I checked into my Parisian vacation apartment.
Emphasis on the “I”
(yes, completely alone. In Paris.)
What is THAT?
It was total silence.
When you are married at the young age of eighteen and have your first child at twenty two, it’s a very unusual sound (….or lack thereof).
There was no one calling my name, no dinner to be made, nor laundry to be folded.
I didn’t have a to-do list or an alarm to wake up to.
What IS this?
It was space.
For the first time ever, I was alone.
In a foreign country.
All. By. Myself.
I didn’t want to read about life or watch it from afar. I wanted to dive in.
Having worked as a critical care nurse, I was very familiar with the what-ifs and regrets that many people face at the end of their lives.
Wishing to have traveled more, seen more of the world or explored more was at the top of the lists of regrets that I heard over and over with people on their death beds.
There comes a time in every woman’s life when she gets to venture out into the open sea or choose to watch from the shore.
A well-lived life requires that we face those things that scare us, not avoid them. It requires that we make the tough decisions instead of the easy ones. And, most of all, it requires that we see ourselves as the adventurers in our own lives, not the victims.
I knew that travelling the world was something I must do in this lifetime
When it came to embarking my first solo trip…
Was I apprehensive?
Was I worried about being alone for 8 days in a foreign country?
Was I concerned about being able to navigate when I didn’t speak the language?
However, my thirst for experiencing life far outweighed my fears.
I remember thinking to myself:
“Tonya: What would your 90-year old self want you to do?”
And the loud reply was this:
Adventure travel looks different for all of us
In my adventure in Paris, I wasn’t trekking through the wilderness with a backpack losing toenails. I was sauntering through the Le Marais tasting chocolate and listening to street bands.
Whatever your definition of adventure is, it’s imperative that we embrace it as part of a life well lived.
Unfortunately, far too many women hang out in the comfort of their own little worlds, allowing excuses to stop them from becoming an explorer of the world and pushing the edges of their existence.
The most common excuses are:
I don’t have enough money.
I don’t have the time.
I don’t like being alone.
I’m afraid it’s not safe.
I have kids.
At least, those were mine.
Although they felt true, I noticed how these little beliefs were showing up everywhere, not just in my desire to travel.
Over the course of my first solo trip abroad, I experienced both mind-blowing occasions and heart wrenching moments, and when I boarded the plane to return home, I was not the same woman that I was when I arrived.
Here are some indispensable lessons that I have learned from traveling solo:
1. You learn to listen to your gut
When I arrived in Paris, I was on autopilot.
Most of my moments were spent in my head thinking about what I didn’t do or what I needed to do.
However, when you’re walking down a dimly lit street at midnight in a foreign country, all that mind chatter doesn’t serve you.
You must tap into a deeper intuition and trust what your body tells you.
Don’t go that way.
It’s safe. Saunter on.
Stop into that brasserie.
Strike up a conversation.
Traveling alone requires a navigational system that isn’t found google maps or your iPhone. It’s a deep wisdom discovered in those moments when you listen to your body. Learning to tap into what serves you, not only in travel, but in life is a very useful skill to have. Travel just happens to be a great exercise is waking that system up.
2. You Gain Confidence
Far too many women believe that they can’t do life alone. This belief impacts so many of their decisions from staying in an unhealthy marriage to moving to a new city even though their souls crave more.
Traveling solo gives you an opportunity to prove to yourself that you can do things alone while building your confidence and filling up your passport with stamps. It truly is a win-win!
One of the things I love to witness in women who travel to my in person & hand curated French Kiss Life experiences, is the amount of confidence they gain by stepping outside of their comfort zone and putting themselves in new situations and around new people.
When you realize that you can absolutely figure out the metro system or not starve (even though you don’t understand one word on the menu) you begin to trust in your ability to flourish on your own even if you don’t know everything. (By the way, we never know everything. It’s in the going out there and living life that we gain more knowledge and wisdom.). You gain the courage to apply to the new job, walk away from a relationship or start a new business all because you believe in your ability to navigate your life.
3. You can do whatever you want to do
When was the last time you had an entire week just to yourself?
No boss or husband to answer to.
No kids to get to school.
No meetings to attend.
No errands to run.
There’s something so beautiful about being able to do whatever you want to do.
You’re able to experience total freedom with only one person to consider: yourself.
Imagine some of the simple luxuries: Sleep in. Stay out late. Nap at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Go sit somewhere and read a book. Dance on tables. Order the dessert.
When you return home, you’ll, of course, step back into your obligations, but you’ll do so with a new awareness about the importance of space to do things that fill your soul.
4. You get to exercise your decision muscle
Before my first solo adventure, I was the classic indecisive woman.
Where do you want to eat? I don’t know.
What do you want to do? I don’t know.
What day is it? I don’t know.
I was comfortable in my indecision, and yet that comfort was costing me so much, such as the ability to move forward in life. Being indecisive is an excuse to stay where you are.
Alternatively, when you’re traveling alone, you don’t have a partner, friends or anyone to decide for you. You’re forced to make decisions. And, in that decision making, you learn to trust your ability to do so. You decide and move on.
Making decisions is a crucial part of being a successful woman. Without intentional and strong decisions, we simply stay stuck, living the same days, months and years out of fear of getting it wrong. Traveling solo will break you of that habit. Just booking the ticket is powerful decision that will begin to change the trajectory of your life.
5. You get to play with new ways of being
At home, we are surrounded by people who see us a certain way. This familiarity often means that any attempt to change is often met with resistance from ourselves and others.
Traveling solo gives you the opportunity to step away from the noise and play with your being-ness. Away from the familiar and surrounded by strangers, you can explore new ways of being — more open or standoffish, bold or demure, sexy or conservative, flirtatious or innocent. You can dress in ways that you wouldn’t typically dress — a low cut V-neck shirt, a pencil skirt, over the knee boots or a see through blouse paired with a classic blazer.
The world around you is a blank slate as far as you’re concerned and during your trip, you get to decide what you want to create. It allows you to flirt with trying on new ideas, and then that we get to return home and have a better chance at deciding who we want to be, instead of living on autopilot of who we think we should be.
6. You get to meet yourself
The most beautiful and painful part of my first solo trip was meeting myself.
With everyday life distractions, I had avoided “me” for years. It was far easier to be “busy” than to face my own inner demons. But, eventually, somewhere in life, there will be an opportunity to meet yourself. I propose that you don’t wait to be forced into this encounter.
Someone once told me, “You know who you really are when you’re alone in a room with no one to distract you.” A whole week? You will know parts of yourself that you didn’t know before your trip.
There’s a beautiful scene in a movie I love called Paris, Je t’aime about a woman named Carol, a postal worker from Denver, who travels to Paris alone. Sitting on a park bench, she describes a feeling of joyful sadness as she witnesses the life around her. I had a similar moment.
Walking along the Seine on a crisp winter evening, I cried for a solid hour. With a snotty nose, puffy eyes and smeared eyeliner, I sat with all the thoughts I had buried for too long — my not enough-ness, perceived failures, buried dreams. It was this beautiful, messy release that for the first time in a long time, I felt alive. And, fortunately, in Paris, seeing a woman cry by the Seine isn’t unusual.
Traveling solo gives you that chance to meet yourself and truly wake up.
7. You’ll have space to reflect and dream
When was the last time you stepped away from life
and just allowed yourself to see where you are and where you want to go?
With our busy lives, we can’t even find the time to ask what’s for dinner. The big questions? Not a chance! It can feel like you’re on the treadmill of life with barely enough time to shower. Dream? Puh-lease!
However, when you travel alone, you’ll have space to see your life from a meta view — what’s working and what’s not, what you want and don’t and what dreams you’ve buried and which ones you’re ready to create.
I encourage you to keep a journal with you at all times, because you can bet you’ll have new, fresh ideas, things you’ll not want to forget and inspiration that you’ll want to capture.
When was the last time you stepped away from life and think about the important big questions?
8. You’re invited to come home
Traveling alone is a woman’s invitation to return home to herself.
I feared missing home and being lonely during my first solo trip. While I deeply missed my daughter, I discovered a woman’s truth: home is always within you.
During my first solo week in Paris, I discovered what needed to be cleaned out (the not-enoughness, lack of forgiveness and resentment) and what needed to be brought in (more love, joy, fun and confidence).
Being alone frightens some because of the darkness that’s buried in the recesses of their minds. I know because I had some deep, dark corners that I’d avoided for years. However, as hard as you may try, you can’t escape you.
There’s a monstrous beauty and deep darkness in coming home to yourself, but for those who have the courage to do so, you’ll never feel alone again.
Now, before you buy your ticket for your solo excursion, I highly recommend that you consider what NOT to do when making travel plans:
To this day, I seek out opportunities to travel alone — whether it’s a road trip, a weekend getaway, or a networking event. Each time I go, I return home with a deeper appreciation and confidence in myself.
If your soul is stirring you for a solo adventure, listen to it!
Of course, you don’t have to travel to Paris or a foreign country (although I highly recommend it). It could be a day trip to the neighboring county or a weekend getaway at a nearby resort. It may simply be a day of hiking in the woods.
And, if you’re ever in doubt, consult with your 90-year old self.
What would she tell you?
Post in the comments below somewhere you’d like to adventure to alone!
And if you haven’t already, be sure to grab my travel audio … that is, if you want in style, luxury and confidence. In this audio, I explain six things I rarely do even though they go against everything the so called “experts” swear by. Click here to listen.