Over the past couple of days, I have managed to get stranded in Washington D.C., navigate through Union Station, catch a bus to New York City, locate my lost luggage in Queens, and end up safe and sound on the Upper East Side. Oh, and did I mention that it all happened within the same 24 hours? As bad and stressful as it was, I truly believe that it was one of the biggest learning experiences that I have ever been put through. So, that's why I've compiled a list of reasons why I think every person, especially college-aged, should travel alone for the mere fact that they, too, could be put through an experience such as mine.
But, hopefully, it would be a little less overwhelming.
1. Traveling alone is one of the most peaceful processes ever.
I absolutely love flying on airplanes. Well, until my flight gets canceled and I get rebooked to a later day that really won't work. But, honestly, I love traveling alone because you can relax in the airport, listen to music, really do anything that you wouldn't normally do if you would have a traveling buddy. I'm not saying that it's less fun to travel with someone, but when you need a mental break, you'd be surprised how therapeutic it is to just be by yourself.
2. You get put in situations that YOU are responsible for solving.
This is one of the most important things that I learned while traveling by myself because I had to work myself out of a terrible set of circumstances. First, my flight was canceled and there were no more flights left that day to get into the city. Now, normally I would be OK with being a little late, but I had a hard date that I absolutely HAD to be in the city for. After calling the airline, speaking to them in person, and trying absolutely EVERYTHING I could, I was left with my carry-on at the airport (Yeah, my actual suitcase made it on a plane to the city without me).
But, I remembered that Washington D.C. had trains and buses that went to New York constantly, so I literally ran to a taxi and headed to Union Station to catch a four-hour bus ride to the city. Needless to say, I made it much later than I originally intended, BUT trying to weasel myself out of D.C. was the most overwhelming things that I have ever done. I even called my mom, who couldn't do anything because she was two states away, so I was literally left to figure this out on my own.
3. You can literally go anywhere that you want!
The last time I was in the city, I wasn't really able to do anything and everything that I wanted to do. Granted, I don't really like to do touristy things because I hate being near the crowds that stop dead in their tracks...it just really grinds my gears. But, being by myself, I got to wake up when I wanted, leave when I wanted, go anywhere I wanted, and get there how I wanted. I'm a big fan of the subway, and most people aren't, so it's just so satisfying to really be in the heart of the city, traveling around like a local. I've done tourist-like things, I've explored the less-crowded parts of the city, and it has been so relaxing and amazing. I've even seen a show by myself. It's amazing how some things are better when you're alone!
4. You learn the difference between time and money.
I've always been a saver, as unbelievable as that is. But, when you're spending your own money on your own vacation, you learn about the time that you have. I have found myself in the past so obsessed over money, which in most cases, is a good thing! But, being alone, I've tried to save and have fun at the same time — taking cheaper transportation so that I can go to an extra show, or not buying super expensive things so that I can see a national landmark. It's really amazing how much experience I have now because I have tried not to think super hard about money when I know I will be just fine. Honestly, life really is about living in the now, money is just an object! We all need it, but what's the point in having it if we can't use it to make new memories?
5. You grow up...like 20 years.
My trip to New York City has been a rollercoaster of emotions: stress, extreme anxiety, but most of all, happiness. I love being in the city, and nothing makes me happier than to walk out my front door and see a city full of the most opportunity in the entire world. The best bagels, pizza, theatre, art, and culture all combined into ONE giant city. But, I've learned so much about myself, including how to be independent and sort things out without another family member to help me. I feel like I have aged about 20 years, but it was one of the most educational and exciting experiences I've ever had in my life. Would I take it back to have it easier? Absolutely not.
Needless to say, my spring break has been more than I had originally bargained for. However, after being able to maneuver myself around Washington D.C. all the way to New York City, I can honestly say that I wouldn't go back and change anything. I have learned so much about myself, as well as how difficult the world can be when you're trying to get somewhere in a hurry. Here's to hoping I don't have any more traveling issues!