Oh, I’d traveled before. This time last year, I was on a four-month study abroad journey in Europe. I visited four countries while I was there: France, The Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden. But never alone. On each of those trips, I’d always had at least two other people with me. Two other people to help me plan, find directions, figure out money, and get back on track when we got lost.This time was different.
Over spring break, I decided to go to Vancouver, British Columbia for two full days, arriving late Thursday night, Mar. 12 and leaving early Sunday morning, Mar. 15. And I decided to go totally alone.
The idea randomly popped into my head one day, and eventhough I’m not an impulsive person, I acted on it. I was sitting in my cubicle at my internship at lunch, and decided to open the Internet for idle browsing. Somehow, I stumbled upon an article about vacationing in Vancouver, B.C. And the idea came to me: I could go there, and I could go there alone.
As a second-semester college senior, I’ve been coming to grips with the overwhelming number of “lasts” I’ve been facing. One of those lasts is the last time I’ll have so much free time on my hands. (If only the working world offered such a thing as “spring break.”) And another one of those lasts is likely the last time I’ll be in the Pacific Northwest, where Canada is an hour-long plane ride away. My decision to go was based on two factors: 1) I’d never been to Canada and 2) I might as well go now. That was it.
Later that afternoon, I called my mom and told her my crazy idea, expecting (hoping?) that she’d talk me out of it. She didn’t. She didn’t like the idea of me traveling by myself, but said that if I wanted to go, I could.
So I booked the flight, and a bed in a hostel, and a tour I wanted to go on, and a few weeks later, spring break came, and I hopped on a plane. It finally hit me when I was 30,000 feet in the air that what I was doing was crazy. I don’t know a single person–let alone a woman–my age who would go somewhere completely unfamiliar by themselves. But I did, and let me tell you: I have absolutely no regrets.
By the end of my first day, I made friends with a group of three other people. We met on the hostel’s organized activity to Granville island, a kind of marketplace on the water in Vancouver. We spent the next day traveling together, going to the science museum, eating lunch in Yaletown, and then heading outdoors for the St. Patrick’s Day weekend festival. We chatted a lot with each other, and I took advantage of another benefit of travel: learning about people from other cultures.
Simone and Ida, two of my travel companions, were from Denmark, and they let me know a lot about their country: how their school system works, how young Danes flock to the cities just like young Americans, and how early they learn English. They were on a gap year after finishing the Danish equivalent of an undergraduate degree. Both of them studied science in school, because the demand for engineers is very high in Denmark, much higher than for other careers.
Zach, my other travel companion, was from England, and he was on a gap year before going to medical school. He talked about a lot of things: his experiences working at a hospital, the National Health Service in England, and working with children. He was a very nice guy, and made traveling together very enjoyable.
All three of my buddies commented at one point or another how annoying it is that Canadian (and as I explained to them, most of North American) sales prices don’t include tax in the written price of an item–they only add it when you’re at the register. I, too, agreed that this was annoying. And in all of our ramblings with each other, all of the little things we talked about, I found how odd it was that I was in this moment, having this conversation with them. I predicted that I would just be alone, with no one to keep me company. But I had three great friends to talk to.
I spend a lot of time by myself. I’m that one roommate who’s in her room 90% of the time. And if I’m ever in the Commons, I’m someone who doesn’t mind eating alone. But being alone can get lonely. When I went to Canada, I found myself taking part in a social experience that I hadn’t planned on experiencing. I can’t tell you how awesome it was.For those of you contemplating solo travel, understand that traveling solo does not mean being alone. Even if you arrive some place by yourself, you’ll leave having formed new connections with other people.