One year ago today, I embarked on a personal mission to see more of the world outside of North America. People always talk about it, but I wanted to be about it. Most of my friends are into going to the US or doing all-inclusive trips which is fine but I was seeking something more but, I just wasn’t sure.
The wheels started turning in my head on New Year’s Eve as 2016 was approaching. Most people were out with friends or loved ones while I was inside of my apartment partaking in Chinese takeout. Toiling about the year I had and the year to come I realized I still hadn’t watched the Netflix series ‘Master Of None’ like I said I would back in like October. So, 3 episodes turned into 6 episodes and 5 hours later I ended up watching the whole season. First of all, that show is like the handbook to your 30’s. Secondly, when I saw Aziz Ansari’s character Dev, just randomly hop on a plane bound for Italy I was thinking to myself “ Yoooo, that is pretty bad ass…I wish I could do that!”.
Then suddenly, it hit me…WHY CAN’T I DO THAT?!?! After listing about 15 reasons why I am too scared to randomly travel alone it was almost midnight. Most of the time you share with your friends some goals or resolutions you may have. Since no one was around I told myself 2016 my theme is going to be EXPLORE! I should’ve prefaced that by saying each year instead of resolutions I have themes or mottos I try to live by. 2015 was ‘Get It Done!’ which was a challenge to finish my last bout of education and stop telling myself I can’t do this or that. So perhaps that theme was a precursor to this 2016 one.
I went back to work after the holiday and starting thinking, how the hell was I going to pull this off. I learned that once I have the time everything else will figure itself out. I had banked some leftover vacation time from 2015 so perhaps I could use that. I had money saved up as a ‘rainy day fund’ so if push comes to shove I could tap into that to make this happen.
Fast forward to Valentine’s Day and I had a romantic day alone on the coldest weekend in recent memory watching the NBA All Star Game and after the game I was like…LETS DO THIS!!! I was researching places to go that weren’t too crazy expensive but weren’t in North America. Google Flights was my homeboy for about 3 weeks before booking just randomly mapping out destinations and price watching. So after 5 minutes of OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! AM I REALLY GONNA DO THIS…I said… F— It and clicked confirm and my flights were booked. And I would be leaving the following Sunday. That gave me no time to overthink this and talk myself out of it. The rush was amazing and scary at the same time, if that makes any sense.
The destination was….wait for it….Malta! Wait what?! Where the hell is that?! Why did you pick Malta?! Why not Great Britain or France or Spain?! So Malta is an island nation just off the south coast of Italy. I didn’t go for the obvious places like Great Britain and France because well one it’s cold there in February and everyone goes there. I like to be a bit out of the ordinary and Malta was like $400 bucks cheaper to fly there and it’s like 20-22C every day. Also, there were weird coincidences that I convinced myself were signs I must go there.
I was scanning through the New York Times list of ’52 Places to Go in 2016’ and Malta caught my eye, one week later I was on a bus and one of the stops was Malta Street. About 3 days after I randomly saw the film ‘The Maltese Falcon’ on TV and at the groceries scanning through the candy aisle a bag of Maltesers fell on my arm. I was like whether these are real signs or not, this is pushing me to pursue something that I set it out to do so let’s go for it!
I booked my accommodations and sightseeing trips literally 2-3 days before I left, I had to get printer ink to print out my itineraries because I like having hard copies just in case. I packed my bags like 5 hours before I left and I hardly told anyone. Just my mom and sister, a few cousins and friends no more than like 6 people. My mom thought I was a crazy person for doing something like this so spur of the moment and alone no less. Up until that point the farthest I have ever travelled alone was to Hamilton…Ontario not Bermuda.
Was I scared? No, I wasn’t scared…I WAS TERRIFIED!!! The longest I have ever sat on a plane for was like 4.5-5 hours. This was going to be 8 hours to fly to Frankfurt and then catch my connecting flight to Malta. When I said goodbye to my mom, my heart sank down to my kneecaps because this was really happening. My sister dropped me to the airport and she was impressed and maybe a bit jealous that I had the boldness to do what many others wouldn’t. Not only travel alone, but to put it all together in 6 days. Oh yes, I was brave.
At YYZ, I was mingling with some passengers and they were pretty taken aback by my tale of not only solo travelling but planning it all within a week. I did not sleep at all on the flight or the first night in Malta because of the anxiety I was feeling. But, I needed that in order to gain some personal growth. Once I finally got used to not being in my comfort zone it was smooth sailing for the most part.
My trip was challenging, it was refreshing and enlightening too. This blog has posts of that trip if you are still reading this and want to know about Malta and Sicily go nuts! I carried a travel journal with me that I would write in on almost a daily basis to keep me calm and to live in the moment without worrying about forgetting a detail. Since I wrote my thoughts out I can go back and look at these entries fondly.
Some of what I learned from travelling solo for the first time is the following:
1) I can do just about anything I put my mind to
2) Fear is a part of life but conquering it gives you unimaginable personal freedom and power
3) Just because your friends wouldn’t do it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be your own person
4) Always be smart with your data plan and battery life on your devices
5) VPNs come in clutch when you attempt to watch the Oscars with your tablet using Wi-Fi from your hotel room at 2 am and no channels in Malta are carrying it.
6) Don’t be afraid to wander because the best self-discoveries happen when you least expect it
7) I can only control what I can control, I can’t worry about things that are beyond my control
8) Being Canadian really gets admiration from people in Europe
9) In Europe they reallyyyyy love churches and food (rabbit is pretty tasty)
10) Sports bars only seem to play soccer and cricket, asking about UFC will get you dirty looks
11) Life is too short to keep putting it off, it is okay to play and do what you love
12) An extreme change of scenery elevated my creativity and capacity to see and do more
13) If you like to collect passport stamps the EU isn’t as fun since it’s all connected, I only got 1 stamp!
14) People tend to get more fascinated by you when you travel solo and to different destinations. Strategic social media posting is key!
15) I can always make money back but, I can never make my time back so spend it wisely
In the aftermath of this, it gave me a new clarity and a hunger to explore more. So shortly after, I made more plans to see some more of the world in 2016. In May, I went to New York City and Philadelphia on my own and booked the flight 3 days before I went.
In the fall, I set my sights on seeing Asia so I went to Kuala Lumpur, Bali and Singapore but I was thinking well I’m close by so let’s go to Sydney too!
Yes, I got hit by the travel bug but it was worth it. In a span of 8 months I collected a lifetime’s worth of experiences and memories that can never be taken away from me.
Instead of getting those new pair of Jordan’s or getting bottle service at that club I would rather use that money towards a trip that would be personally enriching to me and also it gives me decent points of conversation at gatherings and parties. I may not be rich in my bank account (especially after all of that) but I am richer in culture and experiences which is priceless to me! Solo travel may not be for everyone but, I thought it wasn’t for me until I challenged myself to try it out and test myself. And to think it all started with Master of None, Chinese takeout and a New Year’s resolution!
Walk it out people,