After my first year of college, I was dying to do something by myself. Freshman year was filled with group outings, constantly noisy dorms, and very little personal space. I arrogantly prided myself in being an introvert, and thought I was so cool for being brave enough to travel through Europe by myself. This two-week solo trip was my chance to establish my independence over the summer, and prove that I was an adult. But it turns out that I was entirely more dependent on others than I had thought.
I loved my trip, and grew in a lot of different ways in the process. But that’s for a different blog post. Because after about a week of sight-seeing on my own, I started to feel extremely lonely. Visiting museums by yourself is only fun for so long. Not to mention the fact that I was constantly terrified of being kidnapped?! Literally every person I talked to before going on this trip asked me if I’d seen the movie Taken, and my mom was legitimately considering putting a micro-chip in my shoe before I left.
But anyways, the bravery and bold confidence I’d earned myself a reputation for by embarking on this adventure now seemed so meaningless. I remember ordering eggs at this café because it was the most familiar food on the menu, and it reminded me of home. When I took this picture, I just wished somebody was sitting next to me.
Here are some pictures of me doing things by myself:
Night biking completely alone in the German suburbs! Probably not the smartest thing for me to do! Can you tell I’m actually terrified in this photo? Also, can you guess who took this photo? A fence. Self-timer, & a fence. Lots of fun.
Mango gelato in Paris at the Tuileries Garden. You know how sometimes, you need to take at LEAST fifty pictures until you get a good one? Well this was one of those days. I obnoxiously asked a minimum of SIX separate strangers to take my photo, because the first five people’s pictures didn’t cut it…haha. So this is me, feeling like a fool, bothering yet another stranger! But it got 220 likes on Instagram, and that’s all that matters, right? Nobody who liked my picture on Instagram knew how lonely I felt taking it.
My time in Europe taught me a lot, and I’m very thankful for the experience. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, I just want to be more vulnerable with something I learned. Our culture emphasizes independence. We’re encouraged to do what makes us happy, go against the grain, and follow our hearts. To a degree, this advice has value! But in my eagerness to prove my bravery, I forgot the worth of human connection. I lost my understanding of sharing joy with others, and how it brings deep connection.
I thought boarding a plane and leaving everyone I loved behind, even just for a short time, would make me seem important. I thought that my courage would empower me. I thought that sharing pictures of French pastries and Italian sunsets on my Instagram meant I was doing something right.
But the best part of my solo trip was realizing that going to beautiful places means much more when you have the people you love to share it with.