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The End of My Solo Travel

April 27, 2014

What up internet world! Sorry for neglecting you! If it makes you feel any better I’m super behind on a hundred other important things like finding lodging and transportation and a career path but I’m choosing you over all that because it only takes a second to remind someone (thing? people?) you care. And when it comes to you, I do. So hey, long time no talk.

Today is my last day of traveling alone. I’m well over the halfway mark of my 5 month jaunt around Europe and while I’ve had many people meet me and travel with me along the way, today marks the end of my solo adventure. I’m on my way to Paris to meet my high school best friend (you may remember her from this earlier post) and her mother for a few days in Paris and from there I have exactly 8 hours to get to Barcelona where my cousin and my other friend from high school will be waiting to join me for the next three plus weeks in Spain. Cindy and her hubby will even meet us there for a week too and I have a high school friend in Madrid who is excited to show us around for a few days. After that my cousin and I head to Ireland to meet some more friends for a few weeks and then I’m on a flight back to the USA. Two months, two countries and SO MANY PEOPLE to organize!

It’s all very exciting, I know, and I’m genuinely looking forward to all the familiar faces I’m going to get so much closer to, but it is going to be a real change, having other people to depend on and look out for. Two days ago I had no idea what country I’d be sleeping in later that night. A week before that I changed my plans and went to Northern Italy instead of Germany just because I could. A month before that I was wandering around Munich without ever seeing a map. From here on out I won’t have that kind of freedom or spontaneity. From here on out I’ll be spending that time asking the people I’m traveling with what they want. From here on out this trip is ours instead of mine.

It’s fitting that my 2 month unlimited rail pass also expires today, and it’s been thought provoking to hear multiple train conductors ask me if my trip was over. I always shook my head no of course, and I know there are so many awesome amazing things yet to come, but in many ways my trip is over today. I go from here to group travel to real American life, where friends and family and coworkers are part of every decision I make. That is a good thing, I know, but it’s also kind of bittersweet to say goodbye to being on my own.

Sure, traveling alone can be lonely at times and I’m so looking forward to having other people in my pictures, but it has also been so incredibly liberating to do what I want when I want. I don’t have to justify my meal choices or feel guilty for going to bed early. I treat myself when I want to and push myself when I know I need it. I’ve meet so many random strangers who feel comfortable coming up to me because I’m alone and I know many of the risks I’ve taken would never have paid off if I’d felt responsible for someone else.

I’ve always liked feeling independent, and for the last few months I genuinely have been, no one to report to or keep up with, take care of or take cues from. I miss and love everyone back home, and it’s been really hard to have such limited communication, but it’s also been really good for me, forcing me to focus on myself instead of them. For a long time when my friends and family asked me how I was I would rattle off the news of all my friends. She is doing this and he is changing this, I’d tell them, giving updates like it was my life that we were talking about. I still do that, because what the people you care about are doing does affect you, but on this trip I think I’ve come a long way towards having and cultivating a life of my own. I don’t want to be so dependent on the people I’m living with or checking in on, I want to be one version of myself with everyone I love.

So while one leg of my trip is over today, I haven’t forgotten that another starts tomorrow. Life is so full of change and repetitions, contradictions and things you completely predicted. It’s beautiful and terrible and I love it so so much. To quote Gwen Stacy in the Amazing Spiderman 2 which I saw in Switzerland for the same price as my housing that night, it is because things end that makes them precious to us. I’m so grateful for everything that’s come.


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