I did it! I graduated, well not literally, I did that years ago. Let me explain. My graduation moved me from being fearful of being alone and out of my comfort zone to traveling solo abroad.

A few days before the New Year, I spontaneously bought a flight to London. It’s a city I had never traveled to before; a place where I knew no one. My subsequent March trip was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. The lessons I learned traveling solo can be translated and used in other aspects of one’s life. Here are the top four things I learned from my recent trip.

Life Lessons Learned While Traveling Solo

Get lost.

Not knowing where you are going can be stressful, but it’s okay. I got some of my best pictures and discovered the most interesting things not following the route I thought I was supposed to take. While looking for Churchill’s War Room Museum, I got lost and was frustrated when I ran into these high gates and a fountain. As I came closer, my recently injured knee was throbbing, I noticed some familiar-looking guards behind the gate. I had run smack into Buckingham Palace, also on my list. I planned on seeing it after the museum, but here it was in front of my face. No need to turn around, I was already there. It worked out, and I was still able to see both.

Life lesson: Sitting still and giving up will get you nowhere, keep moving forward. Forward movement can at least get you in the vicinity of where you’re trying to go. Try as you might, life does not always go according to your plan. Have an outline and vision, but allow life to steer you in the direction of your purpose. You may be surprised at the results.

 

Have an outline and vision, but allow life to steer you in the direction of your purpose.

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Be vulnerable.

Like I said, I got lost. A lot. To avoid roaming charges, I cut my phone off unless I was on WiFi. So my map app was of no use. I asked a lot of questions to a lot of strangers on the street. Food delivery guys on bikes, the tube (subway) attendants, commuters – anyone. At the matinee musical of Dreamgirls, I asked the woman sitting next to me, the hours for Harrods and how to get there. She walked with me to the tube station and put me on the correct platform for the train I needed, and provided detailed instructions on how to get there. I cannot remember her name, but won’t forget her kindness.

Life lesson: None of us know everything. There is a great chance that someone has gone through or experienced something you haven’t — take their advice, ask questions. The kindness of strangers will knock your socks off. Admitting you don’t know something is not a sign of weakness. It shows you want to learn, grow and try to do things right.

Your home base is important.

The day before my travels, there was a terror attack in London. This raised even more concerns for those who thought traveling alone was not a good idea. It was important for me to talk to my parents and check in with them at least once a day. I wanted them to know I was safe and to report back on that day’s events and discoveries. It was good hearing their voices and knowing that they could at least breathe a bit easier each day I was gone. It was a reminder that I wasn’t completely alone.

Life lesson: Your home base will keep you grounded. Consider your values to be your foundation. No matter what is going on in the world, you can always check back in with your base. Use it as a reminder of who you are and your purpose.

Treat yourself.

Get the gold plated tea strainer… okay, maybe that’s just me. But whatever your “treat” is, get it. I was on vacation. I didn’t have to live outside of my means in order to live it up. In fact, I didn’t even need money. By simply putting my phone away and looking up, I was able to treat myself to the sights and sounds of my environment. I wasn’t plugged in to music or podcasts; I could immerse myself in the city itself. By staring at my phone or a computer screen, I could have missed opportunities to interact with great people or might not have seen that organic Highgrove chocolate bar.

Life lesson: This is what you work for, so don’t beat yourself up for enjoying yourself. Life can be sweet. Your responsibility is not just to pay your bills, but also to treat yourself well. Be good to yourself; it sets a tone for how the world will treat you.

Sometimes what you learn on a trip can be the best souvenir you bring home. Maya James shares four lessons learned while traveling solo.

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