During college, I decided to study abroad, and at first I tried to round up a group of people to go with me. But, with money, class conflict issues, etc. it didn’t seem to be working out for anyone else to go.
Not wanting to give up the opportunity, I decided to still make the trip— all by myself. The campus I was going to was in Hong Kong, and while the idea of going to another country was scary, I was also genuinely excited to hop on that plane and go.
There were going to be other students that I would meet and become friends with, obviously, but as far as I knew at the beginning of the trip, I was completely on my own.
Not only was this my first solo trip, it was also my first time ever out of the country. So, I packed for my two and a half month stay, hopped on a plane and landed in Hong Kong 18 hours later.
Navigating through an airport after an 18 hour flight with limited English signage is not easy, just in case you were wondering. Then, arriving at my dorm room to find that the Wifi was down and there was no way to get in touch with my family, let’s just say, is not exactly how I’d imagined my first hours in the country to be.
This definitely caused my first “What was I thinking?” moment. But, in those instances, I found a shower and some sleep will do wonders, just so you know.
When I woke up, got the Internet back up and working, and made time to take in my surroundings and tried to live a “normal” life in Hong Kong, I found the trip to be quite enlightening,
After having lived though it first hand, I honestly think there’s a lot to be said for traveling solo, however intimidating it may seem. Here’s some of what I learned during my travels:
1. You’ll Really Start To See
In a crowded city that’s foreign in every way, there’s a lot to notice and a lot to take in. There were times that I visited the same place during the day and then again at night, and at night I’d notice things I’d missed during the daytime hours.
It made me realize that, especially in our everyday routine, we get lost constantly looking, but not actually seeing. It’s crazy what you notice when you’re actually paying attention.
2. You’ll Become More Brave
When you travel alone, you have no crutch. You need directions? You have to ask for them. No one but you is there to help, so you must be brave and do things for yourself.
3. You’ll Step Outside Of Your Comfort Zone
Before traveling, I’d die of embarrassment if I ever had to go have a meal by myself. I mean, be seen alone out in public— you’ve got to be kidding me. But, in HK, who else was I going to eat with?
Even though I made friends on campus, sometimes they were busy, and I was hungry. So, I had to step outside of my norm and become comfortable with the uncomfortable.
4. You’ll Become More Humble
There’s nothing like staring up at a skyscraper so tall that you can’t see the top of it to make you realize how small you actually are in the scope of things. It’s an extremely humbling experience.
5. You’ll Communicate In Different Ways
When there’s a language barrier, you have to find other ways to communicate. A simple smile or glance can say a lot, and you begin to value these other basic human ways of communication when speaking in the same language is no longer an option.
6. You’ll Put Things Into Perspective
Traveling alone will help put things into perspective. It’s so easy to get caught-up in our daily lives and stress about things that don’t really matter. Traveling will help you pick out those instances in your own life.
7. You’ll Do More Self-Reflection
Traveling by yourself leaves a lot of time to be alone with your thoughts. As a writer, I relished in this. I journaled and took advantage of some alone time with me, myself and I – and I highly recommend that everyone do this.
8. You’ll Enjoy The Present
Knowing that you will only be traveling for a set amount of time will help you value the time you have in that place. It forces you to enjoy the present, which can be immensely helpful for when you return home, too.
9. You’ll Get Excited For The Future
While taking a trip can help you really enjoy the present, it can also help you get excited for the future. For what you’re going to do when you get back to your life, for where you’re going to travel next, etc. You’ll feel the possibilities are endless.
10. You’ll Think Differently, Even When You Are Back Home
You can never take away what you experienced while you were away, so all of the things you’ll learn—seeing instead of looking, enjoying the “now”— all of that will come back to your routine when you return from your travels, too.
11. You’ll Be More Grateful For What You Have
In my opinion, there’s nothing like traveling to make you appreciate what you have at home. When the man stamped my passport once I had landed back in the U.S. and said, “Welcome home,” I could have cried.
Because as good as it is to travel, there’s nothing like coming home with all that you learned while you were away.
[h/t: Thought Catalog]