“The beauty of traveling solo is that you wonder unexpectedly, but almost certainly into the direction you were meant to go.” ― Shannon Ables


In case you were wondering, I got the quote from looking at Goodreads, although I did have a phase where everything I said came from quote posts from Pinterest.

Since I have been studying abroad, I haven’t been completely traveling solo, but I have had a lot of solo excursions. Whether it be a train side to the beach in Copenhagen, perusing a pop-up flea market in Stockholm, getting some Florentine gelato near the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, or strolling in the Cimetière de Montmartre in Paris, I’ve learned to really enjoy and prioritize my alone time. This isn’t to say I don’t like being with people; I’d still consider myself an extrovert. I suppose all the time living by myself and exploring on my own helped me enjoy my own company, but I think exploring on my own came out of my friends being busy and I wanted to do something. I mean, what can you do when everyone has severely different class times? It means you hang out on Friday and the weekend, but you don’t want to be in your room all day besides going to class. So you do what I did and venture out on your own. I did expect to solo explore before I left for Europe, but not as much as I have, but I’m not regretting it. The most peaceful moments on my trip abroad have been when I’m alone, walking along the edge of the sea and feeling the Scandinavian wind on my face or taking walks within the city– exploring the city by foot. I’ve even walked around many times without bringing my earbuds along– on purpose (*gasp*). Sometimes there are genuinely no conscious thoughts in my head, I just wander. And wander I must, as I’ve learned that I’ve got a sense for adventure.

Maybe it’s from growing up in a city where everyone knows you, your family, and your pet goldfish, maybe it’s because I’ve historically been a proponent for new things. Maybe it’s a Michigander thing, as someone told me that I’m the seventh girl from Michigan that was itching for a new experience and has been traveling all summer and loving it. I don’t know the root of it, but whatever stemmed my wanderlust has been quite empowering. My family, out of love, did fear-monger my trip before I left, but I can’t blame them for being concerned for my safety. I wasn’t able to bring my pepper spray after all. Truthfully, there are a billion things that could go wrong and probably another billion safety concerns. That’s why I do what I can to ensure my safety, like staying with a group of people if it’s dark out or keeping my phone charged and with me. But being too worried about every “what-if” that could happen would influence me to not take opportunities at my fingertips. As Ms. Frizzle says, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy”. But this is the duality of traveling, especially alone.

I digress, although it is important to keep your wits about you. I think solo exploring is an important factor in my character development. I’ve strived on my own independence which has helped me to pick up important skills like trusting myself and flexibility– the metro system for every city I’ve been in has been great in fostering this. Not to flex, but I figured out how the Paris metro worked in less than 24 hours (I give some credit to learning French in high school and college). I’ve learned to enjoy my own company and freedom and found peace just being with myself. I do think that it will be harder to prioritize once I go back to the States, as I have more responsibilities at home than I do abroad, but alone time doesn’t necessarily mean going to the beach or taking a hike every time I’m in need. It can look like taking some time to read (I have bought a lot of book here), walking around my neighborhood or campus, sitting in silence (or with people who make silence comfortable) and enjoying some “Hygge” time, and being able to say “No thanks” to an social gathering when I’m not going to be fully present. Listening to my body has been something I’ve learned from being at college, as subscribing to the rat race sometimes causes stress and colds, but here I’ve been able to be more aware of my mental state. This awareness is essential to the work-life-school balance I’ve been attempting to pursue.

Who knew I needed a summer in Europe to discover my hidden priorities.