by Sara Sands
1. Leave Your Comfort Zone
One important lesson I learned from my solo journey abroad was that even though it was terrifying, leaving my comfort zone was worth it. For days before I left for my trip, I contemplated whether or not it was actually going to be worth it for me to go. Worry absolutely consumed me. I couldn’t stop thinking about my flights working out, being so far away from my family and friends, and about whether or not I had packed absolutely everything I would need for the entire month-long trip. Preparing for the trip was almost more exhausting for me than it was exciting. It was something I had never done on my own before. I just felt so sure that I was going to mess something up or forget something and just ruin the trip for myself entirely.
My heart was racing the entire ride to the airport. The whole time I was waiting to get onto my flights (and even on the actual flight over), I felt like I would probably never stop sweating for as long as I lived. However, looking back at my trip now, I know that all of the anxiety I was feeling was related to stepping into “the unknown.” I was going to do things and go places and be with people I had never met before. And I soon found out how worth it stepping out of my comfort zone was!
2. Learn To Roll With The Punches
I was so stressed leading up to my trip that it helped me to learn another important lesson from traveling abroad: whatever happens, happens. A huge problem for me is worrying that things might not go according to plan. Something I’ve learned is that almost nothing goes according to plan. This is especially so when you’re traveling, and that’s completely okay. I think this is a lesson that everyone learns sooner or later in life. When it comes to traveling, I’ve learned that it’s much easier to just roll with the punches than it is to spend a ton of time worrying about what the plan was “supposed” to be, or how things were “supposed” to go. That’s what makes traveling anywhere such an exciting journey. When you don’t know every turn on the road it creates a true adventure.
3. Get Insight!
Something that can be really helpful to relieve some stress is to ask people who’ve been there before. Asking someone with experience for some advice or suggestions can really put things in perspective. There’s never going to be a better resource than someone who has experienced it themselves. Information from someone who has an inside scoop can make it easier to do almost anything. They can make it easier to decide what activities to do or places to visit. They can also give you some great advice about transportation or activities that you might not otherwise know about.
4. Trust That There Are Good People Everywhere You Go
Another important lesson I learned while touring Europe was that there truly was nothing to be afraid of. As I mentioned earlier, I feel like fear of the unknown is what stops a lot of people from doing things that they dream of doing. Playing it safe is almost always easier than putting yourself out on a limb. It seems like there’s almost always someone who will tell you not to go, or that “it isn’t safe.” However, in my experience, there are kind people everywhere you go. Many of them also have a passion for traveling. They’re more than willing to help out if you need it. Traveling with an open mind and an open heart is important. Every person who ventures into new territory, partaking in new adventures, means bringing people who seem different closer together. For me, that makes the world feel just a little bit smaller.
5. Plan For Your Solo Journey Abroad Future!
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, always save for your next trip! Always have an ear open to suggestions for places to visit. I know from experience that once the travel bug gets in you, it’s very difficult to kick! If you come across anyone who is an experienced traveler, ask them where their favorite destinations are. There’s no better person to ask for suggestions and advice than a passionate, experienced traveler with plenty of stories to tell.