I'm going to break down the trip into several posts, but today I just wanted to talk a little bit about what it was like to travel alone for the first time, just in case anyone else out there wanted to give it a try or was just curious about what my experience was like.
Um... it rocked. IT ROCKED MY SOCKS OFF.
Obviously I didn't know what it would be like going in. I booked the trip last November and spent over six months flipping back and forth between pure excitement and a case of anxiety so severe that for about the whole month of June I couldn't keep anything down except for water and crackers. On the way to the airport, I cried the whole time. When I had to say goodbye to my parents, I cried like a freaking baby. When I was boarding my plane I wrestled with the idea of just skipping it and going home up until the very moment we took off. I was almost phobia-level scared of doing this thing.
The rational part of my brain knew that I could do it, that I WANTED to do it. But that pesky scaredy-cat side of my brain was the one controlling my nerves, my bowels, my skin (hi there, anxiety induced breakouts!) even my eyelids were twitching on the plane. I was so nervous. When I got to the hotel, I hid out in my room for a good three hours just trying to muster the energy to go outside.
I know all of this sounds crazy, but I was really nervous and I want to be honest about it because I think if you're scared, it helps to know that I was too -- and I got through it pretty easily. As soon as I stepped outside and started wandering around I felt so much more at ease. My worries about the language barrier were entirely for naught. Everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful (one saleswoman even taught me how to say "I don't speak French" in French!) and by my third day in Paris I felt like I belonged there.
I traveled as part of a group trip (I'll write more about this in another post) and I'd recommend it to anyone as nervous as I was about being by yourself in a foreign country for the first time. You can choose how much you want to stay with the group or go it alone (I chose to eat one meal with the group, after which we went on a short walking tour of the area near our hotel. I also did a 3 hour bus tour with the group, but the rest of my time in Paris was spent by myself.) They took care of everything -- the plane, picking you up at the airport, your hotel, etc. And you have a tour guide who can help you if anything goes awry.
I googled a lot of "traveling alone" articles before leaving, and most of them seemed to focus on things like loneliness or "how on earth do you occupy yourself??" worries. I wasn't even remotely concerned about this aspect going into the trip, and even less concerned once I was there. If you're the kind of person who likes the *idea* of traveling alone, you'll probably be fine actually BEING alone. If anything it's just really fun to get to dictate your own agenda, listen to your own music in your hotel room, make your own schedule, and wander or meander wherever your day takes you. You eat when you're hungry, find a restroom when you need to, etc. While I do love traveling with friends, this was honestly my favorite trip of all time and I would actually prefer to travel alone in the future.
Literally the only downside to this trip is the fact that it had to end. I've only been home since Saturday and I'm already looking up month-long airbnb rates for apartments in Paris. Three days just wasn't enough! (If you're thinking "didn't she also go to Rome?" -- yes, I did! I just completely fell in love with Paris so I keep talking about it and kind of forgetting to mention Rome. But I'll get to it more in future posts!)
Here's a little video I put together with footage from Paris and Rome. I set it to "Human" by The Killers because I went to see them in concert the night before I left for Paris (I'll have to do a post about that, too! ahh! So much to write about!) and then I had their music playing in my headphones while I went exploring, so I'll always associate them with my trip :)