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!

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8 Reasons To Choose Love Over Hate: Part 1

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“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Recently, a friend and I were talking about someone who had severely hurt me, and she asked, “Don’t you hate him?” I truthfully replied, “Not at all.” Let me share with you why it is so important to choose love and understanding over hate when someone has hurt you.

1. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

There are so many better ways to use your time, especially if you are as busy as I am. Use your free time to think about important and positive things like a career goal, a book you are reading, or what you could do nice for someone today.

2. Hating people sucks your energy and weighs you down.

It takes effort to keep thinking about how upset you are at someone and talking about it over and over to your friends. Think about negativity as a parachute  attached to your back. Every time you try to move forward, it catches the air, pulls you back, and slows you down. Free yourself! Instead of feeling upset about someone who just brings negativity to your life, you could be putting your energy into relationships with people who truly care about you.

3. Hating someone isn’t hurting him or her—it’s only hurting you.

Your being angry has no effect on someone else whatsoever, but it is making you frustrated, distracted, obsessive, and negative. Moreover, your continuing to be upset isn’t moving the situation toward a resolution.

4. Sometimes, someone didn’t actually hurt you: you just don’t like what happened.

For example, so many times I have seen a guy not want to date a girl, and suddenly the guy becomes this monster. She and her friends call him a bunch of awful names and pick apart his flaws. Maybe that guy truly did things to justify feeling hurt, BUT you can’t get mad at someone just because he or she doesn’t want to date you. That doesn’t make him a bad person. Next time when you have a strong emotional reaction, take five minutes to think about what you are truly feeling and what caused you to feel that way. Are you upset, or are you actually disappointed, scared, jealous, or feeling attacked?

Make love a habit. Come back for part two, which will be up in the next few days!

Brenna

Remember who you are

Dear women,

            Soon before my ex-boyfriend and I broke up, I sought the counsel of one of my professors who always helps me see life clearly and leads me in the right direction. At the end of our conversation, he said, “I think you know exactly what you need to do.” He was right. I knew almost from the very beginning of our three-and-a-half-year relationship that my ex-boyfriend and I shouldn’t be together.

When I called upon a psychologist to help me through my religious crisis, all the sessions lead up to his telling me, “You know what you truly believe, and you are never going to change.”

In both situations I spent years trying to rationalize things I knew weren’t right out of fear, social pressure, and even love. Boy, I was stressed—major cognitive dissonance! It takes a lot of mental and emotional energy to live contrary to who you truly are.

Sociologist and author of “Finding Your Own North StarMartha Beck says everyone has an essential self and a social self or who we are and who we think we should be. She says our bodies give us clear signs when we are going against our essential selves. “That feeling of choked hostility, or numb depression, or nauseated helplessness is a sure sign you’re steering…toward a life you were not meant to live.”

When I finally surrendered and accepted myself, I felt such blissful freedom. Ladies, take time to truly listen to your intuition and your feelings about whatever you are dealing with. Asking a million people for their advice will only confuse you and frustrate you, and it won’t change your life. Be brave and live life the way you want to live it even if it seems scary. When you do, you will feel lighter, freer, less stressed, and more whole because there is no longer a battle going on inside of you.

Love,

Brenna

The Secret of Happiness

Dear women,

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by life? By bills, deadlines, and big decisions? I know the feeling. But what if I told you that I want you to be overwhelmed—because it will totally change your life?

I want you to feel overwhelmed by gratitude, like a wave crashing over you as you realize all reasons you have to be thankful. The force of the wave expels all your stress and negativity, and you are left enveloped by feelings of joy, warmth, and wonder.

By consciously being gracious, I promise that you will be happier. Not only that, it makes you more attractive, more popular, and more emotionally resilient. Plus, it even helps you live longer

Don’t just take my word for it. Dr. Robert Emmons, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology, shows through his research that people can be consistently more happy by practicing gratitude. Vulnerability and shame researcher Brené Brown’s work has also proven that gratitude brings joy, a finding that has transformed her family. Listen to her story in this video:

Give being consciously thankful a try. It doesn’t take long, and it’s free. I recommend the Five Minute Journal, which helps you evaluate your days and boost your self-worth. Think about someone for whom you are thankful and write him or her a letter expressing that. While sharing a meal with family or friends, take turns saying what you are thankful for.

Practicing gratitude has made me so joyful that some days I feel as if I am glowing or that the joy might burst out of me like air from a balloon. Ladies, I want you to feel that way too; I want you to feel overwhelmed with gratitude.

Love,

Brenna