I love being independent. Being content with going to a movie alone or eating dinner with only a book for company is a great feeling. Independence is viewed as a positive characteristic.
However, being independent is not always “great.” After all, you can be too independent. I’ve learned this the hard way – through traveling.
Traveling somewhere new can be intimidating, but also very exciting. I’ve traveled many places and along the way, I’ve learned many important lessons. The most important lesson I’ve learned is to not be so independent while traveling that you place yourself in undesirable situations.
While in Europe, a friend and I decided to head to Paris a day earlier than the rest of our group. Unfortunately, we had a 5 a.m. train to catch in Liége, Belgium, a city about 40 minutes outside of Maastricht, the Dutch city we were residing in for the duration of our trip. In order to catch the early train, we had to travel to Liege late the night before.
Our friends asked if we felt comfortable with doing so, and as two very independent people, we said, “Absolutely!”
Around 11:30 p.m., we arrived at the train station. Cold and tired, we hopped on a bus. In the middle of the route, with just the two of us on the bus, the driver pulled over in an isolated spot to smoke a cigarette. This gave us goosebumps, but thankfully he got back on the road and continued on the route.
We made it to our stop and ran off the bus. From there, we started following the directions on my phone’s map, but we were turned around. We had no clue where to go. To make matters worse, my phone was on 10 percent and quickly declining. After five minutes, my phone was dead.
Picture this: two girls with huge backpacks walking around a foreign country at 12:30 a.m.
We stumbled upon an apartment building with lights on. We rang the buzzer and waited for a minute, but there was no response. As we walked away, a French-speaking security guard came out. There was a massive language barrier, but we knew he understood that we were lost. We asked for a taxi and it seemed he understood.
Several minutes later, a lady walked through the door. Her English was better, but still difficult to understand. However, we figured out that she was not a taxi driver. She was a tenant of the apartment. We had to make a decision: drive with her or continue to wander aimlessly in hopes of stumbling upon our hostel.
In the end, the choice was clear: we had to drive with her. It was the safest of our two options, but something I hoped to never have to do again. Luckily, she drove us straight to our hostel and even helped us with our backpacks.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only time I found myself in this type of situation. Something very similar happened to me in America. My independence had taken over and once again put me in a sticky situation.
When I traveled to Scottsdale, Arizona, I had no problem going to Amy’s Baking Company alone. I sat at a table window and admired the Arizona sky. When I got back to my hotel, I headed straight for the gym and was fortunate enough to have the whole place to myself. I didn’t feel uncomfortable being alone in a state I had never been to. To me, this was relaxing.
Fast forward to the next day. I wanted to go hiking, but no one else was up for it. Yes, I went hiking alone. And no, that’s not the worst part. Again, the idea of hiking up a mountain alone relaxed me. I wasn’t nervous. About halfway up the mountain, I ran into other hikers. They saw I was alone and asked if I wanted to join. Most people might hesitate, but I said, “Sure!”
When we were beginning our descent, I noticed my phone was dying. A dead phone meant I couldn’t Uber back. I felt like they could sense there was an issue because a few seconds later, one of the ladies offered to give me a ride back to my hotel. Let me pause for a second — I will not ever suggest this to anyone —but my independence had placed me in a bad situation. One where the option I chose had to be the lesser of two evils. Rather than possibly stranding myself in the dark, I chose to get in a car with strangers.
Thankfully, I’m here to tell these tales. And I’m here to share this advice: being independent is great, but it’s not the best idea when you are traveling. I take pride in my independence, but there are times when I need to shut that pride off and choose safety over being an independent woman.
I urge any future travelers to do the same. Not everyone is as lucky as I was.