I have probably wanted to take a solo international trip since I was in college. At that age, I was very capable of taking one to an English-speaking country however, I listened to people who said it was not a good idea. Years later, at 34, I finally did it.
This trip was really empowering for me. I feel a bit cheesy saying that, but it definitely made me realize that I can do anything, more so than ever before. I encountered a variety of women on my way to Iceland who were so excited and proud of what I was doing. A mother with her pre-teen daughters in O’Hare was at the gate next to mine headed to LAX for a vacation and was just beyond excited and said: “you’re so smart, doing this while you’re young!” I think she thought I was younger than I am and she really didn’t need to know otherwise.
I spent most of my travel day to Iceland, in Boston. I’d never been to Boston and wanted a taste of the city so I booked a really long layover. Midway through the afternoon, I had to stop and get an iced coffee and find somewhere with air-conditioning, nail salon to the rescue! While my nails were drying, an older lady with a very strong Irish accent struck up a conversation with me. The conversation turned to my travels and she was in awe of me going it alone and also very excited for me. The cutest thing she said (and I am paraphrasing) was that she didn’t see a ring on my finger. I told her I was single but would like to be married someday, but was not in a rush. Her response, in her Country Cork Irish accent, will definitely stick with me forever “What do a need a man for! You’re an independent girl, they’re nothing but trouble!” Irish Granny, as I’ve dubbed her, got the wheels turning in my head about life, where I am currently, and what do I want? I am grateful to her for that.
On my flight, I met an interesting group of ladies. They were a group of friends that live all over the United States and travel around the country and the world running different half-marathons and marathons. I would say that they were in their mid to late 40′s. Sometimes their husbands join them on trips, sometimes they don’t. Their friendships, travel and running connected them all and that was very cool to me. I also ended up on the same excursion bus to the Blue Lagoon with them and was happy to chat with them about the race the previous day and how they had fared. They also expressed excitement and a little bewilderment that I was by myself.
That isn’t to say that I encountered only positive opinions. I heard a couple speaking English the night before the marathon because we were all waiting at a bus stop. I chatted with them and learned that he was running the 10k and the wife was running the full marathon the next morning. We were both nervous about the race and she seemed sad that I was alone. I assured her that I was having a great time and not to worry. To her credit, she probably wasn’t that much older than me and she had a toddler age daughter, so she probably just was thinking like a mom and being a little overprotective.
I do a lot of things on my own and I think that if you’re not scared to go to a restaurant or a bar by yourself, then you can travel alone. In the last three years, I’ve moved on my own several times, traveled for work and fun domestically on my own, and started a variety of different hobbies where I knew no one. Some of my closest friends now are from me taking a chance and signing up for a trapeze class, or a French class, or talking to a random person at a bar or street festival. Traveling alone was just another step towards being fully comfortable with myself and by myself.
On this trip, I made some great memories, took a lot of selfies, and lost the fear of talking to strangers (which has always been a problem for me). I think it is actually carrying over into my non-vacation life, which makes me incredibly happy. I am a happy person and want that to be reflected in how I interact with the world. I also made three new friends who I would love to host if they’re ever interested in visiting Chicago. My message regarding solo travel is this: do it. Surprise yourself, you are braver than you think.