It is heard so often, the term ‘traveling solo’. So many do it, have the guts to do things by themselves. But only few know what that actually means, what it teaches you, what it takes one to do it.
It was noon when I arrived at Frankfurt Airport with my mother. My plane to San Fransisco was scheduled to leave in about 3 hours. After eating an Asian dish, I was feeling terribly sick. I felt like I was going through hell, my body somehow did not like the food I had eaten. I felt dizzy. Plus I was so nervous. I was twelve at that time. And even though I had already traveled to Ireland at the ages of 8 and 9 to visit friends, this was my first real travel solo. I was about to board a plane bringing me over the pond, to a family I have never seen before, just trusting my dad’s opinion that his friends in California were very nice. So I stood there, saying goodbye to my mum (after I threw up in the waiting hall, good job girl) , feeling sick and nervous and about to die, thinking ‘Oh great, here goes nothing’.
12 hours later I set foot on American ground for the first time. Three times to date, still counting. I went through border control, customs etc. alone. And then I saw two people standing there – those, who I was about to live with for 5 weeks, who were about to become family. And when we were in the car driving home to Santa Cruz, I instantly knew that this is what I was meant for. Traveling far, solo.
And what I have learned on the way is worth so much, never replaceable by any money. Traveling already teaches you incredibly much. You discover new cultures and countries, you expand your horizons, you gain tolerance and understanding towards global topics, you cross your boundaries, you get to know yourself better, you might even change. But traveling solo, that’s what really changes you. I, for one, have learned to be responsible for myself, to take care of myself, to pay attention to my surroundings, to stay safe. I have become self-independent, self-reliant, and so much more.
My Californian friend and I were about to get some food in town, but I wanted to change first. Then she asked me ‘Do you really care what others think about you?’ and I answered with yes. Frankly, this question has been running through my mind ever since. With 12 years, I cared what others thought. I had then been traveling through California, experiencing everything and seeing the world, people, myself with different eyes. With 13 years, I didn’t care what others thought anymore. And I am so proud of this fact, especially because it still has not changed.
Whenever I think back to day I stood there in Frankfurt, trembling, I smile. I see a little insecure blonde girl, making the first step. All nervous, she gave the police officer, who sat at the passport control, her Austrian passport with her shaking hands.
Every time I stand at the airport and hand over my passport, I still smile. Because that tiny yet huge step has brought me to many places, has made me who I am. I still get nervous, but in an absolutely positive way. I still have moments of fear, but it is different now. I am not afraid of going, I am afraid of not going. So I am still nervous. Because I just can’t wait to go again.
Being all by yourself in a foreign country, that is the adventure of your lifetime.
The first step to traveling solo is the hardest. The following experiences you make are unbelievable. I can say that traveling solo has given me courage, independence, responsibility, positivity, and most important, character.