Why You Should Travel Alone
No matter what subculture you were mercilessly pigeonholed in on your first day of school, the moment you finish, all that flies out the window and you are suddenly free to start with a clean slate. When you are growing up, know-it-all adults with boring lives will laugh condescendingly at your teenage angst and pimples and tell you that your school days will end up being the most treasured memories of your life. Although I was a massive nerd who loved every minute of my journey from prep to year 12 (and not just because I wanted to fuck my modern history teacher), I can assure you that this statement is complete bullshit.
Not only do you drink so much at schoolies that you erase your memory of ever having had an education at all, but life after school is just so much better than life before it. The reason? You are free. From everything. No longer subject to a regimented framework in which you have to perform pointless tasks and live up to others’ expectations. No longer defined by what clothes you wore on free dress day or what subject you sucked at or the fact that you never got a rose on February 14. No longer limited by any preconceptions those around you may have possessed. You are completely emancipated, and as clichéd as it sounds, the world really is your oyster (or your fish finger rather – we hobos can’t afford that gourmet shit).
So – what next? Yes, keep studying if you don’t feel like 13 years of school was enough to build up your grey matter; yes, go wild for a bit on all the enchanting 18+ novelties your hometown’s glitter strip has to offer; yes, get a job (or at least go on the dole) so your poor parents don’t have to keep forking out every time your addiction to funny cat videos causes you to go over your bandwidth.
But most importantly, you should travel. Alone.
Going overseas by yourself is the most daunting, unnerving, nauseating experience you will ever put yourself through. You will be plagued with fears of eating in a café alone, wandering cities alone and spending your nights in bed alone. But what exactly are you scared of? Is it being alone? No – of course not; you are in your own company all the time in the comfort of your own home. What you’re scared of is how others will perceive you for being by yourself – scared they’ll see you as a loner with no friends.
But when you do it – when you encounter and then overcome tribulations and challenges with nothing to rely on other than your inner strength (and maybe Google maps) – you will find it is also the experience that will give you the greatest reward: unparalleled self-fulfilment. I’m talking the kind of confidence boost no Tinder match can ever deliver; the form of self-awareness you can’t find in a horoscope; the kind of shaping and development you can’t just get from a personal trainer. You will gain faith in your own abilities, confidence in your personality and, ultimately, you will become comfortable with who you are – a far cry from the days of pretending you weren’t a virgin with a curfew in order to get into the popular group at school.
In my first year of uni, if all my friends were at home come lunchtime, I would lock myself and my sandwich in the loo a-la Cady Heron in Mean Girls so that I didn’t look like a loser dining solo. Fast forward a few years and I will happily jump on a plane, navigate a city, go out for dinner, stay in a hostel, hitchhike and befriend total strangers with no companion other than my iPod.
When you have no one to rely on but yourself, you’ll find you can be pretty fucking reliable. So go somewhere no one knows your name, and go alone. You might get to know someone you really like, and who knows – that someone might even be yourself.