Travelling alone while abroad, I believe is something truly valuable. While group excursions and organized trips with experienced guides are helpful and at times more educational; the time I have spent, exploring a place on my own, has been so enriching. The past few weekends, I have taken it upon myself to travel to Denia, a precious Valencian pueblo, and Madrid, the capital of Spain.
Both required lots of time sitting on a bus, lots of self-awareness, and lots of prayer. It was my first time travelling alone, and I felt that weight much more during my time in the bustling city of Madrid. But even with the weight of being by myself, I also experienced a release—a paradox that I often feel being an introvert when I have those hours alone. Except this time, it has been days of alone time.
Now when I say alone, I mean not having a travel buddy to see and experience the awe that I had when visiting some of these places. I had God, my boyfriend and my parents on skype, social media, and of course the people sitting next to me on the bus rides and the people in my hostel. And that’s just it, travelling alone gives you the opportunity to appreciate people you have in your life and meet new ones. It forces you to leave your bubble, be unconventional, and get into some socially awkward situations.
Having that time alone to appreciate your study abroad country is something I suggest to any aspiring student. I could see two new sides of Spain. In Denia, I was welcomed by pastors of the Salvation Army church. Though mentally taxing, pushing myself to get to know new people was enriching as I learned about their family and how small this world is. For example, the father of this Valencian family, is absolutely in love with the Hawaiian hula dance. Being the weekend of the Merrie Monarch Festival, he woke up each morning at 6:00am to watch the live stream in Hilo. I could answer his and his family’s questions about Hawaiian local culture and American culture in general, while they in turn showed me Denia. Not only was there cultural sharing, I spoke Spanish the ENTIRE time, except for the last day there when I found that their daughter knew English. I was blessed by their hospitality and of course the homemade paella and tortilla de patatas (con chorizo!). I can safely say; I have a family with open arms in Denia that I can visit when I return to Spain.
As for Madrid, there was no familiar church or family that reached out to me. All me for four days. I would say you cannot live in Spain for a semester and not visit the capital. Not having a guide in Madrid, and the necessity of serious self-awareness, forced me to see the city for what it was. I noticed things that with other people, I may not have. I could see what I wanted whenever I wanted. I didn’t have to keep track of people, or try and compromise with anyone on what activity we should do. I could pace myself, rest when I wanted, and you get the picture. While the anti-social side of me was fighting for the spotlight, I had over-zealous people in my hostel and on the bus, that wanted to have a conversation with me (even if I was clearly listening to music, watching a movie, or reading a book). I realized if I stayed in one place long enough, someone was going to talk to me. I had to get over myself, and listening to the elderly Spanish women tell me about her life story and her problems with her daughter; I had to listen to and respond to the women in my hostel about why we were in Madrid, where we’re from, etc. Again, I say though you are technically by yourself, it does not mean you are alone.
Those words are words told to me by my family, church family, my boyfriend, and people close to me, who know that I have struggled with being by myself for long periods of time. I say to them thank you. Through these experiences, I have practiced my Spanish, learned more about Spain, saw some dope art, and have had time of self-reflection.
To those who are hesitant to travel to another country because of fear of being alone, I tell you this: that time alone is a precious treat and opportunity to step away from the hustle of life and pay attention to yourself and others around you. And for my Christian friends who struggle with being alone, remember that God is always with us and that because of our relationship with him, being found in Christ, we can be certain that we are never alone. So, book a ticket, study abroad, even explore your own city by yourself. Appreciate where you are, make the most of it, and rest in the peace and hope of God.
Philippians 4:8-9 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.