Traveling abroad the first time can be a little intimidating and overwhelming. Naturally, I did it alone. From the moment I decided to do it alone, there was no going back. Where was I headed? None other than the most beautiful city in the world, Amsterdam, Netherlands!
Traveling has one of the most amazing effects on your soul. It opens your eyes to a world beyond anything your mind can obtain through online photos. We have all clicked through photo after photo of amazing destinations, and the first thought is, “I am going there someday.” Five years have passed, and will you still be looking at those photos saying the same thing? If you are, then I hope to inspire you to stop doing that because it’s not healthy. Traveling abroad is life changing. Yes, I said it is LIFE CHANGING!
My first time traveling alone, I was consumed with packing lists, safety awareness, learning about my destination, what would my flight be like, how is customs going to work, should I buy new clothes, would I like the food or would I just starve myself until I reached American soil again? My mother was very worried because I was going by myself on a trip that was supposed to be taken as a duo. Due to unfortunate circumstances with the other party, I was left to journey alone, but I was not going to let the other person’s MIA status stop me from taking my trip. And, I am so glad I didn’t.
The journey I was embarking on was a discovery of the woman I had lived with for many years who I knew, but didn’t really know like I had wanted. I was only beginning to scratch the surface. Oh, she was strong. Independent. A go getter. But was she ready for a new culture? You bet your sweet passport she was! The transformation began with the click of a mouse. But it wasn’t to keep clicking through photos. It was to purchase a plane ticket.
My first flight leg of my journey was from Raleigh, North Carolina to Heathrow Airport in London. From there I would take a bus to Gatwick Airport then onto Amsterdam, Netherlands. A bus you say? Oh yes! I was so excited to take that bus! I mean, after all, it was a bus. In the United Kingdom (have I mentioned it is the little things which entertain me?)!
Arriving in Amsterdam was one of the most liberating things I had ever done in my life! I felt so free. So encompassed in the city, yet I didn’t know a single thing about it other than it felt right to be there. Everything was beautiful. I had never felt so at home in all my life. I made my way to my hotel. I settled in. I grocery shopped. I dined out in the city. I used the city transportation and not once did I ever feel out of place. Except when I opened my mouth! My accent is so southern (as in Reese Witherspoon Sweet Home Alabama southern). Thankfully, the Dutch really like it!
Being alone in an international city is not as lonely as you think it could be. There is something about having your own kind of loneliness and being able to embrace the emotion which inspires you to keep going. I think sometimes we need to be alone. To be lonely so we may really get to know ourselves and understand what it is we are really seeking in our lives. For me, it was walking the canal streets of Amsterdam with my headphones in and listening to Coldplay. It got me in touch with a part of my soul where I had never been. Sometimes, I felt as if I were invisible. I know, sort of weird, but if you were there, if you were me, if you could just experience it alone, just once, you would understand.
While we don’t always know our destiny, there is something really fascinating about going out and exploring it on your own. We aren’t always destined to share everything with someone. Sometimes you need to do it alone, and the fear of being alone is the biggest road block. Do not allow fear to keep you from going on your own journey to find yourself or even stop you from feeling the freedom which liberates you in all areas of your life! That is what traveling is all about!
The day I packed up my belongings and had to fly back home, I knew I would never be the same. I was sad to leave a place that revealed to me who I was, but I was very excited to come home and see my children. I can’t tell you how supportive and encouraging they were about me going. I have since taken them internationally, and they have had the chance to experience the same feelings. They were finally able to see and understand what I had tried to explain to them with words.
This is the very thing I am doing for those readers who have never taken the leap of traveling abroad. I can never fully explain those feelings or emotions to you, and it has been three years since my first trip. I have been back a few times since. Nothing has changed. Every single day, Amsterdam is in my thoughts. It has a special place in my heart. While I feel as though I left a part of who I was back in Amsterdam, my job as a flight attendant has opened more doors for me to continue my exploration.
At the end of the day, you have a choice. Are you going to keep waiting around to be found or are you going to go out there and find yourself?