I used to be the kind of traveler who relied on friends or family or whoever I was traveling with to make the plans and get us to and from our destination. While living in London a few years ago, my friends, Liz and Krissy, and I planned an upcoming two month trip through Europe together but one of us took the lead in booking hostels and finding flights and that one person wasn’t me.
When the three of us were out on the road, I was usually the one standing on the side of the street waiting for my friends to analyze the map and figure out the best route to our next museum. I was fine with my role and didn’t think anything of it until Liz and Krissy made me realize I should take more initiative.
Flash forward to last October and I was traveling to Chicago with my cousin Carla and without Liz and Krissy, I had to take the lead. I surprised myself though and could plan our days and navigate the city with ease. Carla was grateful too when I figured out the layout of the city by day two. She said and I quote, “thanks for looking out for me as I crossed the streets of Chicago. If it wasn’t for you, I’d be a flat pancake with a BlackBerry still glued to my hand.” 🙂 Not having veteran travelers Liz and Krissy but a CrackBerry addicted cousin by my side forced me to step up to the plate and I realized just how capable I was of taking charge and making the trip happen.
To really challenge myself though, I embarked on my first solo trip to Scandinavia where I had no one but myself to rely on. I had no smartphone or computer to help me navigate but just a paper map and it was easy. My first few hours in Stockholm and Copenhagen were spent orienting myself with the map and circling sites I wanted to visit and I had no problems getting to and from my hostels. I had my list of things to do but no regiment I had to follow to a T. I made decisions when I felt like it and the trip wasn’t a disaster but actually just the perfect vacation I wanted.
I think we change as travelers depending upon who we travel with. If we’re in a group, everyone takes a role as either a leader, contributor, or follower and if we travel solo then we are forced to take care of ourselves. When we travel by our lonesome we can finally learn what we are capable of not only as a traveler but as a person and it’s a valuable lesson you can’t learn any other way.
What kind of traveler are you?