When I left for my year abroad, I had one goal in particular: to travel somewhere completely alone. This was something my friends and I had chatted about before but had never turned into a reality. I was always intrigued by the idea of solo travel but was understandably a bit nervous. Throughout my first semester in France, I traveled with others and discovered my home city for the most part but never made the big leap to travel entirely on my own. Come Christmas, my family visited and then shortly after New Years, I decided to stay alone in Paris for a few days once my family left to head back to the States. In the days leading up to my first solo trip, I was anxious but tried to tell myself everything would be fine, knowing that it was something I really wanted to experience and do for myself.
Then, the big day came. I exchanged a difficult goodbye with my family and then, it was like a light switched on. I was suddenly free in this city I had been to, but had never felt so immersed in. I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I did not have to answer anyone’s questions. I did not feel like I had to cater to anyone else. It was the most amazing feeling once I realized I was in fact not entirely alone–I had this amazing city in front of me ready to be taken in.
I went to the beautiful Sacré Coeur chapel and walked around the cobblestone streets of Montmartre. I visited the Centre Pompidou and marveled at the modern art on display. I went shopping in Le Marais and ogled at the French designer windows. I ate pain au chocolat and sipped coffee outside in January while eyeing Parisian passers-by. It was all like a fairy tale and part of it was honestly made better by the fact that I experienced it on my own. No one could ever experience exactly what I saw and what I did and that to me is so special.
While there is something special about experiencing a new place with someone else, I have found that there is something even more unique and romantic (oddly enough) about experiencing a new place alone. As cliché as it might sound, those moments I experienced alone in Paris are always with me. I take them out of my imaginary pocket sometimes when I need a break from life on campus and somehow, whenever I do, it feels like I was just there yesterday.
For me, traveling on my own was the biggest highlight of my experience abroad. When you only have yourself to rely on, surely everything becomes more real and you are far outside your comfort zone, but if you let go, everything can become a lot easier. So if you feel afraid to be alone, don’t be, and if you haven’t traveled alone or at least considered it, I would highly suggest it.