Lizzie Wallace is a third year, Civil Engineering and Philosophy major studying in Dublin, Ireland. Follow along as she discovers the wonders of Ireland.
I made it back to Dublin and boy does it feel fantastic to be back. This past week has been hectic trying to catch up on all the assignments that I put off doing while on break as well as catching up with friends. But its nice to be back in a place where I recognize people and places and can actually understand the language being spoken around me. With the return of my sunburn after my first day in Paris, I was even missing the rain and cloudy weather by the time I got “home”.
Traveling in Europe is eye-opening, exhilarating, and most of all exhausting. By the end of my 2 weeks, I was practically leaping on the plane back to Dublin. And surprisingly, I am SO happy I chose to travel alone. It was a fantastic experience and really allowed me to meet so many new people and really discover the places I visited. Most of all, I gained a lot of confidence in myself and my abilities to make choices and know what’s right for me. I never thought I would be capable of navigating through the labyrinth of constant name changing streets in Paris or figuring out the train system in Italy all by myself. But when faced with the challenge, I was surprised how easy it all became. In addition by traveling alone, I opened myself up to meeting so many new people who were venturing through Europe as well. It’s funny how when you’re with a group of people, you’re less inclined to introduce yourself to fellow travelers or hang out with people in your hostel. This is a huge mistake! On my trip, I met so many people from all walks of life who were adventuring just the same as me. Being alone makes you so much more approachable and just inclined to socializing with others. Normally, I’m pretty shy around people I’ve just met, but I found that when I hadn’t had human contact for a very long time I really wanted to have conversations with random people. It was great; I loved how I could meet someone the day before in my hostel and then spend hours exploring a city with them.
Another perk of traveling alone is the freedom it allows you. You don’t have to follow the plan of a group or compromise on where to go, how long to stay there, what to eat, etc. If I wanted to have gelato for lunch and dinner, then I could. If I wanted to stop and relax by the Seine instead of rushing off to the next monument, then I could. My time was my own, and I think this really allowed me to get to know the places I stayed. Especially in Florence and Venice, I chose to avoid many of the more touristy places and really just explore the lesser known parts of the city to get a feel for the place. I also had to embrace the culture of the city I was traveling in, because I didn’t have someone else to keep me grounded in my American ways. Although this sometimes resulted in me being rather lonely at times, it overall was a great experience. One tip I would give to anyone contemplating traveling alone in Europe is to make sure that you are staying in a social hostel. My stay in Florence was made by how wonderful my hostel was. The staff organized quite a few social events for everyone like pasta parties, and it really allowed me to meet and socialize with so many people. In my opinion, it’s better to stay in a slightly run down but social hostel then a really nice and lonely one. So I guess my overall thoughts are: if you are considering traveling alone and afraid to do it, don’t let that hold you back. It’s a great way to see places just as you want to and don’t worry about being lonely, there’s plenty of opportunity to meet fellow travelers in hostels.
Despite the fun I had on my adventures, I was ready for my return to Dublin after 2 weeks and excited to see all my friends again. I’m just beginning to come to the realization that I may never see a lot of them ever again after this semester. It’s sad to think about but I wouldn’t take back meeting them for a moment. Since I have about a month left, I’m currently making plans to travel over as much as Ireland as I can on my remaining weekends. There still so much I long to see and so little time to do it. I hope I can fit it all in and still have time to study for exams.