remainder of my trip I will be staying with friends. The very best part of the adventure of traveling is figuring out how a city works, how people communicate (or don't), how local transportation works (or doesn't) and meeting people who are willing to let you into their world so that you can be a part of it for a moment.
When I was in high school, my mom and I came to the west coast to check out a bunch of colleges. We got in a fight in Seattle and we ended up apart from each other for a couple of hours. I know that my mom was mortified (the perfect revenge)- she had not been to many big cities and I know she believed that I was not ok on my own. I was not scared to be a 16-year-old alone in a city. I had been to Seattle before, I knew the area we were in and if needed, I could have found my way back to the hotel. I would like to call this an example of "survival of the fittest," though that may be a stretch.
I don't consider myself all that gutsy, I just know that I want to see the world and experience places and people and foods that are new to me and if I don't do that while I can, I will regret it. You only live once! I recently came across this not-that-relevant quote that I would like to live by:
"It is very good for the character to engage in sports which put your life in danger from time to time. It breeds a saneness in dealing with day-to-day trivialities." -Nevil Shute Norway