I am currently sitting at the Heathrow airport eating my 5th croissant in the past 4 days. I am leaving today with a full heart and a changed perspective.
Last week, I had extreme anxiety and fear about my first ever international solo trip. I didn’t plan to do a solo trip…it just sort of happened. I have a conference budget at work (#workperks) and was able to use that money to attend the JAM conference in London.
My plan was to bring Chase, my husband and traveling pro, along with me. Every time we’ve traveled in the past, he has done everything and I just show up. It’s awesome! It’s also very helpful because I’m quite directionally challenged and can be a bit of an airhead sometimes. Thus, a few weeks before the trip he told me he couldn’t come. I was fine at the time, but as the days counted down, I began to freak out.
The night before I left, I laid face first on the floor pouting and complaining to Chase. I told him I didn’t want to go. I was just so afraid. Afraid of getting lost, being alone, getting taken…I was fearful of all the unknowns.
He told me (in a loving way) to suck it up and that I would enjoy it. I didn’t realize it at the moment but his wise advice, as usual, was right. And like most things in my life that I dread, it ended up being an incredible life experience. Who would have guessed?!
Here are the 3 things I learned on my first solo trip abroad:
1. Empathy, empathy, empathy
I’m laughing as I write this because I’m getting tested on this right now! I’m listening to a woman loudly face-timing as they are starting boarding calls on the over-com. The noise is deafening, but it is a prime example of this point.
Traveling is blooming with situations that are annoying and frustrating because traveling usually involves lots and lots of different people and personalities. When I first started my trip, this drove me INSANE. I didn’t think I was going to make it. There were so many people getting on my nerves I about went mad. I realized that I had to adapt or I’d have an awful time.
So here’s what I did…I started imagining myself in the bodies of the people that annoy me. I put myself in the shoes of lady across from me thinking about if I needed to talk with my loved ones before boarding a 9 hour flight. I really thought about what it was like for her and my annoyance eased…at least a little bit.
It’s so easy to give ourselves excuses.
- ‘I needed to check in on a sick loved one.’
- ‘I wanted to face-time with my kid before I left.’
But when it’s other people it’s so easy to blame them isn’t it?
- ‘How could they be so rude?’ ‘
- What are they thinking?’
By using empathy, I was better able to rationalize and give myself and others some grace. Plus, I tried to remind myself how many times I annoy other people! It’s easier to give them a break that way.
2. I’m a strong, independant woman!
Throughout the course of my travel, I had to be strong. There were so many situations that arose that I just had to deal with. I couldn’t rely on Chase or anyone else, I only had me. This caused me to go into sort of a fight or flight mode of survival.
In situations that would usually cause me intense stress like…losing my license, bank card and taking the wrong train…I actually was able to cope quite well. I had to!
This self-reliance was so empowering.
I am coming back from this trip having more faith and trust in my ability to handle difficult situations. I feel stronger and braver. I feel like an 👏 independant 👏woman!
3. I can make decisions
I don’t know about you, but I struggle sometimes (okay always) to make decisions. There are so many things to consider! I not only have to think about what I want but also how it will effect others and about a million other things.
This trip, I learned that I can make decisions and quite easily in fact! I was able to eliminate all the clutter of indecision and just do what I wanted to. We have so few opporunities to truly be independent and decisive and this trip showed me that not only am I capable of deciding but I really enjoy it.
Deciding really can be easy and simple.
I am taking away from this trip the ability to decide and act on things that I want to do, not things that I feel like I should do.
I honestly did not think I would have enjoyed solo travel as much as I did. It was so freeing. I was able to gain clarity, rejuvenate my soul and truly grow. I hope this inspires you to get out into the world more. To experience life in the fullest way.
I’ll end with Chase’s favorite quote…
Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.
– Robert Frost