I never thought I would be the type of girl who would want to explore the world, let alone travel solo. I’m an introvert after all, and there is nothing I enjoy more than the comfort of my daily routine: I wake up early in the morning, eat healthy, exercise, grab my laptop and head to my favourite neighbourhood café to write, while I savour a steaming cup of green tea or latte.
But I have descried there is something I love even more than indulging in my quotidian habits, and that is settling in foreign countries for a few months (at least) and whole-heartedly throwing myself in the unknown, immersing myself in a new culture, adopting new ways of life, opening up to new mentalities and new people, far from my comfort zone.
I have come to realize, there is immense power in being so deprived of your bearings, that your sole instinct becomes the compass of your life, like a survival tool kit you probably never even suspected existed. From then on, instead of ignoring or rejecting your inner voice to please other people (like we often do), your senses become more alert to what you want. Yes, my friend, unshackling yourself from the mental chains of cultural obligations and families’ emotional patterns will result in finding yourself.
Too often, we allow our fears or our close ones’ judgement that is often biased by their own fears and insecurities, to prevent us from pursuing our goals, and we shouldn’t.
Physically distancing yourself from these people will allow you to experience life for yourself, figure out who you really are, what you really want and gain sufficient confidence to take action towards fulfilling your dreams, regardless of whether the world thinks it’s a good idea or not. Meeting people from all walks of life, whose cultural background is at the opposite extreme of yours, will open your mind to new ideas, different viewpoints and new opportunities.
I’m 27 years old and so far, I have lived in Senegal, West Africa, where I was born and raised, France, the UK, Spain and Canada.
Going international has taught me valuable lessons about life, about myself and I would like to share with you three ways I believe traveling will help you fulfil your dreams:
- By freeing yourself from emotional barriers
I remember being close to finishing high school and having to pick, at 18 years old, the field of studies that would determine my entire future. Except at 18, all I cared about was art and writing. I wanted to get into journalism but was afraid to fail, so I decided to study art, fashion designing, or photography.
My family discouraged me, arguing that art was a great hobby but it was too uncertain of a path for me to dedicate my life to it. “You’re going to study in a field that will guarantee you to find a well-paid job in the end” they said.
When I suggested I would study English instead, one of my older brothers responded in the most condescending tone: “What are you going to do with that, be a translator? You’ll never find a job! There are already too many translators in France!” (I’m French and was living in France at the time)
Was I deemed to wake up every day to work a job I’d hate? Be unhappy, bitter and miserable my whole life? That was not exactly how I had envisioned my life to be, but I wanted my family to be proud of me more than anything, so I decided to listen to my other brother who had always wanted me to get into business or finance.
I started with a bachelor’s in Economics and Management, which sounded intelligent enough to satisfy my family. I loathed it with every fibre of my body. I needed to find some sort of motivation to study hard and pass. That’s when the opportunity to spend a year aboard as part of an exchange program presented itself, so I jumped on it and flew to London for the final year of my bachelor’s.
I adored it and never wanted to return to France: The travel bug had bit me.
There, away from people’s opinions on what I should be doing and how I should be living my life, I was finally still and felt confident enough to pursue whatever made me happy, regardless of what my family thought; I had revived my creativity and with it, my life goals.
2. By finding yourself
From then on, I knew without the shadow of a doubt that I longed to keep exploring the world and write, help people, or make visual art for a living. I didn’t know how it would occur, but I trusted the process.
The year in London was coming to an end and I was going back to France, where I had enrolled in a master’s that offered the opportunity to complete a five-month internship as well as the second year of my degree abroad.
That’s how I moved to Barcelona for my internship (and had the time of life), before moving near Toronto, Canada, right after, for the final year of my Master’s.
While studying Marketing and Sales in Canada, I remember repeatedly penning on my journal how much I aspired to be a writer.
3. By giving you the strength to pursue your dreams
Once I graduated, it was finally time to take action: I was passionate about traveling, writing and helping others; so I launched a travel blog to share budget travel tips, destination ideas, city guides, and help young people find ways to fund their travel. I didn’t know whether my project would be successful or not, or how long it would take to make it work, but I didn’t care. I believed in myself and in my project, which was all that mattered.
Traveling solo has provided me with the conviction that I can do anything I set my mind to and the courage to pursue my dream. It has led me to do exactly what I love, which is traveling, writing and hopefully, motivating someone to travel and chase their dreams without giving up when faced with trials.
I firmly think that living abroad for a while liberates people from their emotional burdens, clears their mind from “the noise of other’s opinion”, as Steve Jobs said, and plants entrepreneurial seeds in everyone.
I thoroughly encourage you to cease every single chance to travel solo that comes your way. And if an opportunity doesn’t present itself, create one. I guarantee it will be eye opening and life changing. Whether you want to study, complete an internship or work abroad, there are many programs that allow you to do so and scholarships to help you financially.
So travel solo, as far as you can, as often as you can and as long as you can. Life is not meant to be lived in one place.