The importance of experiencing traveling alone
Amber Robertson, Page Editor
Travel. The word conjures images of foreign lands, unfamiliar languages, and endless possibilities. In the generation of millennials , it’s very common to be stricken with wanderlust. But the number of us that actually travel is pretty low. Why is that?
According to a survey done by the New York Daily News, we as Americans are half as likely to travel abroad as our European counterparts. On top of that, nearly a third of American adults have never even left the country. Up until August 20 of this year, I was a part of that third.
About five months ago, I made the decision that I was going to take a trip in the summer, and I wanted to go by myself. I found a company that does tours abroad for college age kids called EF College Break. They offer more than 40 different trips in locations all over the globe. It took some time for me to decide where I wanted to go, but I eventually decided on Ireland. It was the greatest decision I’ve made in my entire life.
Going on adventures by myself is not a new concept for me. Traveling abroad, on the other hand, was completely foreign until now. Immersing myself in the culture of another country was what I wanted. Being surrounded by other Americans who have also never been to Ireland made that immersion a little more difficult. Which is why I spent as much time as possible away from the group.
Arriving in Dublin, I was surrounded by people I didn’t know, money I wasn’t familiar with, and accents that seemed to belong in a movie. It was the most terrifying and simultaneously exhilarating day of my life. I probably looked like such a goofball because I literally could not stop smiling the entire day.
The first three days we stayed in Dublin, and they were probably the busiest days of the whole trip. We took a bus tour of the city where we got to see Phoenix Park, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, The Brazen Head pub, and the millennium spire (more commonly referred to by the locals as the stiletto in the ghetto). We also got to go up to Glendalough, where many movies and TV shows have been filmed because the scenery is so surreal.
On the third day of the trip, there was an option to go up to Belfast, which I decided not to take part in and instead stayed in Dublin for the day. I spent a vast majority of the day by myself wandering around the city, seeing the shopping district, walking by cathedrals, going to museums and parks, and finding good restaurants. I walked 8 miles that day, some of it intending to catch a cab but getting too distracted by all there was to see. 90 percent of my day I was on my own, and it was wonderful.
Killarney via Cork:
After Dublin we drove west towards Killarney and stopped in Cork to see the Blarney Castle where I got to kiss the Blarney stone, an experience I highly recommend. Driving through the Irish countryside to get to Killarney was like a dream. If I hadn’t taken so many pictures, I probably would not have believed I’d actually been there.
In Killarney I got to see an Irish show with traditional Irish dancing and music, I saw a castle on the shores of a lake that was like glass, and I got to go to a bar that was completely Lord of the Rings themed, also an experience I highly recommend. From Killarney we drove around the Ring of Kerry, which is a road that goes around the Iveragh Peninsula through coastal towns and along cliffs and beaches with 112 miles of views of the sea and mountains and lakes of County Kerry.
One evening while in Killarney though, our entire group went to a Lord of the Rings themed bar, which was amazing. After finding dinner and a little bit of bar hopping, I left the group and went back to my hotel room and spent the rest of the evening watching an Irish talk show and practicing my Irish accent. It was just as much if not more fun doing that as it was bar hopping for me.
Galway via The Cliffs of Moher:
From Killarney we travelled up the coast to the Cliffs of Moher, then up to Galway city, one of the most international cities in Europe. Galway was probably my favorite because it was full of street music, art, people from all over the world, and students everywhere.
Being in Ireland with 43 other young Americans means most of them are going to want to go to bars and pubs. I don’t drink, so that also gave me a lot of time on my own in the evenings. Friday night we had a free evening in Galway, which I decided to spend on my own. I walked around the shopping district, bought some cheap souvenirs, found an amazing Asian noodle shop that was obviously not a tourist stop, and spent the rest of the sunlight reading in a park by the hostel. It was my favorite evening.
On the final day, we took a ferry out to the Aran Islands, where I got to spend some time on the beach with my feet in the cold Atlantic waters. The clean water in front of me, the gray sand between my toes, and the green rolling hills with stout little stone walls running through them behind me. This was heaven for me.
Traveling alone can be daunting, but I can promise you it is worth it. You will find that being on your own is not as scary as it sounds, and you will learn things about yourself and about the place that you’re in that you couldn’t have if you had been traveling with someone you know. So if you are enchanted by the idea of traveling the world but don’t have anyone to go with, suck it up and go by yourself. You will spend more time regretting things you didn’t do than the things you did.