This piece is meant to outline the feelings you have when travelling alone for the first time. It is a roller coaster of highs and lows. But in the end, it’s a once in a lifetime experience. You leave with a new perspective that you couldn’t have gotten anywhere else. The specific experiences are different for everybody, but the general feelings are the same.
Stage 1: Nervous Anticipation
You’ve finally taken the trip you’ve always wanted to go on, and it’s your first time traveling alone.
Looking out the window of the plane at the unfamiliar landscape, you start mentally going over all your plans. First, you’re going to look for the person picking you up. What was his name? Jake– Wait no, or was it John? It doesn’t matter. You’re going to look for the sign that says your name on it. After you get settled into the hostel, make sure to call mom and dad or they’ll be worried sick. Don’t lose your passport, don’t lose your visa, and don’t lose your wallet. And remember, you have to get postcards for your friends back home… As these thoughts circle your mind, the plane lands. This is the start of your journey into the unknown.
Stage 2: Independence
A wave of your newfound independence washes over you. You look over at the kids glued to their iPads, playing mindlessly while their parents fill out their customs cards and line up at the queue. You remember when that was you, except you were holding a Gameboy Color playing Pokemon. Those days are far behind you. You catch a glimpse of your reflection on one of the shiny pillars, and examine your appearance. Lookin’ good. You confidently march past customs and successfully find your way to your hostel. Nobody to tell you what to do or where to go. It’s all up to you. You’re on your own now, and you’re out to conquer the world.
Stage 3: Wonder at the Mundane
Wow, the ceiling of this building looks amazing. You take a quick, inconspicuous, snapshot of it to post on Instagram later. The air in this country smells different, you think to yourself. The birds are unlike anything you’ve ever seen, and the people are all freakishly tall. It’s amazing. It’s like you’re on another planet, and you continue to document every single thing you’re doing from what you ate for breakfast, the quirky store displays, and even the stone cobbled floor. You try to act like a local, but everyone knows from the look in your eyes that you’re a big fat tourist.
Stage 4: Culture Shock and Confusion
“Uhh… I’ll have the gazpacho please.” Whatever that is, you think to yourself. It’s a rainy night and you just want some hot, steaming rice… But soup will have to do. The food order comes, and you discover that gazpacho is actually cold soup! You didn’t even know cold soup existed, you even embarrassingly attempted to return it, thinking it was uncooked. Your stomach grumbles and you zip your coat up even further and shiver while gulping down the soup.
*Unintelligible ranting* You’re not sure what you did, but you’ve made somebody very angry.
Stage 5: Enlightenment
This is the most important and crucial stage of your travels. Your experiences come full circle, and you begin to reflect on your trip. Your mind opens up and you gain a new perspective. People are uncharacteristically rude lately because of the recent financial crisis, tensions are high and everybody is stressed. There’s a reason for the way things are.
You’ve met the most amazing people, each from different walks of life, going through different things. You begin to see problems you never even considered problems before, world issues that have never even crossed your mind that suddenly have become relevant to you. You are now sensitive to them and see them with a different mind.
That’s because when you discover the world, you start to discover yourself.
This post is also available in: French