Explore the Unknown – What Traveling Alone Taught Me

 by Rachel Muller

In the Spring of 2019, I studied abroad in London. Other than working in Colorado for a summer, this was the most adventurous thing I had ever done. Four months studying and traveling throughout Europe pretty much by myself and without a plan was not something I would’ve imagined myself doing a couple years ago.

I haven’t always been a spontaneous person. My mom was a planner; someone who liked to schedule every hour of a vacation, and I followed suit. It wasn’t until I took a conscious note of how my immediate response to last-minute plans was to say “no,” without a second thought, that I knew I had to try and change. That’s why, when a family member told me about a friend who worked on dude ranches in the summers of her college career, I decided on a whim to apply. That led to the best summer of my life working as a wrangler on a dude ranch in Colorado.

My adventurous spirit was growing, and I knew I had to fulfill my dream of studying abroad. 

Most people wouldn’t want to travel alone for two reasons: safety and boredom. In my experience, safety has never really been a huge issue when traveling.

Of course, I haven’t been to stereotypically “more dangerous” places, but I have been around plenty of crowded European cities. Most European cities have fantastic public transportation systems (much better than the U.S.), which decreases the need for long walks through confusing streets or sketchy taxi drives late at night. Even with being in London at the same time as many, many Brexit protests, I never really felt in danger.

You just need to be smart about where you are and notice when things start getting a little hectic. 

Boredom wasn’t really something I dealt with while traveling, either. While I believe that most people don’t like to be alone in their heads for long periods of time, that is where I thrive. You have to be able to amuse yourself when you haven’t got anyone to keep you entertained, and that’s what I did a lot while studying abroad.

Finding ways to pass idle time and keep it interesting for myself is one of my favorite things to do. An easy way to fix this, is to not let yourself get bored. If you’re constantly doing things and going to see sites and explore, you won’t even notice how boring and alone it might’ve felt. I think you take a lot more in when you’re by yourself. When you’re traveling with friends, you have someone to talk to rather than observing what’s around you and really taking it all in.

When you travel alone, you notice a lot more about where you are since you don’t have anyone else to rely on to get you where you need to go.

While studying and traveling abroad, I learned just how much I enjoy traveling by myself. It gives you freedom that you’ve never felt and confidence you can’t get anywhere else. I can’t imagine going back and not making the decision to go to London. Making that decision was the best thing I have ever done.

In case you’re thinking about studying abroad and you’re just not sure whether you’re confident enough, adventurous enough, or whatever, let me try to make it an easy choice for you. When I’m nervous about something or not sure if I’d be able to do it, I ask myself a simple question.

In this case, I thought to myself: would I rather stay at New Paltz next semester and keep the same, boring routine and live life the way I am, or would I rather go to London and get to explore Europe while earning credits for it?

I also asked myself: would I regret not doing this? Once I answer those simple questions, then I can reassess why I was nervous and pretty much convince myself why it’s just simply a better idea and why I shouldn’t be nervous. I try to make it black and white for myself. 

Studying abroad helped grow my adventurous and spontaneous side, while soothing the ever-growing wanderlust in my soul. It taught me that I shouldn’t be afraid to follow an adventure and chase my dreams. If you don’t take crazy opportunities when they present themselves to you, what kind of life is that? You have to take the life you’ve been given and make it worthwhile, you have to make the most out of it.


A version of this post originally appeared in “Tenacity” The Teller October 2019 Issue #7

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