When I was younger I always claimed to be an extrovert who didn’t enjoy being alone. Nine years ago I moved from California to Oregon to start college. As excited as I was for that big step, once reality set in I realized how alone I was.
Before moving I spent every day with my family, specifically my three older siblings. We didn’t always get along but I always enjoyed a full house. I tried to fill that void by making as many friends as possible in Oregon. As we moved up in school, and friends studied abroad, I realized my dependence on my family moved to my friends. I couldn’t go to the store alone and I would call everyone I knew before going to the dining hall.
When I think back to who I was then I’m often surprised by the growth. I couldn’t tell you when they change happened but I can tell you about how.
Find a New Hobby
It was the summer of 2014 and my best friend and I decided to start taking Salsa lessons. Once I realized how much fun it was and what I’d been missing out on I went to the first salsa club I could find. My best friend wasn’t interested so I started going alone and it was the best decision I ever made. I danced the night away every weekend that summer at El Valenciano and I learned that going out alone could be fun.
When I first started traveling it was with groups, then it was with friends, then one day I found myself traveling alone. When my friends and I became real adults, it became harder to coordinate schedules and I found myself missing out on cheap flights waiting for someone to be available to go with me.
In 2015, while studying abroad with a group from my college, I decided to take a solo trip to Budapest. I was meant to be going to Zagreb but after finishing a bottle of wine the night before I’d missed my bus. My fears of being alone almost stopped me but I pushed through. I hopped on the first train out of Vienna and found myself in Hungary alone. When I arrived at my hostel I wondered what I thought I was doing in this random city alone. I was ready to sleep for the rest of my trip until a group of Australians arrived and invited me to explore the city with them.
I’ve been traveling solo ever since and I almost feel anxious when I’m traveling with others now. I have found it so much more relaxing to be able to do my own thing when I’m away. I’ve really learned to go at my own pace and I would trade that for anything.
Now I try to encourage others to do this same. Whether that’s finding a hobby you enjoy doing on your own, traveling solo, or just taking yourself to dinner every once in a while. Sometimes it’s the fear of what other people think. Sometimes its the fear of being alone with your own thoughts that keeps us from doing these things. I believe if I’m able to get over these things than anyone can. Give it a try.