There came a point in my pre-departure lifestyle where amongst all the planning and saving I realized that I should probably start telling people that I was leaving. Those closest to me had known for several months, but as I told more people there was one sentence they would all invariably utter, “You’re going alone?”
They’d lower their voice as they said it, as if taking this journey solo was too troublesome to say out loud. Alone – as if it was a dirty or unpleasant word. Then they would raise the topic of my safety, (because a young woman travelling alone is apparently a target) or tell me that I would get lonely and want to come home within a week. I politely listened to all of it, while within my head all I could focus on was the gentle, reassuring thrum that was pushing me out the door and propelling me to a foreign country.
I feel like it’s important to address these inaccuracies. I’m rapidly approaching my one month mark in France and I can honestly attest to the fact that I have not once felt lonely. If anything, I’ve felt swamped with company and I find myself constantly surrounded by friendly faces. I’m not sure if it’s an auric radiation or France in general, but even my quiet moments result in new acquaintances, whether it’s an elderly gentleman in a café (who overheard I was Canadian and promptly whipped out photos of his own daughter who is teaching in Toronto) or a young American woman (who heard my “accent” and quickly bonded with me over our mutual interest in Thailand and discussed the best places to get Thai food in France). Each interaction leaves me feeling charmed and blessed by life. I am never lonely, but I relish the moments when I am alone.
Even while in Barcelona, which is notorious for pick-pockets and chock-full of warnings for young women, I never once felt threatened or worried about my safety. In fact, as a young woman I find people are more likely to take you under their wing and protect you. As we checked into our hostel we experienced a brief moment of panic because we had booked into a “Mixed Dorm” (8 bunks, male and female). We agreed that if we walked in and felt unsafe or threatened, we would demand to be switched to an all-female dorm. As it turns out, we were in a room with two couples and one 22 year old Dutch guy who turned out to be excellent company while we stayed in Barcelona. Hostels are great places to meet like-minded travellers and I could have easily stayed a few extra nights for the social aspect alone.
Travelling alone can be more stressful, and I can certainly see the benefit to splitting the costs of luggage lockers and taxi’s, but successfully arriving at each destination fills me with a sense of pride and independence that I can scarcely put into words.
As much as I love the people in my life, I cannot imagine taking this trip with anyone but myself. I’ve been incredibly lucky thus far to have had my experience enriched by so many colourful characters.
I’m looking forward to the next few months of travel I have ahead.