Traveling Solo to Europe

 
Photographs by Molly Carr

Photographs by Molly Carr

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. - Mark Twain

Have you ever heard a voice in your head, quietly pushing you towards the path less traveled? An idea that plants itself in your brain, and slowly but surely, continues to grow and expand until you have no option but to heed its call? Almost five years ago, to the day, that voice spoke to me.

It was a blustery October, and my (now) husband and I had just gotten home from our first trip to Europe together. Waking up every morning not knowing what the day would bring, trying new types of cuisine, seeing how different people and cultures interact with the world around them—I felt like I was absolutely overflowing with creative inspiration and simply couldn’t soak it up fast enough. I came home a changed woman, and something deep in my heart just kept telling me that it was time to make a change - to take a leap of faith. 

As a perpetually timid person, a rule follower, a Type A planner, my friends and family were shocked when I decided to spontaneously quit my corporate marketing job to travel through Europe solo. However that is exactly what I did, and two weeks later I was on an airplane en route to Paris, overcome with feelings of excitement, anxiety, fear, and hope - emotions that almost always come alongside the experience of diving headfirst into the great unknown.

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The two months that I spent traveling through Europe by myself were some of the best of my entire life. Not only did I learn more about myself in those two months than I had in all my previous years, but I felt so incredibly empowered knowing that I could truly do anything that I set my mind to. I followed my heart and didn’t look back. I learned to make croissants. I spent entire days simply getting lost strolling through winding cobblestone streets, charming courtyards, and enchanting gardens. Everyday, I wiled away my afternoons sitting in cafés, sipping tea, writing in my journal, and simply soaking in the beauty of my surroundings. I shopped at outdoor markets, a feast for the senses, and cooked dinners for one in my tiny European kitchens. And, perhaps most importantly, I fell head-over-heels in love with photography. 

I came home with my heart on fire, knowing, in my core, what I was put on this Earth to do. Slowly but surely, I began to build my photography portfolio and business - a business that has allowed me to meet some of the most amazing people, travel across the world, and to wake up every morning feeling an overwhelming sense of purpose. I know, without a doubt, that if I had never had the courage to follow my heart and step out of the corporate world into the unknown, that I most certainly wouldn’t be where I am today.

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Traveling alone, while it can most certainly have its challenges, can also be one of the most fulfilling experiences of our lives. In our busy world, time is a luxury that, as women, we never seem to give ourselves permission to take. When was the last time that you spent an entire day alone with your thoughts, and without the constant distractions of modern life? When you travel alone, every single day is an opportunity to grow and better yourself - from taking an architectural tour to learning how to make the perfect macaron to refining your photography skills to simply meditating on what you really want out of life - the possibilities are endless. Solo travel is such an introspective experience. It is truly and completely an investment in yourself.

Over the years, when speaking with women about my solo travel experiences, I am often met with similar feelings of concern and disbelief. They express feelings of fear. Fear for their safety, fear of boredom, fear of loneliness. Similar sentiments are often echoed to me that, while they have always dreamt of traveling and exploring the world, that they do not have the courage to do something so bold by themselves. My one piece of advice is to push past those fears and to just do it. I have found that nine times out of ten, the experiences in life that push us past our comfort zone, the experiences that make us feel scared and uncomfortable, those are the experiences where we grow the most as human-beings.

As women, we are so much braver, so much stronger, so much more capable than we are led to believe. No matter what your dreams may be and what that tiny little voice in your head is urging you to do, my hope for you is that you have the courage to take the risk, to take the leap of faith, and to embrace the unknown. For how can we ever be truly lonely, when the entire world is our companion?

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