Sometimes, I wonder if my mother regrets raising me to believe that all things would be possible for me, because when I was a sophomore in college, I bought a plane ticket and went to Paris by myself on my way to a summer study abroad program in Italy. It was an amazing experience: I spent three days desperately trying to blend in and not appear to be an obnoxious traveler, while at the same time I kept sneaking glances at my guide book as I soaked up the City of Lights.
I fell in love with the cathedral of Notre Dame, and I made a point to visit there each day before I began my wanderings. In three full days, I crammed in visits to classical and modern museums, cafes and bookstores, snapping photos and wandering beneath the changing clouds that hang over Paris. To this day, I have never seen a sky that is quite like the one over this French city.
Traveling alone is an interesting experience. There is no one to cooperate with, no concessions to be made. Any kind of travel is transformative, but without the voices of others to cloud your mind, I believe that a person will undergo deep psychic and mental changes if she takes the risk to venture out into the world alone.
And a risk it is, although at the time I don’t think I was consciously aware of that fact. I stayed in a hostel, sleeping in a co-ed dormitory with five other travelers. My first night in the city, I realized that two of my roommates were male, and I felt a bit unsettled. I slept in my clothes behind a barricade that I constructed using my backpack, waking up at every sound and breath. It was a miserable night, but thankfully, my fears came to nothing.
Even so, I haven’t traveled alone since that trip. My husband has as bad a case of wanderlust as I have, and we’ve been lucky enough to travel together, even returning to Paris a few years ago; the city still enamors me, even after all this time.