The Beauty of Traveling Alone

Traveling has always been my passion. If money wasn’t a problem I’d probably wake up in a new place every week, just waiting to explore everything. The list of places I still want to see is endless.

I briefly mentioned in my last post, that I spent a semester studying abroad in Canada. I went to an amazing university in a city called London, about two hours away from Toronto, and I had the most amazing time. I met some lovely people and I got to go on many amazing trips with my new friends. I felt so lucky because I got to see quite a bit of the beautiful country that is Canada. However, Vancouver was still on my list of places to visit but since it was at the other side of the country, from where I was living, I didn’t get the chance to go during my studies. My semester in Canada ended at the end of December but my new semester back in the Netherlands didn’t start until February, which left me with six weeks of free time.

I thought this would be my chance. My one chance to go travel to Vancouver and maybe some other places. Unfortunately all of my friends I made back in London all had to go back to their home countries much earlier than me, so if I decided to stay and travel I would have to do it on my own. I thought about it long and hard. Especially because it would also mean that I would miss Christmas with my family and would have to spend it alone but I just couldn’t pass up this opportunity, so I booked a flight from Toronto to Vancouver, one from Vancouver to Seattle, one from Seattle to San Francisco and one last one from San Francisco back home.

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I was so excited I got to travel and explore new cities with no worries, no deadlines in the back of my mind. I knew this would probably be my last few weeks of freedom and no stress, because once I got back home I would have to start working on my BA Thesis.

Before I left to Vancouver my mom and brother came to visit me in Toronto for two weeks and we had the best time. But when we all went to the airport and they got on a flight back to Europe it was really strange for me because I knew I wasn’t coming home with them. I was about to get on a flight to a city far away from everything and everyone I knew. I knew this wasn’t going to be like going on vacation with my friends to somewhere else in Europe. No, I would be across the world from my family and I wouldn’t have any friends there. Suddenly I started regretting my decision. I think I just got scared but I was also incredibly sad to leave Toronto. My few months in London had been some of the best of my life and I was devastated for it all to be over. I got to visit Toronto a few times while living in London and I fell in love with the city the first time I went there. I’m not even joking but if someone offered me a job there I’d move in a heartbeat.

Anyway, my point is that I think leaving Toronto to go travel by myself for 3 weeks really made me realize that my Canadian dream was about to be over and before I knew it I would be back home stuck in the same old routines.

After hours of traveling I finally made it to my hotel in Vancouver and went straight to bed. The next morning I woke up at 6am because of jet lag but I couldn’t get myself out of bed. I suddenly felt so lonely and anxious. After a few more hours I finally forced myself out of bed and opened the curtains in front of my hotel room windows. What I saw literally took my breath away.

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From my room I had the most amazing view over the city and if I looked all the way to the left I could see water and mountains. Within seconds my feelings changed from anxious and nervous to happy. I quickly got ready and started walking around the city to explore. The first place I walked to was the harbour and with each moment my heart filled up even more with joy.

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I know that sounds so corny but everything I was seeing looked so incredibly beautiful and I realized how lucky I was to experience it all, even if I was all by myself and didn’t have anyone to share it with. It didn’t matter at all in that moment. I felt so free and liberated like I have never felt before in my life. After all I was half a world away from everyone I knew. I was free to do exactly as I pleased and there was no one I had to explain myself to. No limitations. No restrictions.

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Everyone I told about my plans of traveling on my own was skeptical about it. Aren’t you goint to be scared all by yourself? Isn’t it much nicer to have someone to share those experiences with? The answer for me now is no. Yes, I was scared at first but all my doubts quickly flew out the window. Yes, it is nice to go on vacation with friends or loved ones and make amazing memories together but it is also incredibly nice to experience it all on your own. Wanna know why? Because you learn so much more about your self. You’re forced to make every decision by yourself, which really teaches you want it is you like, what it is you want and what it is that motivates you to make those decisions. It’s incredibly liberating and it is the most amazing feeling to be able to say yes I did this on my own. I was scared but I pulled myself through.

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Especially in Vancouver I went on lots of long walks through the beautiful nature there and just listened to music and took everything in. If you ever get the chance to visit this beautiful city take it. The city itself is nice but the nature around it is literally breathtaking. I’m definitely more of a city than nature person but I was captivated and even went on a little hike by myself, which is something I never thought I’d be doing. Especially not on my own. But that’s what traveling on your own does. It challenges you. It helps you discover new things about yourself that might really surprise you.

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After one week in Vancouver it was time for me to pack up and move on to a new city and a new adventure: Seattle.

The only reason I picked Seattle was because I knew I probably wouldn’t get the chance to go there again. It’s only a 27 minute plane ride from Vancouver, so it just seemed logical for me to go there. Seattle is a city you know even if you’re not from the US but is it a city you dream to travel to? Probably not so I figured I should go while I was kinda close because next time I travel to the States it probably wouldn’t be Seattle. Maybe Florida or NYC or the Grande Canyon or Las Vegas. But probably not Seattle.

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Now Seattle was nice. It wasn’t amazing and it couldn’t even come close to Vancouver or Toronto (for me personally) but nonetheless I’m glad I went. I went up the Space Needle and visited some cool museums. I walked along the water front and probably all of downtown Seattle. I liked it but I didn’t love it.

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The amount of homeless people and people high on drugs or wasted on alcohol shocked me and I was scared to go out alone after it got dark. I’ve never been scared of walking alone through the dark at home or in the city I lived in, in the Netherlands when I went to college, or even in Canada. I saw a lot of poverty and homeless people when I went to Chicago with one of my friends a few months before visiting Seattle but I wasn’t alone then so I never felt worried. Now being on my own that definitely changed.

But still I don’t regret going to Seattle and I don’t regret going on my own. I might’ve been a little bit disappointed and who knows maybe I would’ve loved it more if I hadn’t fallen so in love with Toronto and Vancouver. Who knows? Still I’m so incredibly grateful for every experience I made while traveling alone because I learned so much about myself in those three weeks and a lot of the things I experienced gave me a new perspective on life. Most of all it taught me how privileged I am to be so lucky to travel and see new places in the world. I will forever keep those memories with me and no one can them away from me.

So if you ever think about traveling somewhere but don’t have anyone to go with you don’t hesitate! You can do it on your own and every minute of it will be worth it. I would recommend everyone to at least travel somewhere by themselves once in their life. Even if it’s just for 2 days or just an hour away. Take the time for yourself and you might be surprised by what you find!

If you have made it to the end of this very lengthy post thank you for staying with me until the end.

So have you ever traveled alone or would you consider it?

Lots of love,

Sophie

 

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