Empowerment Series: Traveling Alone

This article is part of a series on Her Campus Kenyon called "What Empowers Me." Keep checking our site to read more articles about what makes our staff writers feel empowered!

 

Before I came to Kenyon, I had never been on a plane by myself. I was 18, flying home from Kenyon to California for Thanksgiving my freshman year. I was scared. Not that something was going to go wrong, per se. I feared I would lose something, forget how to navigate an airport without following my parents around and knowing where we have to go. I hate airports. I dislike making phone calls to strangers or asking for directions on the street.

I also wanted to go home, so I was going to make it work. Everything was fine, which I only know because I do not remember anything particularly mortifying about that airport experience.

In Vegas with my parents my senior year of high school.

 

I also love to travel. I don’t think I fully realized this until I went abroad. I was very lucky to have annual family vacations to all sorts of places across the United States as a child, but I also always longed for a grander adventure. I wanted to go to Europe, to England and France especially. While I am grateful for these travels as a child, they never felt like my trips. My parents (mostly my dad) would lead us from place to place, landmark to landmark of the area for a week and then we would go back home.

The May after my freshman year, however, I broke the norm. I took a trip by myself. I went to Boston to attend a music festival with friends from Kenyon, and then on to visit one of them in DC before flying home. For the first time in my life, I could have some control over the itinerary of my vacation. Of course, the plan was made with input from my friends and their interests, but I had far more power than in the past.

Boston Calling, 2014

 

I loved it. This experience was only multiplied when I went abroad. My travel was completely up to me. It was the first time I needed to book a place to stay for myself. Figuring out international airfare and finding good but affordable hostels was a struggle sometimes, but I learned quickly. I adapted to my needs. I wanted to explore new places and I needed to book the travel, so I did.

I felt so independent, liberated. I felt empowered.

I loved traveling alone. This is exemplified in what is likely my most valued memory from abroad. For my fall break, I spent four days alone in Paris. I stayed in a room with three strangers, a lock box holding my belongings while I explored. With a four-day museum pass, a large map and lots of directions Googled on the hostel’s Wifi, I took on the city I had been dreaming of visiting since childhood.

Paris in October 2015.

 

I wandered the Champs-Elysées. I went to Montmartre. I spent three days in the Louvre, hit up most of the museums I wanted to see for my first trip to Paris. (I refuse to think I will never go back. I might cry.) I took the metro. I ate a lot of crepes. I navigated the city and travel, and it was pure bliss.

It was exhausting, certainly. I was very glad to see my parents again when I met them in London and have the safety of wandering in a group and in a city of a lot of English speakers.

It was also the time of my life. Traveling (and doing it alone) is now second nature. I learned so much resourcefulness and planning ahead. I became better at directions and reading maps. Most of all, I learned how self-reliant I could be. When I may doubt myself now, it helps me to stay confident. I remind myself of how much I managed to figure out when things went off plan while I was abroad. I learned that I could maneuver without data and sometimes without a common language.

Venice in September 2015 for Venice Biennale.

 

I have come a long way. I learned that I could do anything, and I can’t wait for the many more solo travel experiences ahead of me.

Image credits: Jenna Wendler