Being a first time, solo-traveller, I had no idea what would come of seven weeks alone in Europe. I did not know where to go or what to see, how to get around, how to budget or what to expect. All I knew for certain was that I needed to get out. Completing a full time university degree, juggling two bar jobs, maintaining an internship and attempting to pay rent on time was beginning to take its toll, and although on the outside it appeared as if I had everything under control, inside I was slowly crumbling.
Becoming completely self-sufficient at 20 taught me a lot. I can cook, I can do washing (when absolutely necessary), I can pay bills, I can iron and I can keep a plant alive. I can do my taxes, I can work 13 hour days, I can throw a hell of a party and still turn in an assignment on time. Essentially- I can take care of myself. However, ironically enough, the overload of late night shifts, essays, commitments and tumultuous personal relationships eventually took a toll on my mental and physical health. Constantly lethargic, unmotivated and drained; I was a girl on the edge of exploding. Continuously romanticising the idea of running away, one morning something inside clicked and as easily as I had become overwhelmed, I became ridiculously enthusiastic about life again.
How did I make this switch? Easy. I woke up one morning, depleted after 12-hour day which left me home at four am and up again at eight for classes, and decided no. No I wasn’t going to class to watch a student present on Stanley Kubrick, no I wasn’t going to drink four coffees just to get through the day, no I wasn’t going to put my body through the ringer for a pay cheque or a prior commitment. I decided no, I wasn’t going to sit on the sidelines and watch my life pass me by. By saying no, I repossessed the ability to take active control of my life again. Just like that, I booked a one-way ticket to Paris, with money I had been saving ‘just in case’. I deferred the following semester of university, found someone to move into my room, quit both jobs and packed my bags for six months of travel. I was finally making running away a reality and I could not have been happier.
Was it difficult leaving my behind my work, home and friends? Of course. In the four weeks leading up to my departure I experienced every type of anxiety imaginable. Some days my self-doubt was debilitating, some days it still is, but as I packed my life into boxes (not an easy feat) and farewelled my friends, I reminded myself that it was my turn to be in control of my life. It was up to me to find the beauty still left in the world. So then why solo travel? Why not travel with a friend or partner? For me, the answer was simple. I wanted this trip to prove that I could be strong enough in mind and will to rely solely on myself, to fully experience the meaning of independence and through that, further understand my own strength and abilities.
Seven weeks’ solo in Europe was more exhausting, trying, draining, unnerving and frustrating than I could have imagined. It is also the best thing I have ever done.