I’ve read that traveling can be the best teacher. But the best teacher of what exactly? I believe that depends on the person and how many lessons you allow yourself to gain.
Most of us will learn the tricks and traits of how to travel on a budget, without a plan, alone, or whatever the situation may be. Some people will learn new things about themselves. Perhaps, some of us will see a bigger picture of the world we live in and a change of perspective on our own lives .
When it comes down to it, each of us set out on a trip in hopes for something in return.
During the dates of September 24th - October 24th I traveled across Europe without any pre-established plan besides the first four nights of accommodation in Paris. It was up in the air.
I graduated my one year schooling program and quit my 9 - 5 one week prior to my travels.
I felt boxed in the whole year. If I wasn't at school, I was at work and vice versa. And even when I was at work I had little reassurance of any future for me at that company.
I wanted to see what it’s like to be completely free. To wake up and pretty much play eenie-meenie-miney-mo on a map of Europe.
And I understood this might be the only time period in my life where I can do something like this given that I'm single, don't have kids, nor do I have any major obligations that are keeping me from leaving.
I can’t really explain if there’s one underlying lesson or theme I can take away. But I can admit my perspective has changed and I was able to make a few realizations about life and myself in the process.
1. We’re all very similar regardless of which country you hail from
I have a theory. It can be completely wrong but that’s why it’s a theory.
I believe people who travel alone, if not everyone who travels, travel because they’re either running away from something or in search of something new and better.
By all means correct me if I’m wrong but you’re either running away from the stresses of work life, daily commutes, small city same-shit-different-day routines, monthly bills, weekend errands, fake bullshit or just plain old pain caused by someone near or far.
And perhaps you're running towards a world with completely new cities to get lost in, cultures to embrace, tastes new to your tongue, mountains to hike, views your eyes will never forget, late nights with new friends and conversations with people from different walks of earth.
At the end of the day, you're not alone.
That problem you keep dwelling on or person you keep thinking about will not be cured by escaping your reality.
You'll always have some sort of issue occupying your mind. It's inevitable.
If you have problems here you will have the same problems there but with more distractions to keep your mind off things. And when all is said and done, the key to happiness is disciplining your mind and thoughts.
Happiness is about keeping a healthy and positive mind set because that's all it really is, right?
A state of mind.
2. Being alone forces you to be more courageous
A lot of people close to me knew I did this trip not only for the pure excitement of it but also to test myself in a way. A self discovery trip if you will.
Some people understood why I was so adamant about doing this by myself but others just couldn’t comprehend the idea of being completely alone while traveling, let alone without any plan.
So upon my return, my friends and family all wanted to know what I learned about myself.
I didn't really have an exact answer for them. It doesn't just jump out at you. If anything, I learned more about other people which in return opened my own views about myself and the world we live in.
I met people who are going through very similar ups and downs as myself. People who relate to things I love.
I made a new friend who invited me to have dinner in her home, people who took the time out of their busy schedules to show me their cities, and just very kind people who willingly, on their own, lent a helping hand.
One of the people I connected with most didn’t speak a lick of English. We just relied on our actions and body language to speak in replacement of our words. There was a lesson learned for the people set on my path.
It’s truly fascinating traveling solo.
You have so much freedom to do what you want and more time to observe everything going on around you.
You are forced to meet new people you know nothing about, push yourself out of limitations and explore areas out of your own comfort zone.
3. Taking risks develops thicker skin
I don’t know if you necessarily get stronger as a person from being alone for a month but you become more comfortable with the idea of who you are as a person which translates well in a lot of different aspects. When you don't have plan, each day is a new adventure.
I usually would stay in a city for 2 to 4 nights. On the night before leaving to a new city I would take a few hours t0 research where I would go next.
The downside is that I missed busses, trains, wasted time researching places to visit, how to get there, and where I would stay but the upside was that I had the freedom to go wherever. My only choice was to keep moving. I couldn't stand still.
At times you’re going to come across people who for whatever reason don’t see you as a person they want to get to know. That’s just how it is sometimes.
For example, there were times I tried doing small acts of kindness such as buying a surprise breakfast for my roommates or surprising some of the hostel mates with a round of beers.
I didn't really have any intentions besides breaking down barriers and making new friends but that didn't work every time.
In some of these situations I remember weirding people out by the mere gesture of these actions.
On the contrary I had a friend express how I made his day just by helping him find his phone or when I surprised a friend I met in my hostel with a pizza and how appreciative she was because of the gesture.
She was so grateful. You can feel the warmth in her voice and hug.
At the end of day whether whether you come off too strong, weird someone out, or make someone happy you shouldn't let anything stop you from being you.
Be kind, mean well, don’t expect too much, and if you can make someone’s day in the process then that’s just the cherry on top.
In most cases I was able to talk about real topics within minutes of meeting new people. I connected with people I knew nothing about just from a simple “hello”.
Don’t get me wrong there are individuals I came across that didn’t want anything to do with me and vice versa. At times there were days I felt more introverted.
Some days I just wanted to be alone or just didn’t have the time, energy, motivation or patience to go through the process of making a new friend.
“I’m only human, Harry!” as my boy Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber would say.
Just don’t take things too personal. There’s thousands of other people awaiting you to brighten their lives.
4. Meeting people from all over the world gives you perspective on your own world
Looking back I remember being moved by so many people. The conversations and cultural exchanges felt real. Most of them were straight to the point no bull.
I hate to admit it but I find myself in more fake conversations here in the states about what I do, where do I do it, and basically what kind of car I drive.
I don’t think anyone is to blame for these bland conversations that speak little to nothing about who someone is as a person but unfortunately we are just a society obsessed with status, success, and image.
I for one find myself constantly guilty for falling into this pattern. Again, I don’t think anyone is to blame nor do I believe everyone has alternative motives.
It’s true, what someone does for a living tells you a lot about who that person is so it’s a nice piece of information to collect but my argument is mainly about some of us who write people off or immediately put them into a category based on worth because of how they earn a living.
You can be a very successful doctor but still be a terrible human being or you can be struggling white collar employee trying to balance two jobs with a heart of gold.
Either or, this way or that way, vice versa or not, that same person who is a terrible human being but has so much success could lose it all 1, 5, 10 years from now and that one guy struggling to make a living could be the next millionaire.
I just think we should view people for who they are at their core not for what they are on the surface.
5. The more you know yourself the better off you will be in life
Oh God, here comes another theory! See what happens when you’re an over thinker and you’re alone in another country with too much damn time on your hand?
Well when I was in Europe I started to notice as a whole that people are just naturally lonely in one way or another. As popular as you are with all those likes on Instagram or as surrounded by loved ones as you may be, at the end of the day all you have is yourself.
I know a lot of strong, wonderful people who are either happy with their spouse and have kids that light up their life, boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s that make them a better person or whatever it may be...
But on the opposite spectrum I see people who settle with someone because of either societal pressures or because they’re afraid of being alone.
And guess what happens?
Someone ends up getting hurt or cheated because the premise of that relationship was developed by fraudulent motives and insincere emotions.
To your defense, I like to think that most of us do this because we are complicated human beings who tend to make mistakes, sometimes the same mistakes over and over again just to make sure it's real.
However, I can't speak on behalf of all of us. Some of us get too caught up with ourselves.
Especially with social media. It has such an impact on modern day living. It’s so easy to fall into the pattern of trying to make our lives look perfect.
And to be quite honest every time I catch myself knee deep in that exact issue I take a break from social media.
Let’s not forget who we are and what we stand for. At the end of the day when you close the door and fall asleep in your bed, how happy are you?
The strongest and happiest people in my opinion are the ones who are most content with their own company and not afraid of the idea of being alone until they find someone or something that comes along worthy of falling in love with.
However, you might have a beautiful girlfriend or wife, an awesome husband or boyfriend, or a great successful career but when it comes down to it - that one person or thing is not going to decipher your happiness.
As it does contribute a huge deal of joy to your life the painful truth that we forget is that anyone or anything can be taken from us within a moments notice.
That is a cynical statement but if you haven't had someone come and go in your life who made you happy then you're most likely a rock or un-living organism.
Everything has an end which is why I believe so strongly in the pursuit of independence and self-growth. I’m not saying to forget about all the people in your life who make you happy.
Love them with all your heart.
Show them the love they deserve but do the same for yourself as well.
It’s a job in itself. It’s something you work at everyday. Always develop yourself on a personal level whether it’s mentally, physically, or spiritually.
Don’t forget to put yourself first!
- Anthony Awadalla