How Travel has Made Me More Independent

I have friends, sorority sisters, family members, colleagues, etc. who tell me all of the time, “I wish I could be as independent as you.” Tonight, I did something that most young people I know would never have the courage to do. I went out on a date by myself.

I am one of those people who reads the campus emails with all of the events going on (hey, it’s apart of my job!) I knew that I wanted to go to the gymnastics meet and see Perks of Being a Wallflower in the campus movie theatre this Friday, regardless of if I had a companion. Though I texted around, I ended up going by myself to both events. And you know what? I had a great time.

I was able to watch the gymnastics meet, all whilst muttering things to myself such as, “9.5, really?” or, “Block/Spot the beam/Pick up your feet/Squeeze!” Then, I got to go see a movie that I have been dying to see since I read the book (and heard that one of my all-time favorite actresses, Emma Watson, would be playing Sam). Overall, I had a great Friday night doing the things I enjoy doing. And though it would have been nice to share this great night with a friend, it didn’t even phase me to alter my plans because I had no one to go with.

Ever since I can remember, I have always been an independent person. I joined high school teams and clubs, as well as went to a four-year university without knowing anyone. I solo-planned a trip to New York when I was 18. I lived with complete strangers for 4 months in France and then hopped on a plane to Japan completely alone at the age of 21 to teach English. And now, as a college-grad, the only thing I can think about doing is moving overseas to teach English, to a country where I know no one; to cultural practices which are unfamiliar. But that’s me. That’s who I am.

I have learned throughout my travels as well as throughout my (almost) twenty-three years of life that you cannot rely on other people to provide your own happiness or survival. You have to do that on your own.

  • When I was lost in Japan, a country where I neither spoke nor read the language, I had to figure out on my own how to read a map and find my hostel.
  • Whilst stuck on an island in the middle of the north Atlantic (Iceland), I had to coordinate new flights  so we could return safely to Europe.
  • When a volcano struck Europe, I had to figure out how to get from Norway to Sweden to Denmark by land.
  • When I was stranded in Paris at two in the morning, I had to navigate the metro and winding streets of Paris to find a hotel.
  • When we were separated from our crawl group in London, we had to find our way home at 3 am (I will never forget the beautiful views).
  • Finally, when events from my past were preventing me from moving forward in life, I had to take myself to a counselor.

As a college grad, I am not going to sit around waiting for happiness come to me. Don’t get me wrong– I have a great life right where I am. I have supportive parents, grandparents, and cousins, amazing friends, and an extensive networking system of colleagues. These people all make me happy. However, I need to move overseas. When I tell this to people, most do not understand. They (including my supportive family) give me scrutinized looks, an upturned nose, or a look of naivety. And that’s really, really hard. I’ve been in a lot of sticky situations for someone my age. I’ve had to do a lot of problem-solving. But it’s made me a better, more independent person.

Many parts of the world still discourage young women and girls from being so independent and taking charge of their lives.  I am grateful to live in a place where I am able to do this rather freely. I have found that when discussing my aspirations, many people have goals of their own. However, most people are afraid of the unknown. And that is scary. However, I wouldn’t want to be anything else other than me, the person who has, even only at 23, taken charge of the direction of her life.



4 thoughts on “How Travel has Made Me More Independent

  1. Love this! Bravo for all the amazing opportunities you’ve created for yourself at such a young age.

    I don’t know where the feeling people have of needing a companion to do things even comes from. I’m so used to just going off and doing things by myself that I never even think to invite people in the first place. Waiting around for people before doing something will more than often mean you’ll miss out.

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