This Is How A Trip Can Heal You
Before my senior year started, I promised myself that if I got into dental school, I would book my trip back to Europe. What I didn’t realize, was how badly I would need an adventure to find myself again. My senior year of college had me doubting my abilities, my relationships, and my worth. Even after the weight had been lifted and I had been accepted, I still lived in fear that I would lose everything I had worked for in an instant. I had been so worried for so long that I didn’t know how to just be present. Worst case scenarios were constantly playing in my head and I lived in fear of a future full of bad outcomes. I needed to get away from this imaginary reality I had created where all of my worst nightmares came true.
I booked my plane ticket in an impulse following the joy of being accepted into dental school, but that soon became panic. Despite my fears and uncertainty, I found a way to plan my dream trip around Europe. The focus of my trip was to visit various friends from around the world and to reconnect with the adventurous part of my life. My budget for the trip was pretty tight, but I was lucky enough to have some amazing friends that were happy to house me for some of my trip. For the rest of the trip, I was fine with staying in hostels and living cheaply, so that I could spend my money on experiences and amazing food! A quote by Anthony Bourdain was my mantra for my trip and reminded me that being in new places and learning from people is more important than luxurious vacations and hotel rooms. I wanted to immerse myself in cities with my friends as my local tour guides and to be present in those cities and moments, instead of obsessing over a future that may or may not happen.
When I talked about my trip, I got mixed reactions. Some people were encouraging and proud of me for taking this opportunity for myself. Others, questioned my finances or made a point to remind me of the risks of traveling by myself. In these moments, I had to remind myself that this trip was not for anyone but myself. This was a trip I needed to start the next chapter of my life with a fresh outlook and a full heart.
My adventure was 17 days long. It began with a road trip to Toronto. I flew from Toronto to Edinburgh, Scotland. I spent several days with friends in Scotland and then went on a 5-day bus tour of the Scottish Highlands and Orkney. The several retired couples on my bus tour were equally shocked to find I was traveling on my own. Following one brief evening of sleeping in the Edinburgh airport, I was off to Budapest, Hungary for a weekend with my best friend from home. From Budapest, I flew to Paris for 4 days with my roommate from when I studied abroad. During my time in Paris, I also met two friends I met at college. It was such an amazing few weeks of reconnecting my friends and reconnecting with myself.
When you travel on your own, you are completely responsible for yourself and no one else. Since I was responsible for myself entirely, I had to be present in every moment because I was in unfamiliar places without anyone else to rely on. I was outside of my comfort zone and most importantly I was outside of my constant worrying.
Slowly I felt the transformation begin while traveling. Instead of thinking “what if I miss my flight? How will I get to x, y, z?” or “I don’t want to bother anyone, I’ll just figure it out on my own.” I began to live in each moment and look at every possible set-back as an opportunity. I looked at my weaknesses or my needs as opportunities to lean on other people for help and support. I felt myself becoming optimistic again and open up to people and experiences. I talked to stranger at bars and shared deep conversations with my friends from across the ocean. I explored off the beaten path and followed my heart toward different adventures and conversations. I remembered why I loved to travel and why I loved to meet new people. I love finding the similarities in people all over the world and sharing my life story with others and learning from them.
While I know the travel bug will return again soon, I am at peace with myself following this trip. I found myself again. I closed the book on that uncertain and bitter chapter of my life. Now I feel refreshed and ready for the next chapter of my life. I have the confidence and clarity that my solo adventure have given to me and I am ready for the next chapter of my life.
So, just do it. Take the risk and by that impulse plane ticket. Trust yourself and trust your support system to help you along the way.
Believe in the power of getting lost in new places and finding pieces of yourself in a new friend from the other side of the world.