Frances – Exchange to the University of Verona, Italy
Semester 2, 2016
Being alone is one of humanities’ greatest and most natural fears. For me the fear of being alone stemmed from the fear of what could happen if I only had myself to rely on (a self that is often clumsy and unorganised) and also the fear of my friendlessness being judged in public spaces. The often repeated societal rule that a young woman should never travel alone for fear of becoming a
target of crime also did nothing to calm my nerves. However, as the title of this blogpost states, regardless of these initial fears, traveling solo was one of the best thing I ever did.
My travels started out with a group of friends also doing study abroad, but as we each went our separate ways it was time for me to go it solo. Initial trepidation, and trying desperately to avoid the actual plunge by hanging out with friends I knew were in cities close by, I finally booked a train of Valencia from Barcelona because I had been told the beaches were nice. As soon as I arrived and checked into my hostel I met a lovely english girl that was in the same room as me and had just arrived. This is when i first realised that travelling solo does not necessarily mean traveling alone. Hostels are amazing because it makes it easy to meet people from all over the world and I can guarantee you that you will form lifelong friendships through your travels. Over the next week the people in my room came and left, I went to breakfast with a Swiss economics student, dinner with a Mexican fashion designer, tapas and the beach with an English primary school teacher and saw a flamenco show and danced all night with five other solo travellers. But while I loved each memory made with these different people, travelling alone meant that we each did not have to rely on one another or hold each other back, we merely passed each other by on our individual travels and made great memories.
I loved my first foray into solo travel so much that I continued to travel for a while before I ended up in Verona, Italy, to start my semester. Here I was also the only ACU student and the first day of orientation felt like the first day of high school all over again, but with my previous experience I could rest assured that everything would turn out ok. And it did. So far I have made amazing friends from all over the world (I am the token Australian) and have already made countless unforgettable memories. Travelling alone made me feel like I could rely on myself no matter the situation, that I am more capable than I first thought. It also taught me to be more outgoing, to not be shy or nervous and to make friends and not be scared of judgement from others. Whether that meant eating at a restaurant alone or approaching other travellers in the hostel bar, everything suddenly felt possible. Now if I ever want to do anything or go anywhere there is no need for my plans to be put on hold while waiting for someone to accompany me. I am finally happy to rely on myself and be alone sometimes and that is the most invaluable lesson that study abroad could ever have taught me.