“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go.” These are the words written by Dr. Seuss that have inspired me to start solo traveling.
Solo traveling can be a bit scary at times; the dread of eating alone at a cafe and not having anyone to rely on is quite real.
Getting over the fear of being solo is difficult at times, but the beauty of it is you become a more confident individual by experiencing life outside of your comfort zone.
Three months ago, I had a hard time wanting to do activities and go places alone. I am a very social gal and always would be with friends. Even when it came to traveling, I never went alone; I always had my best friend traveling alongside me. Luckily, I have a very supportive host family that would tell me to go out and try something new. The family that I am an Au Pair for will always make me try new foods and new experiences, such as ice skating on a pond and learning Dutch.
So, where do you start? I started with baby steps for solo travel in my area first. I would bike about 10km every day, 5km to the city centrum and 5km back home. As I started getting familiar with the area, I would find new ways to get to the city centrum and back home. There were many times I did get lost and had no idea how to get back to the house. In those frightening times I learned how to ask people for help (and directions!) and I always made it back.
Experiencing those “scary” situations has made me more confident in myself because I have learned how to get out of minor problems like getting lost. Being a solo traveler really makes you think more about how you got from point A to point B. I can now get myself around the city here better than I can back in Portland, Oregon!
Even though solo traveling means traveling alone, it does not mean that you won’t meet people.
I have met relatives I didn’t know before, other Au Pairs, and lots of Dutch people in or around my community. Sometimes it is a bit more difficult to make friends as they don’t have the same work schedule as you and you have to make small talk with them. I started by emailing other Au Pairs and started friendships that way. They are a great way of keeping yourself sane too; they tend to understand how hard it is to move to another new country completely alone. On weekends I tend to travel around the Netherlands with my Au Pair friends. So far I have seen Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag, Nijmegen, and Deventer.
Since I have arrived in the Netherlands and I can now confidently say I enjoy doing solo traveling. Just a few days ago I went to a professional speed skating race; I have never seen anything like it! The crowd gets so excited for the skaters you can’t help but join in the fun! I also got to meet cousins that live in Paris that I never knew before. I had an amazing weekend there and really got to connect with them. Both of these experiences I would have never been able to do if I hadn’t taken Dr. Seuss’s advice and trusted in myself and go where I wanted to go. I am now planning trips to Brussels and Berlin. “Oh the places you’ll go!” Happy traveling!