43: Adventure for One, Please

43: Adventure for One, Please

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

Adventure for One, Please

You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.

~Alan Alda

I was ready to embark on a new adventure. Italy and Greece had been haunting my travel dreams for several years. I’d gasped at pictures, listened enviously to other people’s personal stories and become mesmerized by countless videos. I was ready to make this lifelong dream a reality.

As I began to map out this amazing trip, I thought about who could accompany me. My good friend? No, she had vacations planned already. My sisters? No, they weren’t as passionate about traveling as I was. As I continued to cross people off my list, I found that I was left with just one option: I’d go by myself.

Solo travel wasn’t a foreign concept to me, but I had never experienced it on this scale. I had never taken an international flight before, and although I was quickly becoming excited about everything I had been planning, I didn’t know if I could pull off such an itinerary by myself. But as I continued to plan the trip, I realized that this would provide a great opportunity for me to step out of my shell. My quiet and introverted personality could do with a little social experiment. The plans were non-stop — hotel bookings in Rome, Venice and Milan, train adventures throughout Italy, tours that included stops at all the key monuments and restaurant reservations for this party of one. As daunting as the logistics were, they kept me excited as the countdown went from months to weeks and then days.

When the sun finally rose on the day my adventure was to start, I suddenly became a little scared. I’d been counting down for weeks to get to this day and now that it was here, I was wondering if I had made a mistake. Could I really do this on my own? Despite my reservations, I made my way to the airport. Once I settled into my overnight flight, I gave myself a much-needed pep talk.

“Deon, what are you nervous about? So you’ve never taken an international flight before — so what? So you’ve never been to this part of the world before — so what? So you didn’t think you’d be doing your bucket list trip alone — so what? You wanted this, and you made it happen. Be proud of that and understand you are doing something that a lot of women would never do. Smile and know that you’ve got this, and you’ll be okay.”

I gave myself a little grin, buckled in and landed in Rome with a completely different feeling.

It’s hard to describe what I felt as I drove through the streets. I was in a partial state of shock that I had finally made it. I sat in silence with other passengers as we gazed out the window and took in how Rome does morning rush hour. Check-in at my hotel was a breeze, and I spent the next two days traveling from site to site. The Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel were wonders to behold.

My day spent in Venice was special. After a torrential downpour caused people to find dry surroundings, I made my way to a pizzeria in Piazza San Marco. As I patiently waited for my order to arrive, I made light conversation with a woman who was sitting nearby. Once I confirmed I was traveling alone, she gave me the biggest smile and commended me for being brave enough to take on such an ambitious trip on my own. She then courageously shared her painful story about becoming a widow two years earlier and how she and her husband had dreamed of visiting Italy. She said although she was traveling alone, his spirit was the best company, and the location was providing the ideal comfort. Hearing her story confirmed to me that women travel solo for a variety of different reasons, and I had made the best decision to take this adventure on my own.

The remainder of my trip was truly outstanding. Along with visiting Milan, Florence and Lake Como, I also had the pleasure of exploring Greece. I walked through the white-washed buildings in Santorini, took in the magnitude of the Parthenon in Athens, visited the beautiful beaches in Mykonos and admired the amazing views in Corfu. But I wasn’t done there. I also fell in love with Montenegro, spent quality time in Croatia and made a stop in Switzerland.

The freedom of being on my own was amazing. There was no better feeling than making a spur-of-the-moment decision knowing it would only affect me. I didn’t have to worry about pleasing anybody because I was in control of what I did each and every step of the way. I recount the experience of sipping a glass of wine while staring high up at the Duomo in Florence, thinking that I had truly outdone myself.

I flew home realizing that this was an experience that every woman should have — whether it be a staycation in her local city, a road trip to a nearby destination, or a backpacking adventure across the world. Every woman should know what it feels like to explore all this amazing earth has to offer on her own.

To this day, when people ask me about that magical trip, an indescribable presence still comes over me. The adventure was so joyous that a second trip is in the works, and I’ll be going with the best company of all — me, myself and I.

~Deon Toban

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