When I bought the plane tickets to and from Lisbon, Portugal, I fully expected to convince another one of my friends in my program to accompany me. “I’m just making the trip official,” I told myself, under the impression that someone would come with me and that would be that. Two months later, I stared at the empty backpack on my bed and looked back and forth from my closet to the backpack. I was preparing to leave for my first solo trip in Europe, and I was completely overwhelmed by every possible aspect of the trip: what to pack, what to wear, what to do, what to say, and how to get there. To be honest with you, dear reader, I knew exactly what I would be doing while in Portugal, and I knew exactly which planes, trains, and automobiles I would be taking to get there. However, facing my first trip alone, all the small details were magnified to a disproportionate size and there I was, unable to pack a single pair of jeans.
I nearly missed the bus from Granada to the airport (and by nearly, I mean that I was down to the minute), and I was running from my first flight to my second, and then again from the Lisbon airport to the bus station, but all said and done, I knew I had accomplished something great that day. Traveling alone, particularly in a country where you don’t speak the language, is daunting, but it is equally rewarding as it is intimidating. I will be telling stories about this trip for months to come because there is so much value in boarding a plane alone with a backpack and a hunger for adventure. I consider this past weekend in Portugal one of the most impactful experiences I’ve had during my time in Spain, and I know that is mostly due to the fact that I decided to travel solo.
I remember distinctly the moment that I realized how wonderful the weekend had been, even though I was the only one to experience it. As I was walking on the final morning of my trip, I took a moment to look down at my shoes, which happened to be the only pair of shoes I brought with me. The sight of the mosaic-like pavement with my gray trainers immediately took me back to a similar memory from my program’s trip to Morocco, when I took a picture of those same shoes standing amongst the pooling clothing dyes in the marketplace of Fez.
At that moment, I realized how far those shoes had traveled, and how very far I had come in the matter of just one month. I am confident that I would not have been ready to take a solo trip in Europe if I had considered going at the beginning of this semester. However, these past 16 weeks have been such a time of personal growth and discovery that now, I am comfortable taking a trip alone (despite my small worries) and I am so thankful to have done so.
The world awaits…discover it.