Wanderlust & the Joy of the Solo Trip
Travel has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My parents were responsible for my wanderlust, and our shared excitement for exploring new countries never seemed to wane throughout my childhood. We traveled through Europe and across the Australian continent, with each trip gaining more curiosity about other cultures. Travel has been embedded in my veins; my blood runs thick with it. But sadly, it had a shelf limit. As I grew into adulthood, I settled into a complacent life, pondering the constant quandary of whether I was working to live, or living to work.
Exploring the world became an afterthought, something that got pushed to the back burner as bills and rent and eventually a mortgage took precedence. But after several years as an armchair traveler, indulging my desire to wander with books or movies instead, I finally realized that I needed to challenge myself. The tactics that I had formerly employed to shake things up weren’t enough, it was time to give into my wanderlust and plan a solo trip to a city I had always dreamed of visiting again, this time as an adult. To Paris.
Thankfully the trip ignited a spark that has turned into other solo trips, and eventually work as a travel and food writer. All because I had the courage to take that first step out the door and into the unknown. It is a challenge that confronts me again and again, and I know that if I keep facing it head-on it will continue to teach me more about myself and the world around me. These are some of the unexpected joys of travel that I have discovered along the way, and I hope that it will encourage you to plan a trip somewhere new, somewhere unexpected.
A chance meeting with a stranger
While in Paris on my solo trip I decided to visit the Père Lachaise Cemetery, which is located on the outskirts of the city. Confident that I knew my way around, I then of course proceeded to get lost as soon as I stepped outside its gates. Wandering around the area, I realized that I was walking in circles until I spotted a Metro sign and descended the stairs.
After an unsuccessful attempt to request help from the information agent, I approached a Frenchman with a kind face and asked if he could help me figure out which line I needed to take. He graciously consulted the map and stayed with me until we got to my stop. We exchanged numbers and ended up spending the next day together, practicing each other’s languages and visiting some of the city’s landmarks. Something that never would have happened if I had made the choice instead to stay home.
Solo Trips & Facing your fears… and living to tell about it
My list of things I wanted to do and see in Paris on my solo trip was unbelievably long, and at the top was a visit to the Sacré-Cœur, the basilica that is perched at the top of a hill in the Montmartre district. I made the decision to climb the 300 steps to the dome, something that I soon regretted when I realized that they were slippery spiral steps, encased in an area without windows. I panicked, but with no alternative other than to keep moving forward, I took the steps slowly, thinking that if there was ever a time to find religion, it was then.
A young couple approached behind me, and when I realized they were Americans I confided my fears to them. The woman took me under her wing, reassuring me that she had been counting the stairs and encouraging me to focus on that, so that there would be a distinct endpoint in sight. That worked, and when we reached the top we all erupted in a chorus of cheers.
Wanderlust & Learning something about yourself
Whether on a solo trip or in a traveling in a group, I have learned something about myself on every trip that I take. I have always known that after being social I require time to myself, time to recharge and re-calibrate. This has become even more prominent when I am in social situations on a more regular basis, especially when traveling in groups.
Even though my wanderlust is strong, it is my tendency to be more introverted, so often I must force myself to interact with others, with a reminder that I am stepping outside of my comfort zone and will feel better after doing so. Even if things don’t always end up the way I’ve planned, I know that I’ve given it my best shot. I also recently learned that if I can find a common ground with someone, then we are much more likely to get along and possibly form a friendship. Laughter is my language of choice, spoken fluently.
Travel & Immersing yourself in another culture
The joy I experience when I’m learning something new, exposing myself to an area’s history and culture, is immeasurable. I sometimes feel that I am most at home when I am visiting someone else’s, it is when I really come alive. It doesn’t matter whether I’m watching the rodeo at Cheyenne’s Frontier Days, partaking in Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico, sampling wine in the Loire Valley, or cracking coconuts in Fiji, I constantly want to learn more, see more, and experience more. If I have an opportunity to write about these experiences too, even better. It is curiosity that fuels me, and the memories of these moments that will remain with me forever.
Meeting like-minded souls
I can’t think of how many times while traveling that I have encountered someone who I feel like I’ve known forever, someone who I am instantly comfortable with. Whether they are in my life for a season or a lifetime, I know that they have come across my path for a reason. Some will be forever friends, and others served their purpose at the time, such as one woman I met, whose support and confidence became a much-needed antidote at that point in my life.
Her encouragement became a salve that helped to heal me, and although she is now no longer a part of my life, I am grateful for the time she was in it. I am thankful that travel has introduced me to these people, and for my friends around the world— from Prague to Portland, New York to Canada and London. I can’t wait to discover who else is out there.