One of the unintended benefits of traveling, for me, is discovering something new about myself or rediscovering some personal quality that time and life had made me forget.
On my last trip to London, I stayed with my sister and her family. While it was a holiday for me, it wasn’t for them so I knew I’d be navigating the city on my own.
It wasn’t like that on my first trip. I stayed with my favorite female cousin who worked, but I didn’t venture out much. Fresh from completing school in Barcelona, I can still remember the energetic and confident 20-something I was then but I can’t remember why I stayed in so much. I missed out on a lot and it wasn’t because it rained everyday except the day before I left.
In the 20+ years between these two trips — the third doesn’t count as the 4 days were consumed by preparations for my sister’s wedding — I’ve logged several thousand miles of both solo and group travels.
This time, rather than letting myself feel alone or worry that I’d get lost — my friends say I’m directionally challenged, I call it exploring alternate paths — I felt the free and confident person that I am return. And I got even more confident as each day went by and I found my way even when I returned late at night or wandered far afield.
Like the day I did the London Eye. I wandered the Southbank aimlessly, stopped for something to eat then rejoined the sea of people who seemed to be out for a Sunday stroll and enjoying the unusually warm day. I had no idea where I was but I wasn’t bothered. I knew I’d find the underground and my way back — and I did.
After a week of finding my way around in London, I was excited to tackle Paris, where except for a friend from New York, whom I saw once, I was totally alone. My aloneness emboldened me. Could it have been because I speak some French? Probably. But the first night in the hotel, I put a chair behind the door, just in case.
Everyday, I picked the places that I had to see then spent the rest of the time wandering around, discovering quaint streets, flower stalls, boutiques and ‘real’ pharmacies along the way. By the time I made my way back to the metro, it would be way past midnight.
The trip was a big boost to my confidence, especially at a time when I was feeling more than a little unsure of my footing.
I’m eager to start the next trip to see what else I discover about myself.
What do your travels reveal to you?
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