As an introvert, I like to sometimes joke that my ideal living situation would be as a hermit. But recently, I did something that absolutely terrified me. I traveled to a foreign country alone. Hold up! You readers might be shouting. You might be saying: You moved abroad, you’ve been on foreign press trips where you’ve known no one, you went to university on the other side of America.
And readers, that’s all true. But even though I knew no one when I studied abroad or went off to university, I had the enforced university infrastructure as a safety net. The same goes for blogger press trips. And when I moved to England for my MA, I had Sam and other friends that I had met when I studied abroad in England previously.
This was the first time that I’ve taken myself off somewhere where I don’t speak the language, I’m entirely left to my own devices and I know no one at all. And it was scary. Getting sent to the wrong train and then waiting 30 minutes for a bus that *might* take you close to a hostel in the middle of the night is stressful. I may have been close to panic-calling Sam, but I didn’t. And when my flight anxiety reared its ugly head I kept my cool. Kind of.
Here are things I thought whilst flying: “A panel is loose on the wall of the window seat that I am pressed up against. I will probably be sucked out the plane at some point during this flight. But if I’m buckled in, will the force be strong enough to rip me out of my seat? Or will the entire seat come out? If I’m sucked out of the plane, will I lose consciousness before I hit the ground? Oh no. I have a really bad headache behind my left eye. It’s definitely not just one of the migraines that I’m prone to. It’s definitely the early twinges of a brain clot. I wonder if there’s a doctor on this plane.” And so on went my busy brain.
I knew that all my neurotic responses were rooted in the fact that I was anxious with no safety net. But I met the challenge. I spoke to strangers, despite that being my least favourite thing in every day life. I don’t even like to call the man at Papa John’s for my tasty, tasty pizza. I laughed at myself with my constant fumbling with a new currency that I didn’t really understand. (I still have to check my £ coinage and I’ve been here for nearly 7 years. Darn you 5p looking exactly like an US dime.) And I was also painfully aware that my Polish knowledge was limited to “pierogi” and “skelp”, and that I wasn’t even entirely convinced that I was pronouncing the name of the place I was in correctly. But I ate at a sit down restaurant without hiding behind my phone screen or a book. I had ownership over the fact that I was alone – and usually lost.
Of course, I was only gone for the blink of an eye – just a quick city break, but I already have another one on the horizon. It’s to Dublin the time, where English will be my “sort of” safety net. I’m not axing my traveling companions forever, and to be brutally honest, I still have way more fun with Sam or a friend than on my own. (Who will take photos of me? Just kidding. Kind of.) But if it’s down to not traveling at all, or going at it alone, I’m entirely capable of being alone.