Travel Advice

Part III : Being Alone

being alone / living abroad : part 3 / observant nomad

The next important lesson about living abroad is something I don’t really talk about often. Most people who have heard the story probably think my experience was all sugar and rainbows, but it wasn’t always the case.

Like I said, moving abroad was a decision that I made at a time when I felt really lost in life. I was in my early twenties and hit a road block with my studies. Besides not knowing what to do with my life, I was going through a bit of depression. I felt disconnected from my relationships, lacked passion for things I had once loved, and all in all felt really numb.

being alone / living abroad : part 3 / observant nomad

being alone / living abroad : part 3 / observant nomad

So I knew something had to give. The only way to save myself was to do something completely out of left field. For days I couldn’t think of anything big enough to change my life. Then, one day the thought literally popped into my head, ‘Why don’t you move to Spain?’

That decision felt like a weight had lifted off my shoulders. So I embraced it in full force and decided if I was going to move abroad, I was going to really move abroad.

being alone / living abroad : part 3 / observant nomad

I already felt pretty alone before I left for Spain, and it wasn’t any different when I got there. I knew no one, had no friends to speak of, and didn’t know anyone who had ever been abroad like this before. But I was determined to enjoy every second of my experience whether alone or in a group of 1,000’s of people, it didn’t matter to me.

In the beginning it was hard. Being alone in a new country with a new language was a challenge. I envied other people who came to Spain with loved ones or friends. I felt very lonely at first.

So I had to convince myself to get out there and see it! Sitting in my room the whole time wouldn’t be worth the money, time, or why I was there. So I resolved myself to get out there, even if it was alone. The first step was to buy some travel books and start flagging things I wanted to see, places I wanted to go, and food I wanted to eat.

being alone / living abroad : part 3 / observant nomad

being alone / living abroad : part 3 / observant nomad

Then on the weekends and after class I started checking off my list. First I rode the gondola to the top of Castell de Montjuic and then I visited the Catalan National Palace and took a walk through the grounds. After class one night I made the across town trip to the Magic Fountain (yes that’s the real name) and was mesmerized by the lights, music, and being all alone in this fantastical experience.

These experiences weren’t anything ground breaking. Just simple things. I would take the metro to a new part of the city and just walk around. Doing these small steps got me comfortable with traveling alone. I got used to the silence, to my own thoughts, and better at observing everything around me.

being alone / living abroad : part 3 / observant nomad

After these small steps I finally worked up the courage to take a day trip somewhere. I decided to jump on the train to Garraf. Nevermind that beach season was over. Nevermind I was going to the beach, all alone. It didn’t matter – it was on my list. After that trip, traveling alone was no longer a scary thought. It became a respite, a theraputic solitude for me. I even started enjoying being alone.

The strangest side effect of being forced to being alone, was that this is what actually attracted people to me. The first real group of friends I made while I was there reached out to me because I was ‘the girl always doing something.’ I was jumping on trains, riding gondolas, and had seen half the city in the first month I was there.  They started inviting me to cafes, lunches, trips, and we became good friends.

being alone / living abroad : part 3 / observant nomad

Being alone gave me no ties to any one particular group of friends or people, so I actually jumped around between several groups of friends that I made over time being there.  Another group of people had one more spot on a group trip to Morocco, and they invited me, so I said yes (of course). On that trip I bonded hard with some of the other girls and we had a great time.

All in all, being alone forced me to handle uncomfortable situations and really grow. It gave me heaps of confidence and wisdom in the end and I’m really glad I did it all on my own. So the third lesson in living abroad? Embrace being alone.

What do you think?

Leave A Comment

hi brianna. i really like to read all of your experiences and salute your courage to tell – even about all the sad and hard stuff. it’s great to see how someone can personally change and grow.. and your experiences and advices aren’t just about “try it, it’s easy”.. they are human and understandable and honest, so i really like to read about them! that’s what i wanted to tell you :) best luck in everything, alina

Brianna

You’re so sweet – thanks for your kind words! It’s hard to write about, but maybe someone will feel better knowing that feeling alone can be a good thing sometimes.

This is really beautifully honest. Loved hearing about your self-discovery.

Brianna

Thanks Liz, it was actually very therapeutic to share

I love this! It is so important to take time to experience life alone across all aspects of life ( that’s when we truly learn things about ourselves, afterall ), but ESPECIALLY when traveling abroad. Also, beautiful photos, they make me all sorts of nostalgia-y for Spain :)

Amen to that! Loneliness can be super challenging while abroad!!

Linked to this from Nubby Twiglet’s blog! This article really resonated with me, I haven’t moved abroad, but have moved to a different city, and the feelings of loneliness are very familiar to me. I’ve always considered myself something of an introvert, and very independent, but I’ve found since moving that I depend more on my friends’ company than I thought.

Brianna

I think moving to a new city can feel like a foreign country! Hope you found some encouragement or good vibes from these ‘lessons’.

thank you for sharing this post. i’ve often felt alone in having also travelled alone! many people can’t grasp why anyone would want to venture abroad solo but i can’t recommend it enough. 1.5 years abroad on my own was the most enriching experience and made me a more confident person. keep sharing your experiences and courage. I bet you’re inspiring readers to do the same!

Brianna

Thanks! I’m glad I’m not the only one who agrees ;) Being alone isn’t always a bad thing.

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