go solo.

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Two years ago, in May of 2013, I took a month-long trip to Ireland. I blogged while I was there (you can read those posts in the “Travel” section, if you haven’t already!) and the feedback I got on those posts was incredible. I had so many people, ones I knew and ones I didn’t, express lovely, heartfelt compliments towards those posts. Many of these comments were about how I had made people feel like they were there with me, how I made them feel something, how refreshingly personal I was.

The interesting thing about these compliments was that it was very unlike me to give others anything that was personal, that allowed them to share in my thoughts or emotions, or even remotely let them in. Prior to this trip I was closed off and generally down about life in some way. I didn’t enjoy speaking to strangers and half the time I didn’t feel like going out with friends, either. I was a homebody, someone who was outgoing once you endured the period of stand-offish resting bitch face.

Travelling alone changed me. I was forced to interact with people I didn’t know or else I would never have gotten anywhere. I had to figure things out for myself and if I wanted to have company going somewhere then, well, I had to make a friend. The first few days I was still fairly shy, but on my third day in Ireland I found myself in Kilkenny, walking into a cathedral I had read was spectacular. In front of me was a guy I had seen in my hostel earlier in the day so I went up to him and said, “We’re in the same hostel, right? You want to travel around the town together?”

I cannot stress enough how completely out of character this was (and still is) for me. But he said yes and we wandered around the town, enjoying another lone traveler’s company. Later that night I walked into a bar where a band was playing who also happened to be staying at my hostel. We danced and laughed and I had breakfast with one of them the next morning.

The rest of the month carried on similarly. I travelled from town to town, asking for directions and help when necessary. I made friends in my hostels, went to bars, on tours, and even to movies with them. I took fifteen kilometre bike rides with people I had met the day before. I learned Australian slang and hung off the Cliffs of Moher with two strangers from Belgium. Oh, I’m also basically terrified of heights in any other circumstance, by the way.

I’m not here to brag about all of these wonderful experiences, though. What I’m here to do is explain to you how invigorating it is to take yourself somewhere and learn something about yourself. When was the last time you really tried to get to know yourself? It might sound stupid, and it still sounds a little silly to me, but there is a lot to be said for asking yourself some questions. I didn’t like myself all that much when I left for Ireland and it was as if, somewhere inside of me, a part of me took that as a challenge. I showed myself what I had to offer and was bowled over.

I lost that for awhile, once the vacation sheen had worn off and life had settled back in. I found myself back in old habits, comfortable in the same situations I was in before I had left. Then one day I realized it had been a full year since I had my feet on Irish soil, had recently turned down a job in my field for no good reason other than being scared to do something different, and I was settling into a life of complacency. I had low self esteem and no concept of self worth.

I called that employer and I got that job back. I’m now running their baking production centre and helping the company move forward. I started eating better, exercising, and started to be open and honest about my mental health.

It’s been two years after Ireland now and while I am not strolling over cobblestones, I am just as happy. I have taken control of my life like I was forced to when I was travelling alone. I’m not sure if I ever would have known I had the capacity to do this if I hadn’t taken that trip. I proved something to myself in those thirty days and now I’m proving it again and again, day after day:

I am strong, I am worthy, and I deserve to be happy.

Take a trip by yourself. You’ll show something to yourself that you had no idea you were even capable of.

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