Being alone is scary.
I'm not just talking about the few sacred hours you get to yourself after you leave the confines of your bustling office. I'm talking about several days spent without a familiar presence by your side, cloaking you in a heavy loneliness. Even as an introvert, I can't go more than 2 days without seeking the comforting aura of a friend.
So then why did I set off on a European traverse for 10 days...by myself?
It may sound vain or naiive or millennial, but it almost felt like every Buzzfeed article (whether it was "22 Things to do Before You Turn 23" or "Here are 5 Things Every Virgo Should do in 2016") peer-pressured me to take a solo trip. Sure, my brother was studying in Sweden at the time, but I was essentially planning and budgeting an international trip with just my journal as a travel companion. The plan was perfect: Sweden to Norway to Hungary. I would stay in hostels, party with some new friends and make life-long connections. Buzfeed promised me that I would be having the time of my life and that I would finally find myself in the midst of Scandinavia. I envisioned myself beaming the entire trip, high on finally being comfortable enjoying my own company.
Is it time for the reality check? The writers at Buzfeed are amazing at romanticizing less than ideal situations, whether it's heart break or losing your job. Solo travel is not excluded from that list.
80% of that trip, I was terrified. The other 20% of the time? I was too cold to even register fear.
So what was so scary about this trip anyways? I visited some of the safest countries in the world. The answer is simple enough: being alone. I thought I'd love being able to choose my own schedule and hostels and activities, which was true at first.
But as I found myself lost in the maze of deserted streets in the frigid rain in Bergen or accidentally booking a hostel in an elderly hospital in Stavanger, fear started to scratch through my sanity and frantic questions seeped through my mind. Where was I supposed to go? Am I supposed to be making friends right now? Why am I always lost?!
During those first few days, I hated myself for trying to be so adventurous and push myself out of my comfort zone and aspire to emulate a Buzfeed article.
All of this changed when I set off on choppy ferry ride to hike to Pulpit rock on a particularly stormy day. I felt like Leonardo DiCaprio in Shutter Island, heading to a god forsaken area. My elderly hospital hostel roommate was actually on the ferry with me (she was surprisingly my age and was traveling alone), and since we were completely clueless how we were supposed to find the trailhead to the hike, we started making conversation with a young American man who was on a solo trip as well. It felt like I was a lone star connected to two other lone stars, forming a constellation.
We trudged through rain, snow and ice, unveiling our lives as we struggled (and laughed) our way to the top that promised a surreal view in the brochures. In the end, there was no view (since it was still winter...), but I came back from Pulpit Rock with stories of new friends. My fear of travelling alone vanished with their company.
Although I did not find myself, or love every minute of traveling alone, a lot of the fear associated with solo travel has dissipated for me. If there is anything that Buzfeed reiterates that rings true for me, it's that this world is not as big as it seems--there are new friends to be found on your next adventure.
I'd love to challenge all of my friends to try traveling alone just once, but this post may have already scared them out of it.