It was not meant to be a solo trip, but a trip with friends to celebrate surviving one tough year, and ringing in a new year full of excitement and hope. Instead, as it turned out, I would be heading to Europe alone, and while I was used to flying alone, exploring a city alone, and even taking a tour alone, these previous experiences are not what I would consider solo travel. However, the trip to Europe that I was about to embark on was exactly that.
There would be no group to meet up with when I arrived, no friends I knew who lived in the city, no one waiting for me when I got back to my room; I would be completely and entirely alone.
Solo travel is always something I have considered, but this was unexpected and at first, the word alone bothered me. It was further confirmation that I was in fact alone. I tried to shake it off, but the previous months’ events played out in my head, and the thought of being alone in a season where loved ones were supposed to be together upset me. I knew I could do it, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to.
I continued to push through the painful thoughts from the past, and attempted to look at the good that was staring straight at me. There was so much, but there was also the unknown, and the fact that I had no real idea what it would be like until I got there. It was both exhilarating and frightening, freeing and anxiety-inducing; I didn’t know how to express exactly what I was feeling.
Luckily, those worries dissipated the moment I stepped off the plane in old, familiar London. I was grateful that I had decided to start the trip in the city I was considering moving to, one that also happened to speak a language I was familiar with. It was the perfect warm up for what lie ahead.
A feeling of freedom kicked in, and a huge sense of relief washed over me. I was miles away from my problems, with no one but myself to deal with. It was the first time in months that life finally made sense, and the first time in a long while that I was really and truly happy.
As I walked to the tube, I breathed a sigh of relief, and even as I boarded the crowded car, I couldn’t stop smiling. Remember this moment, I reminded myself. It was then that all the good I had been thinking of came rushing to mind; the fact that I could do whatever I wanted, see what I wanted, eat where I wanted, and explore the city all on my own. Suddenly alone was not a scary word, but a welcome one.
This was further confirmed the moment I arrived at The Beaufort Hotel, and after checking in, instead of going out right away, I decided to take a shower and a nap. My room was so lovely, and the bed was calling my name. On the first day of travel, this is something I never do, choosing instead to take advantage of every second. But, after Christmas and traveling, I just wanted to relax, plus London was not a new city for me, and I had just been there in November.
After my nap, I ordered tea to my room and ate scones in bed while watching music videos, then I got dressed and strolled around the neighborhood, making time for some shopping and grabbing a bite to eat. Then, I made my way back to my room for champagne, as The Beaufort offers its guests drinks from five until eleven at night. This is a perk, I just simply had to indulge in.
The next day was all mine, which is why I took advantage of seeing the inside of a sight I have been meaning to venture into for years. After three previous trips, I finally made it inside Westminster Abbey. The line was long, but it didn’t matter I had nowhere else to be.
While the entire building was stunning, and I roamed throughout it without intention, my favorite part was the Poets’ Corner. As an English major in college and a current English teacher, I was in pure paradise, admiring the names of writers whose works I had read year after year. Again, I was simply happy and could soak up the moment, rather than worrying about someone else’s agenda.
After two days in London, I headed to Barcelona, and by this point I was so happy being alone that nothing could have thrown me off. I arrived and made my way to my GowithOh apartment. I checked in and had the intention of going out, but the apartment was so inviting that I didn’t want to leave. I relaxed on the patio before deciding to head out and stroll around my new neighborhood, picking up a few groceries, including a bottle of wine. Then set out to make a plan for my next few days in the city.
My days in Barcelona involved a lot of wandering and seeing any sights I could, but I kept it low key and instead of rushing to see it all, I let the city take hold of me. Without plans, I completely and entirely fell in love with the Barcelona, it was impossible not to.
However, of all my days in Europe, New Year’s Eve was by far my favorite. This was the day I was most worried about being alone for, but everything about it was just perfect. During the day, I meandered throughout the streets and picked up the essentials for the night – cava and grapes. Then, I spent the rest of my afternoon on my apartment’s patio writing with a glass of wine.
Then, I decided it was necessary to go out and celebrate. I turned up the music, danced around the apartment drinking cava, and got ready for a date with myself, and what I’d like to think of as a new beginning; it was exactly the kind of night I needed.
After enjoying my time in the apartment, I took a stroll to the square near my apartment and made my way into one of the restaurants. While it was a bit strange to ask for a table for one at night on New Year’s Eve, I went with it, and it wasn’t as bad as I was anticipating.
Since it was New Year’s Eve, I decided to stick with cava and I ordered a few tapas, then finished off my meal with a cappuccino. I enjoyed people watching while I ate, and when I was done, I did a bit more wandering around the streets before heading back to the apartment.
There, I continued to drink the remaining cava and dance before eating my twelve grapes at midnight and listening to the cheers and fireworks from the balcony. I was alone, but not once did it feel that way.
I think that this was the best lesson I could have learned, that solo travel doesn’t equate to loneliness, even on a day when it could be lonely. Instead, I discovered that a little one-on-one time with myself was not only needed, it was refreshing and rejuvenating. The fact that I can stand to be alone with myself in a familiar city, and a brand new one, is enlightening because it means that I love myself enough to be comfortable alone.
Will I always travel solo? No, I love traveling with others too much, but I will definitely travel solo again, without a doubt in my mind. Solo travel may not be for everyone, but I found it good for my soul. I may not have thought I needed that time alone, but it was exactly what I needed to heal from the past and move on in the new year. This trip gave me courage and a lesson about myself that I will always remember. Sometimes all we need is a little time with ourselves just to realize how wonderful we truly are.