Hi everyone! I recently came across one of my very first blog posts. I guess at some point I’d taken it down because the post is about solo travel in Europe (and this blog is neither about solo travel nor Europe). That being said, upon looking at it again, I still think it relates to what I’m trying to do on this site (that is, help people add outdoor adventure to their lives) because it’s about being nervous and scared and overcoming those fears one step at a time. So without further ado, here are my thoughts the night before leaving on my first solo backpacking adventure.

Solo travel is both exciting and nerve-racking

Tonight is my last night in Canada before leaving for Europe tomorrow. As I write this, I’m sitting in bed with my cat beside me for what will be the last time in the five weeks to come.

Anyone who tells you they aren’t at least a little anxious the night before leaving on a trip is either lying or they haven’t planned a very exciting trip. Traveling is about jumping into the unknown and going beyond your comfort zone; it’s about discovering a completely new place and learning a bit about yourself in the process. This is what, in my opinion, separates “traveling” from “vacation.”

So first and foremost, I’m excited. I’m excited to be exploring Copenhagen and Amsterdam in such depth after hearing so many wonderful things about both cities. I’m excited for the hiking I’ll be doing throughout Switzerland, especially around Interlaken and Zermatt. And I’m looking forward to return to a new part of Italy.

Italy was actually my first overseas destination. I visited with my family during the summer of my Dad’s 50th birthday. We explored Rome, walked the streets of Venice and sipped wine in Tuscany. It was an excellent trip. On this trip I’ll be spending a few days in Lake Como, wrapping up my ~month long journey with a hint of relaxation.

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But I’m nervous about doing all of this solo. I’m sure I’ll meet great people in hostels and maybe we’ll do some excursions together during the day, as most people who travel Europe will do. At some point, however, people always part ways. Maybe they’re going north to Zurich, while I’m heading south to Zermatt, or they’re nearing the end of their trip whereas I’ve just begun mine. So it’s the time in the middle, the travel time between places, that gets me anxious.

It’s sitting in the airport of a country whose language I can’t even begin to understand (I’m looking at you Denmark – Google translate has only been so helpful at deciphering your websites).  Or it’s wandering around a train terminal with a slight air of panic as I try to locate my platform (another situation where my difficulties at learning new languages serves me especially well). And sometimes it’ll just be the idle time in transit where I’ll have a little too much time to be alone with my thoughts (these are the moments our brain decides to replay every embarrassment and failure we’ve ever experienced, right?)

I recognize I’m going to some of the safest countries in the world where most people will speak English well and there are plenty of backpackers doing subjectively harder trips that I will be. But travel isn’t about competition. It’s about overcoming your own obstacles and stepping out of your own comfort zone. For me, that’s a month in Europe. For others, it might be a weekend alone in a big city or a year of hitchhiking through South America.

Find your own challenge and….

Embrace the challenge!

I know I’ll be landing in Europe somewhat anxious, but when I return home I’m going to be better at being on my own. I don’t know how that’s going to happen or what it’ll look like when it’s happened, but I’m sure something will come out of all of this.

A smidgen of advice

Plan your trips such that the night before your departure you lie in bed excited by the adventures to come, but still a little nervous about how you’re actually going to make them happen. This holds true whether it’s a solo canoe trip over the long weekend, or it’s leaving home for a year long trip round the world. The most exciting trips – the ones that will have the lasting memories – are the ones that make us nervous.

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