Adventure and Discovery: The Joys of Solo Travel

Today’s post comes from UC Merced student Henali Joshi, who took part in UCEAP’s Art, Food and Society program through ACCENT. Henali describes how she overcame a lack of confidence and ended up trekking across Europe during her semester abroad in Rome.

As soon as I landed in Rome, the goal of my experiences became to travel, explore, enjoy, see myself grow, and in the process, to document it all via photography.

The very first night consisted of walking through several of Rome’s famous monuments with my housemates. Arriving in Italy also meant a lot of surprises and accomplishing the unexpected. One of the few places that I had researched beforehand and was looking forward to seeing was the Trevi Fountain due to its many popular legends such as tossing a coin into the fountain and being guaranteed a return trip back to Rome. I was not in the least bit anticipating seeing the Trevi Fountain on my very first night, but thanks to a stroke of good luck and our curiosity to wander around the city, I was able to fulfill my desire. This stroke of luck was one of many, many good occurrences to follow in the future.

Before I arrived abroad I knew that I wanted to travel to nearby cities such as Florence. However, not even in my dreams did I imagine the possibility of exploring a total of 26 cities, towns, villages, and islands throughout Italy, Greece, and Ireland while studying in Rome. It all started with my first trip to Venice the second weekend in Rome. Four of my housemates, a friend, and I, set off on a three-day weekend trip to experience the first day of Venice’s Carnevale. I deeply enjoyed the experience, though I did end up briefly getting lost on the small island of Burano that we visited from Venice. Had I let that experience get me down, I would not have attempted to navigate ever again. I was in a new country, though, with a growing desire to see and do as much as possible. Three weeks after Venice, I joined my roommate and a couple of friends and housemates in going to the second trip that she had been organizing.

As my time in Rome progressed, I discovered cities that I really wished to see that nobody else took much interest in. At first, I tried my best to persuade my housemates and classmates to go on the trips with me, but I ended up sometimes traveling alone. But going through the experience, I wouldn’t prefer it any other way. I had the best time of my life executing a total of six different trips by myself, all in the last five weeks of the program. I created both detailed and flexible itineraries and did all of the planning and organizing without having to care or worry about what someone else thought about my interests. If this didn’t feel liberating enough, I was so proud of myself every time I came back from a trip because I had formed incredible memories, had tons of fun, stayed safe, and got myself to every place that I needed to be. I told myself I would not go anywhere by myself when I first came to Rome, but with a matter of time and step-by-step experiences, I had a beautiful five-day trip to Ireland all by myself. Seeing myself progress from not trusting my capacity to travel anywhere alone to becoming totally confident in my ability to comfortably and successfully go anywhere in the world has been the highlight of my overall study abroad experience. I figured a lot of things out for myself and did a lot of problem solving while gaining practical life experiences. As great as it is traveling in groups, going by yourself is a whole new level of fun.

I’m glad that I didn’t have the choice but to go out and be brave if I wanted to see it all, because that led to my new level of confidence, self-awareness, and discovery of a much higher potential. So, in conclusion, whether or not tossing that coin into the Trevi Fountain did its trick, needless to say, I will definitely be returning to Europe one day, visiting Italy again, and probably also going back to Rome to toss another coin into the Trevi Fountain.

~Henali Joshi, UCEAP Art, Food and Society

Did this post inspire you to embark upon the life-changing experience of study abroad for yourself? Research your study abroad options at http://accentintl.com/find-a-program/.