I got my first taste of travel when my parents basically forced me onto a plane to study abroad for a year in Australia. It was my senior year of undergrad, I wanted to spend it with my friends. But fate was on my side because despite my reservations, I went. As soon as I landed, I called my parents and said, “why didn’t you send me here sooner?” That was more than a decade ago and now I can’t stop trotting the globe.
For about ten years (non-continguous) I traveled by myself to Europe, Africa, Brasil, Argentina, Mexico, New Zealand, Hong Kong, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Australia, and throughout the USA – about 25 countries. More recently I try to accompany my husband whenever he has a business trip. Within the last few months we spent a month in Mumbai, a week in Boston and early next year headed to Mexico City. He’s so busy with work during those trips that I pretty much spend the time alone. I hadn’t travelled solo in almost a decade and I was pleased that I jumped right back in!
What I learned:
People are People
We all eat, sleep, dream, hope, love, smile, and laugh. In a world where many people are focused on ‘their own kind’ and what divides us, I have learned that there’s much much more that binds all humans together.
Opportunity to Challenge Yourself
Traveling alone is a great way to challenge yourself and experience new things. I discovered I love ‘air athletics’ – sky diving, canyon swings, ziplining, paragliding, parasailing etc.
I talked to people from all over the world and from varying walks of life, with varying hobbies, careers and interests. And being by yourself means you have to take more initiative.
Traveling by yourself, means taking care of yourself – which translates to life skills – money and time management, staying safe, determining whom to trust, taking care of your health, being an effective communicator, living in harmony with others at hostels, and listening and observing. When I came back from a year abroad, I’d grown more than my 3 years of undergrad combined.
Respecting Other Cultures and Multiple Viewpoints
The more I learned about other cultures and perspectives on everything from living life to political issues, the more thoughtful I became about my own viewpoints and beliefs. And I spend less time talking and instead listen and ask questions more. I have found this invaluable in my career and personal relationships.