There is something empowering about travelling alone. I went on a short trip to Dublin, Ireland this weekend. And it was amazing.I was alone, but I was never really alone.
I recommend staying in a hostel. Reach out. Talk to strangers. Because you never know, you could meet your best friend.
I used to consider hostels as places to avoid. I thought of bed bugs, communal showers, and strangers. But then I realized I was regarding this in a negative light instead of as a positive opportunity for growth.
After my first afternoon touring the Dublin, I walked into my hostel, contemplating where I was going to eat dinner. Someone held the door open for me as I walked in, and I half glanced over, said a quick thanks, and made it half way up the stairwell before pausing.
A split second passed and I turned. Before I had thought the words through, I asked this stranger, “If you’re traveling alone, do you want to grab dinner with me?”
Now, if you knew me, you would know that this is not something I would ever do. Not in a million years. Yet, here I was, asking someone had known for a grand total of three seconds if he wanted to join me for a pint and a stew.
As it turned out, the stranger was from Madrid, Spain, studying in London for his masters. He had popped over to Dublin for a quick weekend trip, and the universe put us in the same hostel at the same instant.
We enjoyed our dinner, had a lovely conversation in a mix of Spanish and English while sitting in a loud Irish pub, before paying the Temple Bar a visit.
The next morning, I had breakfast with a student from Melbourne, Australia, whom I was sharing my dorm with.
Later, I toured to western Ireland with a Canadian from Vancouver and an American from New Jersey.
If I was with my American friends, I never would have had these opportunities. I would have kept to myself, dined with them, stayed in a hotel with them, and missed out on connecting with others who all have their own unique tale.
So stay in a hostel. Look around. Move out of your comfort zone. Because 10/10 chances are, that person sitting next to you is just as uncomfortable as you are. And, 9/10 chances are they want to be friendly and learn about you. We are social beings, and it is in our nature to reach out. So don’t think about it, don’t hesitate, and just do it.
When else will you find yourself surrounded by people from around the globe? Likely never. You’ll never know whom you will meet. And when I am 55 years old working with a 9am-5pm desk job, these are the stories I want to remember. And, plus, now I have one more friend in Madrid.
Those are the joys of travelling: to branch out, to explore, and to learn. If you are comfortable being alone in your own head, navigating a foreign transport system, a foreign language or accent, and a foreign currency, then you can do anything. You are unstoppable.
The saying goes that you have to get lost before you can be found. And, while I am losing myself here in Europe, I realize that I am finding in my old place a more worldly person. Push boundaries, break down your inner walls, and maybe, just maybe you will discover a freer person who is more comfortable in their skin.