Riding Solo
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Politics and Activism

Riding Solo

Don't be afraid to travel alone

Riding Solo
Sophie Stauffer

When I told my grandmother that I was coming abroad, one of the first things that she asked me was if I planned on travelling by myself. I told her that I did, in fact, plan on travelling alone. I was going to Ireland alone, and I wasn’t going to let someone else’s inhibitions stop me from doing something while I was here, living out my dreams.

This was apparently a source of distress for my 84-year-old grandmother. It’s apparently a source of distress for young people and grandmothers alike. People from the United States are less likely to travel than people from Australia or the United Kingdom. News in the United States boasts nothing but violence.

Of course these people are afraid of unfamiliar places, of new experiences, and of people who are different from them. The United States is not fostering an environment of growth and inclusivity, but rather one of paranoia and fear. In doing so, the United States becomes something of a security blanket for those who are afraid to leave it. And why would someone want to leave it? You can get Chinese food, Mexican food, and Italian food right in the same continent! You can basically experience the whole world in one large land mass!

A security blanket, though comforting, will not save anyone from anything. It will hinder more than it will help. Aside from the fact that violent crime rates are higher in the United States than they are in the United Kingdom, the Philippines, and China, by not leaving the United States, the people within it are subjecting themselves to an ingrained sense of nationalism and ignorance towards different cultures.

In travelling by myself, I have learned how terrifying language barriers are when you’re the one who doesn’t understand the language. I have learned how sometimes when you’re in a new place, the only thing that will help you is the kindness of the locals. It taught me what it’s like to be an outsider. I cannot fathom what it’s like being an immigrant or refugee in the United States at any time, let alone at a time when a presidential candidate used bigotry to build an entire campaign. Being treated like an outsider is not fun, especially when you’re lost or scared.

In travelling by myself, I have put myself far outside of my comfort zone. I have had to approach total strangers, try to speak German via Google Translate, and sleep in a dorm full of people that I’ve never met before. I have always leaned towards being extraverted, however I struggled greatly with approaching people and initiating conversation. I do not fear approaching people any longer. If someone can help you, they usually will. There is far more kindness in the world than I had realized.

In travelling by myself, I’ve realized how great it is to spend time by yourself. When you’re alone, you don’t have to compromise what you want to do or see that day. You can be completely selfish about your travelling experience with no consequence. The trips that I’ve taken have been totally centered around me, and what I want to get out of that specific trip. Additionally, I’ve had plenty of time for self-reflection.

In travelling by myself, I realized that I never would have been happy had I not tried to explore. The money lost, the mistakes made, and the mischief that I got into along the way have shaped me into a wiser person. Had I remained in my comfort zone, I would not have grown nearly as much as I have these past few months. When I set off a few months ago, yes of course there were risks. But I realized that I would’ve risked so much more if I had decided to stay.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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