“The time I traveled in Europe alone”: The Story I’ll Tell Everyone About Studying Abroad

Alison Moore is a student at the University of Pittsburgh and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Granada, Spain.

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.

My gray trainers in the streets of Morocco, and again in the streets of Portugal. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” Dr. Seuss

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 final day of my amazing solo trip to Portugal. There is so much value in traveling alone, and it should not be avoided simply because of nerves or fear. There is more to be gained in the adventure of finding something on your own than there is in remaining ‘comfortable.’

The world awaits…discover it.

Leave a Reply