The first time I travelled on my own, I had less than 10 hours’ notice. In a whirlwind agreement, I had signed with a modelling agency in Milan and was expected to come for fashion week. I arrived with only carry-on luggage in tow, not having fully grasped my reality.
That first trip was interesting, to say the least. They didn’t have space for me in the model apartment for the first few nights, so I was staying with my agent’s friend of a friend who was also hosting two French models. The first night, I got a bedroom with an en suite. The French girls convinced the apartment’s owner to have me switch into the smaller room, the one with the doors to the parking garage attached. I woke up a couple times in the middle of the night to strangers making their way from their mopeds and cars to the party happening in the common area, my bedroom acting as their only barrier to the fun.
The second time I travelled alone, it was only a few months later. I was headed back to Milan after the Christmas holidays, this time with a couple weeks’ notice and a fully stocked suitcase. This time, I had a bit more leeway with my schedule, and got to go out of the city when I didn’t have castings or work. I took the train to Florence and Verona and Lugano. I wrote letters to Juliet and hiked a mountain and paid too much money for a salad because I forgot that Switzerland doesn’t use Euros. I had to grow up and figure out how to stand on my own. When you’re in a foreign country that’s hours ahead of where your loved ones are, dependency is not an option.
I’ve now travelled to Italy, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, and the U.S.A completely on my own. Each adventure has come with its own challenges, but I’ve seen an exponential amount of personal growth and maturity as a result of each. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy travelling with others – in fact, I prefer it. But I have built the confidence to be comfortable with being by myself.
I want to clarify that I see myself as an extremely extroverted person. I am energized from being around people and have a predisposition to feel incredibly lonely in isolation. And now you may be asking, “how can she be extroverted and also enjoy ‘doing her own thing’?” I’ve noticed that my need to be around others can become unhealthy; I get anxious when I don’t give myself space to be alone, in the same way that I get anxious when I’m alone too much. Thus, I’ve come to learn that loneliness and being alone are two different things.
To me, this differentiation has made travelling solo less daunting. When you take the loneliness out of the equation, exploring new places become all the more fun. You’re now opening yourself up to opportunities to see things you want to see, to obey your own schedule, and to meet like-minded individuals. Better yet, you’re now open to contacting people who you may only know peripherally and forge new friendships or bonds.
I challenge you, just once, to attempt to travel on your own. Be bold – take on the world. And then share your stories via #WorldismyMUSE
Since it’s just you, you’re really not in need of a hundred outfit options and a full makeup bag. Consider this: you don’t have a pal to carry your bag when it gets too heavy. Always bring a pair of sneakers too, since you’re most likely going to be walking around and cabs are expensive if you’re not splitting it with a friend.
2. PICK A HANDFUL OF ATTRACTIONS YOU WANT TO VISIT
Go into the trip with a mini plan. What do you want to see most? Then, let the rest fall into place. You have the complete freedom to do anything you want – take advantage of it!
3. BRING A BOOK
Nothing compares to the kind of reading you accomplish on a solo trip. From your morning coffee to late night dinners, a book is always the perfect companion. Bonus if you can find stories that are set wherever you’re visiting.
4. REACH OUT
There’s something so special about meeting people who you kind of sort of know in a foreign place. Check Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat to see who is currently living in your destination. Or, better yet, put out a search message. You’d be surprised how welcoming and friendly people are, especially if they’re in a similar situation. Suggest meeting up for a meal or going to an attraction that’s better suited for groups. It’s only a couple hours of your life, it is never as awkward as you’d expect, and maybe you’re able to form a new friendship. Touching base with someone familiar makes wherever you are going much less scary.
5. TRUST YOUR INSTINCT
I trust my gut feeling more than anything in the world. It has yet to be wrong, and boy, do I have stories about going against it. If something doesn’t feel right, change the situation. When you’re on your own, you have to look out for yourself.
6. JOIN THE YOUTH
I hate this title, but this is the best way to summarize what I mean. There are massive amounts of activities, whether it’s free walking tours or organizes by your hostel, that are catered towards young(er) travellers who are either alone or in small groups. It’s a great way to make friends, to learn more about the city, and to get out of your comfort zone.