Off The Beaten Path
As I’ve logged more and more days abroad, my life and travels here have slowly transitioned from fish-out-of-water to resident. The more time I’m away from home, the more I’m convinced that traveling with intention does profound things to the soul and centers you. Famous artists, writers and intellectuals used traveling as a therapeutic escape to stimulate their creativity and channel their innermost thoughts into a product of their trade. For me, traveling has been my way of testing myself—and as a result, learning what my limits are and pushing myself out of my comfort zone every single day.
When traveling, most notably when traveling solo, one relies on alertness, resourcefulness and at times, fearlessness. Traveling within the European Union relying on tourist phrases of said country, native English and the Spanish I’ve acquired since October to make myself understood and get me from point A to point B has made me feel the most independent of my life experiences thus far. Graduating college, paying bills and moving cross-country at 18 just didn’t quite stack up to the feeling of self-sufficiency garnered by traveling alone. It’s not a huge accomplishment and it’s certainly not like the stories of those traveling the entire world solo, but for the short time I’ve experienced sleeping alone in airports, entertaining myself for hours on every mode of public transportation imaginable and striking up conversations with strangers in hostels, I’ve learned travel may be life’s greatest teacher. It is as liberating as it is lonely.
I understand now why there is the term “worldly”—traveling with an open-mind and minimal planning have been the two things that have changed my mind about the world and the people in it. I’ve found that following a stiff, too-structured travel plan keeps you away from the richness of the places you encounter. I enjoy sun-filled resorts as much as the next person, but the easiest way to change my opinion and inform myself has been to cut out the cheesy, tourist attractions and get to the heart of the countries I visit. This has led me to traditional home-cooked meals, amazing sights and places only locals know of, insight on cultural customs and seeing life though an authentic lens. It’s hard to be a skeptic when you leave your little corner of the world and go out and explore.
For my next travel, I plan to go without a plan. Why? To try something new, to test my boundaries and to surrender myself to spontaneity. Call it planned spontaneity.