I flew into France within the first couple days of the New Year, and that was the first time that I truly traveled solo. Landing in Paris was pretty scary for me: I was lumbering around with a huge suitcase and no idea where to go next. Without luck, I was walking around the airport, looking for the meeting point for the shuttle that was supposed to take me and some other students over to GTL. On top of an already stressful situation, I was made fully aware that I was in a country in which English was not the primary or even secondary language spoken. This not only made me feel extremely uncomfortable and out of place, but it just made my primary objective that much harder to complete. Finally, after the supposed last call for the shuttle to leave, I found them all and made it in the van just in time. That was one of the most nerve-wracking situations I’ve ever been in. I thought that I was going to be stranded at the airport, all by myself, without being able to communicate to others that I was definitely not supposed to be both at the airport or alone. I would have really been fine with just taking one of those two options.
That was back in January, and I just recently made another solo trip, but this time it was about three days long, and in the Czech Republic (where their official language is literally not spoken anywhere else). Now, I feel a lot more comfortable with being in new and unfamiliar situations. I’m able to ask questions to locals without the thought that they are going to see me as dumb looming over my head. I can now confidently say that living in another country really matured me in aspects of my life I never even considered as problematic. Even talking to my friends and others in English, I’ve noticed that I’m a lot more confident in myself, and it’s a nice feeling to have!
In the past, I would too often get caught up in what others thought of me, and would always try to please them, even if it was at my expense. Many times, this would result in me missing out on activities or events I wanted to attend. This is what I’ve learned from living here: if you ever get a chance to do something, but no one will go with you, go by yourself! There is nothing wrong with it, and you will most likely regret not going at all more than going solo. You’ll also probably meet some interesting characters and have new material for stories to tell at dinner parties!
Although traveling solo can seem daunting, you’ll be amazed at how adaptable we, as humans, are. With time, you’ll be riding the metro and ordering your meals like a pro. Whenever I’m speaking to locals, I try to start off the conversation in French, and then if I can’t get my point across, I switch to English and hope they can understand me. Weirdly enough, even if neither of us can understand what the other is saying, I can usually decipher what they’re telling me using hand gestures and context. And while I highly recommend learning at least a little bit of French before coming to GTL, this way isn’t too bad!