What I Learned From Traveling Abroad While Single
"The fact is, you can't force anyone to love you, to be with you or to travel the world with you."
November 21, 2017 at 2:46 pm
If there is one thing that I cannot live without, it's travel. Not simply for the amazing photo ops or to hop on this more recent "oh check me out I'm traveling abroad and you're not" trend, that can sometimes come across as slightly condescending. I cannot live without travel because there is something very pure and spiritual about experiencing the vastness of the earth. Traveling is the constant reminder of the gift of life that God has given us, and I have no intentions of neglecting this gift.
We've all heard those stories of people who, when you ask how they learned to swim they reply, "Oh, Uncle Bobby threw me in the pool when I was a kid and I had to figure it out." Despite my shock and disbelief at these stories, that is exactly what traveling feels like, especially when you're single and abroad. It can be slightly terrifying, but equally beckoning, and the only way to really "get in there" is to literally, GO FOR IT! Giving too much thought can generate fear and hesitation due to the uncertainty that is present when you explore any new venture. So, on my European tour which I've coined #EuroTour, I decided to throw myself in as if Uncle Bobby had thrown me in the deep end of the pool with no life jacket---and guess what? I swam.
I was jolted awake as our 12-hour flight from Los Angeles to Barcelona touched down, and was met with a roaring applause from the passengers. With one eye open and the other closed, I peered out the window as we taxied to our gate. “Wait,” I thought to myself. “Is it 7 p.m. or 7 a.m.?” Had I confused the landing time? We were scheduled to land at 7 p.m. and it looked to be morning! I would soon learn that the sun doesn't set until about 10 p.m. in Europe during certain times of the year — the first lesson of this journey.
After exiting the aircraft and navigating through customs, I found myself staring at the luggage carousel thinking, "It would be nice to experience this tour with a boyfriend, significant other and/or hubby." There's a certain level of protection and provision that comes with traveling with your partner, and parts of that are the memories that you make together. As I stood there, the lyrics to Lisa Stansfield's "All Around the World" played in my head, as it seems to be the soundtrack to my life these days. I hummed and chuckled as I grabbed my luggage, resisting the urge to dance right in the middle of the airport. A peaceful thought crossed my mind and I whispered the word, FORWARD.
Forward because I cannot put my life on pause because of who or what's missing.
Forward because results happen when you are in action.
Forward because as I discover the world, I discover myself.
As I hopped through Europe from Barcelona to Ibiza to Paris, Venice, Athens, Dubrovnik and even Sarande, Albania, I was met with people who were like me, single and abroad. What I noticed most is, despite nationality and language, we valued the same things: growth, family and the freedom to experience life on our own terms.
We talked about international investments, politics, gender roles and food, all while sharing stories of our travel journeys. I realized that with every stranger I conversed with, I was exposed to a glimpse of the world through their eyes. It is these encounters that help shape you into a well-rounded and open-minded individual.
The reason so much growth occurs while traveling internationally is because there are many immediate barriers that you have to identify, analyze and overcome in a short period of time. Think: language, money exchange, cultural differences, unfamiliarity with the built environment, safety (we've all seen the movie Taken) and protecting your highly coveted American passport. Having to balance all of these things requires a bit of tenacity, which can prove intimidating, especially when doing it alone.
While in Italy I was asked, "Do you ever think about traveling with a significant other?" I responded, "Of course! It crosses my mind, it's just not my focal point." Make no mistake, I love my life, I love traveling and would definitely enjoy sharing these experiences, but it has to be right. It has to feel right. Traveling isn't just a leisurely activity for me — it's empowering, yet humbling. It's exhilarating and exhaustive. So I've decided that this journey should only be taken with the man who is whole and whose energy compliments mine.
Relationships aren't about finding someone to make you whole or to fix all your broken pieces! Who TF came up with that idea?! It's about supporting, encouraging and experiencing life together. Far too often we halt our lives and slip into a state of depression and self-deprivation because we have this idea of what our lives or "our travels" should look like based on what society has said. So we stop moving forward and instead try to force things to take an unnatural course.
Nah fam. It won't work.
Trust me. I know. I've been guilty!
The fact is, you can't force anyone to love you, to be with you or to travel the world with you.
And guess what? IT'S ALL GOOD!
The beautiful truth is that the experience and knowledge that is coupled with traveling is something that can never be taken away from you, regardless of fortune or misfortune. For that reason alone, I cannot wait around for a companion as a prerequisite to explore the world or to design my life. What I've learned is that while you are busy living, you will meet that person along the way. Sharing your life with them will not be arduous, but inspirational and peaceful.
Your happiness will be obvious and contagious. When you find yourself smiling constantly, you're living. When you realize you are giving selflessly, you're loving. When you discover that you are moving forward despite circumstance, you've tapped into the peace that can only come from within.
What I will encourage every single person to do is to continue to live and love yourself. Forgive yourself, forgive others and heal. No matter what, I love life and in this space at this time, I'm enjoying being single and abroad.