You’re Traveling Alone?! But…

“Vous voyagez seule?” an elderly French woman asked me at the bus stop to Èze. When I answered, “Oui,” she gasped, shaking her head, and exclaimed, “Vous êtes courageuse.”

She is one of many people who told me I was brave for traveling alone and they could never do it, sentiments by which I am continuously puzzled because I see nothing to fear and everything to discover. In fact, for the time being, I only want to travel alone.

Here are some of the questions people asked me when I told them I was going solo:

1. But aren’t you afraid being taken?

No, not even a little. While being taken, drugged, and sold into prostitution is a possibility, it is mostly just the plot of fantastic Liam Neeson film.

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My dad watches Jeopardy every night. Does that count?

2. But how will you feel safe? You could be robbed.

Not once did I feel unsafe in Europe. People mostly keep to themselves, and those who do approach you are probably just trying to sell you a selfie stick. Say, “Non, merci,” and keep walking. I think traveling alone is even safer than with someone else because you can become just another person living in that city, especially if you don’t dress like a tourist.  Not only are you not loudly speaking in your native language, you also are not distracted by someone else.

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You’ll never get robbed in Switzerland because everyone is richer than you are. (This hotel’s theme was money, just having lots and lots of money.)

3. But won’t you be lonely?

Even though I was traveling by myself, I was rarely alone. All it took on my part was asking simple questions, and every day I met new people from around the globe, all connected by travel and all open to sharing a slice of their life. Thankfully, it is easy to find an English speaker almost anywhere you go; however, some of my dearest interactions were when I was forced to speak solely in French.

I explored Èze with a South African couple, discussed foreign affairs with two Israeli girls by the Arc de Triomphe, got wonderfully lost with an American expat in le Marais, danced on picnic tables to the Backstreet Boys with an Australian, ate too much gelato with Canadians, and had the perfect Parisian evening with a Colombian photographer—to name a few.

Another fantastic way to meet people is to stay in hostels because you not only automatically have something in common with dozens of people but also because those people are usually as eager to meet new people as you are.

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You’ll always remember the people with whom you bonded even if it was only for a day.

4. But won’t it be weird eating alone?

Why is eating alone weird? If the idea of eating alone makes you uncomfortable, do it before you leave a few times to get used to it. I promise, nothing bad will happen, and no one is judging you but yourself. To keep myself occupied, I always carried a book and a journal.

Many times I didn’t eat alone, though, because I would meet people at the café or restaurant and start talking to them. Go to a restaurant with a bar to sit at because that is where a many couples and solo people dine. When I did that, I always met people with whom I could talk throughout the meal. Another option is to go to a very small establishment where you can make friends with the staff. Bonus: go somewhere multiple times. People will already know you, so you can build relationships instead of always starting from scratch.

5. But what if you get lost?

I hope that I do! Whenever I would go someplace new, I would walk around the city without a plan and without knowing precisely where I was. If at a glance I saw a beautiful street or an interesting monument, I went to it. While this prevented me from ever sticking to an itinerary, it allowed me to discover sites, shops, and streets I would have never seen otherwise. By doing this I observed how a city and its inhabitants live and breathe, not just how guidebooks present them. Even getting truly lost isn’t scary; in fact, relying on yourself to solve a problem is exhilarating and empowering.

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Meandering through the gorgeous streets of Nice.

Beyond the joys of discovery and new relationships, solo travel provides a perfect adventure for independent people who like to be in control of their own experience. If that sounds like you, just go for it!

8 Reasons to Choose Love Over Hate: Part 2

Here is Part 1 if you haven’t already read it.

Maybe Atticus Finch said it best. “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

5. Most people aren’t trying to hurt you—they’re trying to find their own happiness.

People don’t cheat on their significant other because it would be fun to hurt him or her. People don’t boast about themselves because they want everyone else to feel annoyed and inferior. People don’t lie to make others feel betrayed. They are just struggling to find happiness and making bad decisions trying to get there. Thinking about this makes you feel a lot less attacked, betrayed, and hurt.

6. People are broken

Like my last point, understanding that people are broken redirects the target of someone’s actions away from you. People have been hurt and continue to hurt. They carry the weight of their struggles with them and never heal their scars. When people are so broken that they are hurting others, they don’t need you to be angry at them—they need love, help, and empathy.

7. The fundamental attribution error

AP psychology alums will recognize the term fundamental attribution error. This is when someone overestimates the effect of someone’s personality and underestimates the effect of situation on someone’s behavior. Remembering this concept will transform the way you interact with people! Instead of quickly judging someone, which is the easy thing to do, try thinking about why someone is acting that way. Talk to him or her. Try to understand. For example, if someone is constantly crabby and negative, don’t get angry at him or her for having a bad attitude: try to understand why this person is acting that way. Maybe he or she is having relationship issues, doesn’t have enough money to pay a bill, or is even depressed. Making people feel understood is one of the best gifts you can give them.

8. You would want someone to forgive you

If you hurt someone and were sorry, wouldn’t you want someone to forgive you? Then, why won’t you do it for other people? Not forgiving people leaves a burden of anger with you like I talked about in Part 1. We all mess up; that is guaranteed. We all also deserve love and forgiveness—without a prerequisite. Even though it is difficult, when people hurt you, love them more and forgive them. Give them the freedom to try again and improve. Make people’s hurtful actions actions bring out the best in you, not the worst.

The power of empathy is immense!

Love, Brenna

Be vulnerable. Why not?

Dear women,

Why not? What is the worst that could happen?

Those are the phrases I have adopted in the past year, which have forced me to be courageous and have brought me connections and opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’m not saying, “Let’s do heroin! What’s the worst that could happen?” I’m talking about pushing past fear and doing things you have always wanted to do, talking to new people, and being vulnerable.

Recently, I randomly walked up to someone whom I have wanted to meet for a long time and introduced myself. I couldn’t be worried that he would think I was dumb or weird and wouldn’t want to talk to me. I asked myself, “What’s the worst that could happen? He doesn’t talk to you? You already don’t talk to each other, so nothing would change.”

But that didn’t happen. It turns out that he is one of the most wonderful and amazing people I have ever met. Our mutual openness lets us feel seen, heard, and valued. Daring to be vulnerable paid off.

In Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly, she says, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” Her TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability” is one of the most watched TED talks ever for good reason. Being vulnerable and being our authentic self are the heart of courage and connection. Giving yourself the permission to be open in turn gives others the permission to do that. No judgement. Just acceptance.

Women, the rewards of being courageous are abundant and freeing. Dare to connect. Dare to ask, “Why not?”

Love,

Brenna

Hilary Duff knew what she was talking about in 2003! Listen to her song “Why Not?” from the Lizzie McGuire Movie!