A Not So Thorough, but Possibly Adequate Guide
I had booked the flight to Scotland (and then to Italy) months in advance, but as I looked at the sea of faces in the international terminal I began to seriously think about not boarding the plane. "What was I thinking?" I wondered. "Why did I think traveling alone was a good idea?"
I forced myself on the flight, even in the air I was seriously doubting my decision. I wasn't worried about being able to take care of myself or even really my safety. I think it was the fear of being alone, of not being known by anyone.
The very next day after arriving in Scotland, I jumped on a tour out into the Highlands and to the Isle of Skye. I became friends with a very sweet German father daughter pair. He helped me not fall off cliffs and she held my mutual love for sticky toffee pudding. The experience began to feel like a shared one, the brightly dyed green sheep along the road became funnier, the breathtaking landscape was even more gorgeous, and the food was possibly better when eaten with the group.
I now realize I don't necessarily always need to take a friend on a journey with me. In some ways that may be a distraction to really immersing myself in the experience and it could keep me from getting out of my comfort zone. Sharing beauty with strangers and having conversations about God, life, and experiences was one of the best things that came out of that trip.
Kate's Guide for Fellow Timid Travelers:
1. Go. Just do it. Force your way out of your normal daily grind and do something that stretches you a little...or a lot.
2. It's ok to be scared. I was terrified. Was that fear realistic? No, not really. By facing the fear of traveling alone internationally I gained more confidence!
3. Keep a journal. I tried to record a few lines of things that were happening or encounters I had with people. This is so valuable for bringing out at a later time to remind yourself what beautiful things you saw or the flight you missed because you overslept. Having receipts or postcards to slip into the journal also adds another dimension and it's much easier to put together than a scrapbook.
4. It's okay to phone a friend. Seriously! They will remind you why you went in the first place. Also, it's really helpful when you're jet lagged and need a friendly voice to talk to.
5. Relax. This was a biggie. Just be in the moment. Put the phone or the map down and enjoy the miles you've flown, the hill you hiked, the foreign language you maneuvered through to order your dinner.
6. Have fun. This is important, because why did you book the trip in the first place?
7. It's ok to be an introvert. Finding a park bench and people watching is a great thing to do to get to know a culture better, but...
8. Talk to people. You'll never know what story you'll uncover.