We’re taught to use the buddy system the moment we start Kindergarten. Take a buddy to the bathroom. Take a buddy to the office. Here’s your field trip buddy. That’s your recess buddy. We have lab partners. We have PE dance class partners. We find a best friend. We find groups of friends. We go to dances and parties in pairs. We’re assigned a walking partner for high school graduation ceremonies. We’re assigned a college roommate. The list goes on.
Now – don’t get me wrong – I don’t disagree with the buddy system. I’m sure I’ll enforce it with my own kids someday. But I do think there are times in life that you should walk alone.
However, when I first arrived in Sheffield, I did what I’d been taught to do. I found my buddies, and I asked them to travel with me. My friends and I went on several weekend excursions and made some of the sweetest memories (traveling with friends really is so great). BUT – after our winter holiday, I found myself daydreaming of escapades without friends (not because of the people – they’re still some of my best friends today) – but because I wanted to push myself to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. It was completely uncomfortable to think of traveling alone, exploring alone, eating alone, etc. (all of the things we’re taught to do together).
Somehow I convinced myself to book a flight to Dublin, Ireland. My travel date arrived, I packed my backpack and I took the train to the nearest airport. I felt nervous during the flight, but then felt a huge rush of excitement as we landed in Dublin. I found a bus that could take me to the city centre, and I hopped on, eager to begin my first solo adventure. I was much more content that I imagined I would be. The silence allowed me to fully take in the scenery around me. I found myself observing the land and the people much more intently than I ever had before. I teared up (not unusual – I’m a crier) thinking about how lucky I was to be living and traveling in such a stunning part of the world.
When we made it to the city centre, I pulled out the map I grabbed at the airport and set off to find my hostel. I stopped to ask for directions (something I may not have done with friends), and once I found the hostel, I talked to several other new people, asking for advice on how to best explore the city. This continued, and I met and chatted with so many unique individuals that weekend – at the hostel, in the city centre, at restaurants, on buses, in the countryside, on the edges of cliffs – people that I probably wouldn’t have had the privilege of getting to know if I had been with my friends.
It wasn’t easy or comfortable to talk to so many strangers, but the more I did it, the clearer it became: We’re all much more similar than we realize. Each person I met was on an adventure, just like I was. We were all headed in some sort of direction, we all got lost, we all needed reassurance and advice, and in the end, we were all encouraged by the kindness of strangers. I left Dublin completely recharged, but not for the reasons that I thought I would be. I thought I would have a quiet, solitary weekend; but instead, I was challenged and invigorated by strangers – some of whom I still speak to today. I laughed, I cried, I thought deeply, and I soaked in every bit of the cultural differences I encountered.
Traveling with friends will lead you on some incredible journeys, but there’s nothing quite like trusting your own inner compass, venturing alone, and achieving empowerment in your findings and in the beautiful people you’ll meet along the way. Book a solo adventure – I dare ya!
P.S. All of the above is totally true, but I also did the things below:
- Always tell your family where you’re going AND tell them your itinerary details (train/flight times, departures/destinations, hotel/hostel names if you’re staying the night, etc.)
- Always tell a friend in the UK all of those same things (they’ll be the ones to actually help you if something does go wrong)
- Remember your cell phone AND the charger
- Print your travel itinerary (train/flight times, addresses, etc.) in case your phone dies or breaks
- Keep cash on you (ex: inner coat pocket) in case you lose your wallet
- Pack lightly so you can move around freely and easily
- Have somewhat of an itinerary planned, but DEFINITELY leave room for spontaneous adventures
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