I walked through the ruins of an old castle that has existed in various forms since before the 12th century, the blue sky and the mountains in the background. I walked through ice-cold, turquoise water, the summer breeze in my hair. I walked through flea markets, gardens, old cities and a prison. I have dreamed about this for two years. For two years I kept dreaming of just getting away from everything, just living and traveling, going on a journey, exploring, experiencing something worth talking about. I wanted to go on a backpacking trip through Europe, really, really, badly.
However, everytime the idea came back to the surface of my thoughts, I also started to think “but I’m on my own, and I am a woman. Can I really do it?” I had this dream in my head and it took me two years before I finally found the confidence to actually do it. But in the end, traveling solo made me a stronger person.
TRAVELING SOLO MADE ME STRONGER
Going on this backpacking trip was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I had a great time, experienced and learned so many things and, truly, traveling solo made me a stronger person. I can almost hear you say “Wasn’t it dangerous to travel alone as a woman?” It is true that women have it a lot harder in many situations than men. I wouldn’t walk through a metropole at night on my own. You get randomly catcalled (and no, this is not a compliment). I even had strangers following me. BUT this didn’t happen in a foreign country. This happend to me in my hometown. So why should I keep myself from going somewhere else and exploring the world if something might happen at home as well. There are three major points I learned through my backpacking trip and I want to share those with you.
GROW YOUR SELF-ESTEEM
I don’t say that it was easy to just go on a plane and set off, it did take quite some time to get the confidence to make that step and travel on my own. But you know what? It wasn’t as complicated as I first thought. And now my confidence is like so high and I think “phewww whatever, I’ve been traveling Europe alone, I can do so much more” *putting on sunglasses and walking into the sunset* haha ok. To be honest, I still have my times where I’m scared and nervous as hell (and that’s a good thing), but it got so much better after this trip. I guess, through my trip I learned how strong and capable I really am because I had only myself to rely on. My first solo traveling trip last summer just broke me out of my shell.
And this is the beauty of traveling. Travel is so often about self-discovery. When you only have yourself to rely on, you get to experience what your strengths and weaknesses are. Reflecting on yourself and your experience and achievements will grow your self-esteem and make you a strong-minded person. You will also become stronger in the sense that traveling will give you a unique, wider array of perspectives. Be curious, be engaged with your surroundings. Because boredom is a symptom of limited perspective. You not only make the trip, the trip makes you. Don’t miss the journey, because then you miss just about everything what traveling is about.
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FEEL COMFORTABLE IN YOUR OWN SKIN
I also think that I’m much more at ease with myself. I accepted who I am. You will also discover the beauty of feeling comfortable in your own skin when you start traveling. When you’re traveling, you just can’t be bothered to look into a mirror five times a day. Skip the make-up, rock that saltwater drained hair. You bring so much more to the table than your looks. And generally, I’m not going to change just for the sake of some random person.
I think through this solo trip I started to care less about what other people think and care more about what makes ME happy. That doesn’t mean that I’m not accepting feedback but that does mean that I don’t care if you think my hair looks stupid. I actually think that I also got better at taking feedback, because I learned to not take it so personally anymore (which I used to do a lot). But now I can recognize valuable (!) feedback and improve myself through it.
Traveling also teaches you to embrace your freedom of making your own decisions. You don’t want to do that group tour your hostel offers, but ten other people want you to go? If you don’t feel it, don’t go. If you’d rather want to spend your day adventuring on your own in that big city, do it. Be independent. You don’t have to wait for anybody.
The last point I want to make here on why traveling solo made me a stronger person is that traveling also made me humble, made me realise how unbelievably breathtaking the earth is. There are so many incredible places and people and there is so much to discover and to learn. It makes me humble and it makes me excited. My feet start to itch when I think of all the awesome things there are still left for me to explore. I believe that knowing how to be humble is a feature of a strong person.