Coming into my study abroad experience, I had absolutely no intention to solo travel. I distinctly remember walking around Amsterdam with two of my roommates on my first trip, vocally wondering why anyone would travel alone when they could be with their friends instead. I was so comfortable traveling around other people, I had no motivation to push myself out of my comfort zone and try it all on my own. That’s exactly why I did it.
One random Thursday afternoon in February, I spontaneously decided to book a flight to London. The trip was scheduled for early March, which, unbeknownst to me, turned out to be my last chance to travel before COVID-19 became widespread in Europe and required me to move back to America. Thus, my solo venture to London truly served as final proof of how much living in Europe had allowed me to function independently.
From the start of the trip, I was acutely aware of how much responsibility was all on me. I was forced to be peak-level responsible; there was no one to lean on if I messed something up. That feeling, while initially intimidating, was ultimately empowering and addictive. As someone who identifies as an ambivert, I turned out to love the endless amounts of alone time I was faced with. Three days alone to venture through one of the largest cities in Europe was a phenomenal way to learn more about myself; there was no one to compromise with, the plans were truly all on me. Want to roam around Camden Market for 2 hours? Why not! Want to watch the sunset across the London Eye as you listen to your favorite song? All you! There was so much flexibility in this context, and the feeling of being able to explore wherever I wanted for hours on end was the most freeing feeling.
That’s not to say I didn’t meet amazing people that weekend as well. I made friends at my hostel each night who came from all around the world, from California to France to Toronto. We sat in the lobby for hours on end talking about everything from language barriers to what the culture is like in San Francisco, only stopping to grab Chinese food down the street at 1am. Sharing the commonality of solo travel with random strangers who became friends was an incredibly cool feeling. Those were people I never would have gone out of my way to meet had I been with a group of my own, but through this experience I was able to make genuine connections in very unexpected places.
What I am trying to get at is that, while the concept of solo travel was intimidating at first, going on that trip turned out to be one of the best decisions I made abroad. If I had never booked that flight, I never would have realized how traveling by myself could be just as good, if not better, than traveling in a group. Given how opportunities such as these are now off the table for the safety and wellbeing of everyone amidst this global pandemic, I am so grateful to have been able to try taking a trip alone while the situation was still safe. I urge you, if the opportunity arises someday, to try solo traveling as well. While scary, it is ultimately such a valuable experience to have.