What Traveling on My Own Taught Me About Anxiety and Self Love

Photo: Stocksy/Davide Illini

I remember exactly where I was when I decided to take my first solo trip, a scary concept for someone who gets anxious easily. I was with my old roommate inside a coffee shop listening to the rain pour down outside almost oppressively.

In a lot of ways, the storm mirrored the inner tumult I was feeling—a few months before, my relationship had ended. And it'd set off a series of existential questions the likes of which only real, life-altering situations can. So, it was in that moment that my friend—taking in what I can only imagine was the picture of a woman on the verge—made a suggestion: "Why don’t you travel for a few weeks?" she asked. I had told her about feeling stagnated, and she thought this would perk me up. "You can work from anywhere," she said. "I think you should go to Italy." 

My mind began to wander.... She was right about the work. As a freelance writer and editor living in New York City, my days are typically spent in co-working spaces in front of my computer, which I could easily trade in for any place with a solid Wi-Fi connection.

The thought of waking up each morning and running a few miles around Florence, followed by a refueling with croissants—AKA my version of la dolce vita—was appealing.

Italy. It sounded idyllic. The thought of waking up each morning and running a few miles around Florence, followed by a refueling with croissants—AKA my version of la dolce vita—was appealing. Even more so: finishing each day with a glass of ripe, red wine while sitting in a piazza listening to live music. As a pretty well-organized, logical person who doesn’t necessarily act on impulse, I was hesitant. But the way she made the proposition—with an "if not now, when?" attitude—really sent me into warrior state. The next morning, I found myself stuck on the idea. 

By the end of the day, I had spent hours navigating vacation rental apartments in cities from Rome to Florence, and settled on a one-bedroom spot next to the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence; informed my parents; and shed a few tears. I knew that no matter how anxious I was feeling about stepping out of my comfort zone and taking this massive adventure with me, myself, and I, that it was 125 percent exactly what I needed. What I didn't know then was that it would wind up being the ultimate lesson in self love.

Keep scrolling to see the 4 life-changing truths about taking care of yourself I learned from traveling alone.

Solo travel tips: Lessons in self love
Photo: Stocksy/Good Vibrations Images

1. Question your fears 

When my relationship ended, I remember my ex looked me in the eyes—with tears in his—and told me that he just couldn’t be with me anymore. What I realized in that moment was that it wasn’t that he couldn’t, it was that he didn’t want to. And I had to accept it. I also promised myself that if there were things in my life I “couldn’t do,” I would take a step back and ask why. Take this trip for example. At first, I thought I “couldn’t” do it because I was scared of spending so much time alone. My next “couldn’t” revolved around finances—this trip was going to cost me. But by doing an apartment rental instead of opting for a hotel and finding myself a round-trip flight for under $700, I could justify the splurge. I slowly dismissed the idea that it wasn’t feasible, and embraced the things I could do. Or rather, what this trip could do for me.

2. Put yourself first

The wonderful thing about traveling alone was that I got to make all of the decisions. I’m often quick to let others choose my path for me, and consider myself a go-with-the-flow type, but for this? No way. On my must-see list were about two dozen-or-so restaurants (because, pasta), museum exhibits, and various small cafes. Once I'd created an itinerary, it just became a Tetris game of fitting everything into the right place. You better believe I indulged in the cardoon ravioli at il Palagio at the Four Seasons while overlooking the gardens. With wine. All the wine. Because while it initially felt odd to give back to myself, I finally realized that it'd been a helluva long time coming. 

Solo travel tips: Lessons in self love
Photo: Stocksy/HEX

3. Accept the unknown

Like I said, I’m an anxious person. But here’s the thing: I realized I had to put some faith in myself. For example, when I couldn't pick my seat on the plane that would take me from Florence to Venice for the two nights I'd booked at a hotel there, (they don’t let you choose until 48 hours before departure), I felt beyond nervous. Same when I wasn't able to determine how the WiFi would be in the apartment I was renting. But you know what? It all got figured out. And it taught me that I’m smart enough to handle the curve balls that come my way—plus, putting a little trust in the universe doesn't hurt, either. 

The people who love you the most want you to be happy.

4. Trust in your support system 

I thought my parents would tell me I was crazy. I was sure my BFF would be like “Why?” But instead, I was met with so much overwhelming support and so many suggestions of places to go, people to see, paninis to try, and leather shops to navigate. Bottom line: The people who love you the most want you to be happy (and you should include yourself on this list). It's one of the greatist lessons you can learn—sometimes you just might have to travel a couple thousand miles to get it.

And now that you're taking the trip, here are 35 travel hacks to make your vacay the healthiest ever, or, how to throw yourself a self-care staycation instead.

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