By Rachel Orga
- You will learn to be adventurous. Convince yourself to go somewhere that you may not be entirely comfortable with. Do spontaneous things; you don’t have to plan a strict schedule for each day. This is not a family vacation.
- You will learn not to be a tourist. Look around at what the locals are wearing. You will have a better chance of survival if when in Rome, you do as the Romans do. Pick a place, not a destination. Never travel somewhere simply because you want to change your profile picture on Facebook with a backdrop from somewhere exotic
- You will learn to appreciate other cultures as they are. Don’t do touristy things. Experience your chosen destination as the locals do: raw and uncensored. Allow your ideologies and values to be challenged and maybe even compromised. There is nothing a well-versed traveler hates more than tourist traps. They choke out culture and breed uniformity.
- You will learn not to advocate for change. Don’t suggest a better way of doing anything or criticize the system. Whether it’s the way the infrastructure works or that bizarre form of government, these people have been getting along just fine for years… without you. It’s the way things run there and your one comment will only make you look ignorant.
- You will learn to live with less. The material things don’t matter as long as you have what you need. No more, no less. Don’t worry about what you left behind. You’ll come to realize how much material objects just don’t matter.
- You will learn to try new things. Try the weird drink or food that you can’t pronounce. Try that weird thing that looks like little chicken legs, but it’s actually the guinea pig you saw running around that very ranch 4 hours earlier. Worst-case scenario if you vomit, you can always say you tried it and have an enticing story to tell when you return home.
- You will learn to let yourself grow and be more confident. Absorb everything you come in contact with and take on new challenges. Don’t think about where you came from; think about where you’re going. Focus on the present and live for the moment. Don’t forget to look back on what you have accomplished.
- (My personal favorite) If you do it right, you will learn another language. You adopt a different personality that best fits with that culture. Close your mouth and open your ears, pay attention. It’s not about you; it’s about them. It’s about what you can learn from them. Enjoy it. Absorb it. Not everyone is worldly enough to accept and realize the privilege of speaking in a different tongue; it is a gift that should be appreciated. You can now connect with millions more than you could before.
- You will learn to trust yourself. Trust that in a moment of panic, confusion or streak of adversity, you are strong enough to make the right decision.
- You will learn to make things happen and be your own advocate. In the words of Sofia Petrillo, “Get it while you’re young, baby!” Never wait for an ideal opportunity to surface. If you want it badly enough, don’t wait, make it happen.
Much like college, you will grow, mature and your ideologies and perspectives will be challenged and, if you are lucky, you will be forever changed by your experiences. Whenever you have the opportunity, travel by yourself. Experience the world the way it was meant to be experienced.
Traveling alone is about giving yourself the opportunity to connect with the world and be truly immersed in it. Our societal barriers are so deeply rooted within our culture and daily lives that we have come to be completely oblivious of their very existence. Allow yourself to be open to anything. This is where self-growth truly begins.