I never thought of myself as an independent traveler. I traveled with family when I was younger. I traveled with friends when I lived in Yosemite National Park. It wasn’t until I had been living in Yosemite for a while that I was supposed to travel with a friend of mine to Europe. We had planned to start our trip in Romania and backpack our way from there to who knows where. All I knew was that I would be quitting my job and leaving for the trip of a lifetime for six months.
It didn’t happen. Well, it did happen but not in the way that you think. My friend backed out of the trip when I was in the beginning stages of planning it. Normally I would let something like that stop me from taking the trip. I would be stepping out of my comfort zone; stepping into something else altogether because of my shyness. I could feel it holding me back and for once I wanted to break free from it; I knew it would be a challenge if I proceeded with this trip. Shyness, for me, was a hindrance whenever I would meet people for the first time. It was always hard for me to start a conversation or know what to say to a complete stranger. I did the only thing I could do and that was take the first baby step and breaking free from my fear of not being able to let go of my shyness. I decided to continue on with the trip; on my own.
The next step I took in overcoming my shyness was finding discussion forums where I could talk about my upcoming trip with other people. As they say, it is easier to write about something then to talk about it face to face with another person. You can hide behind your computer which is what I did. I hid behind the computer but still let the words flow onto the screen to other like-minded travelers. In doing this, I found a few people I would be meeting up with when I made it to London. As you can tell, Romania was scratched off the list which as a traveler you have the right to change your mind on which direction you want to go. England would be the first place I would visit in my travels.
After getting the initial planning out of the way; I knew it would only be a matter of time before I really had to step further out of my comfort zone. I would have to try and keep my shyness at bay and initiate conversations with people I met on the road. Even though I would be traveling on my own; I knew there was no way I could go the entire trip and not talk to another person. I would have to get over my shyness or at least embrace it. I couldn’t let it hold me back or hinder me in any way.
As you probably guessed; I didn’t let my shyness hold me back in any way. I pushed it as far back as it would go so I could enjoy my time on the road. I thought it would be more difficult than it was because I have been dealing with shyness my entire life.
The first wave of shyness hit when I stayed at St. Christopher’s Village in London. It hit but then it was gone almost as quickly as it came because I realized I had two options when I met the first people I ended up hanging out with in my travels. I could stand there in the room where we were staying and not say anything. I could open up and say hello and start the conversation from there. I chose the latter. Best decision of my life….. From making the choice to keep the shyness at bay, I hung out with Fred the following day when we decided to take the double decker bus around London.
Since I was traveling on my own; staying in hostels and using Busabout for the countries I wanted to see helped tremendously with my shyness. You might be wondering why I felt they helped in overcoming my shyness. I can only explain it this way: I stayed in hostels where I didn’t know anyone and Busabout was a great way to meet other people traveling, sometimes, along the same route as me. We all had something in common. Traveling through Europe and wanting to see as much of it as we could before we headed home. It connected us….. No one else would be able to understand where you are going if they haven’t walked in your shoes. For instance, it could be someone who saw some of the same places as you did.
Can I say I am forever glad my friend backed out of taking this trip with me! The experiences I had would have been different if someone else was with me. I don’t think I would have talked as much, taken as many chances or gotten to know many diverse people. Who knows; I may not have gotten to know myself as well as I did. I learned many things about myself while backpacking through parts of Europe. Self-reliance, shyness not holding me back, comfortable traveling on own and comfortable traveling with people met in hostels and Busabout. Backpacking was something I needed to do for myself. I needed to leave my job in order to find this inner strength I didn’t know I had in me.
I choose to think of this ‘one’ trip as a jumping off point for me. I look back at that time in my life and realized how fortunate I was that I started this trip on my own. It enabled me to meet many people during my travels; Patrick and Tracy (Paris), Wolfgang (Amsterdam), Kate, Steffi, Jo, Vela, Oosala, Jeff and Patrick (Bath), Chris, Nate, Vicki, Dale, Carrie and Simon (Cesky Krumlov). Many more people I could name but you get the gist of it. I didn’t let shyness hold me back from experiencing life.
What is the crutch that you hang onto in your life? Is it something that’s stopping you from traveling? Is it something you embraced because you weren’t going to let it stop you from seeing the world around you? Shyness was my crutch. I chose to let go of this crutch, step out of my comfort zone and start talking. Now I can’t shut up….
I have lost over 100 pounds since I took this trip to Europe. Just an FYI since I no longer look like I did in these photos.