Last Updated on June 21, 2019 by Paige Kocourek
When life gives you a week in Europe to do what you wish, you not only make lemonade, you create adventure.
Let me set the scene: I was sitting on the ledge of a window in my Roman apartment. As the sun kissed my face, I found myself thinking about my upcoming Spring Break extravaganza, which I would be leaving for in less than twelve hours.
- My first stop? Munich, Germany.
- Second stop? Copenhagen, Denmark.
- Third stop? Completely unbeknownst to me.
The one thing I did know was that my third destination would be a solo quest. I was to meet up with my friend in both Germany and Copenhagen, but would take on the rest alone. Yep, that’s right! I would be traveling to some European country by myself with no set plans. The thought was daunting, yet extremely exciting.
The question of where I would go still hung over my head when I began packing. I knew I should probably plan a little something out prior to embarking on my trip, so I did what any rational human being would do: I pulled out my computer. I proceeded to Google ‘map of Europe’ and picked the first major city I recognized and had an interest in. Then, I immediately booked my flight and hostel to stay in. Boom! Done. The epitome of my decision making skills. So my third stop? None other than the capital of the Czech Republic: Prague.
I didn’t think much of it leading up to the day I was to jet off, mostly because I was having such an incredible time in Germany and Denmark. The morning of my flight, however, a thought struck me: this was my first completely solo trip. It would involve immersing myself in an entirely new culture, and all other things traveling encompasses… by myself.
I had also never stayed in a hostel, so new experiences were being catapulted my way every second. I felt like I was in a massive snowball fight where I was not on the winning team, and I could do nothing but accept it. I felt a brief sense of panic, especially after my arrival to the beautiful city. Every negative scenario flashed before my eyes — even if it was irrational, like King Kong making his mark on Prague while I was there. However, as I was unpacking my things, I inwardly yelled at myself. That panic needed to make a quick change into acceptance of ambiguity, and I needed to embrace this incredible adventure rather than fear it.
So what did I do? I booked a skydiving trip for the following day, put my shoes on, and set out to explore Prague with zest and energy. I did not give myself the option to become overwhelmed. I kicked my fear in its you know what. By doing this, I was able to live in the moment and make marvelous discoveries — a few being the Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, and Lennon Wall.
Instead of tucking away into my turtle shell when returning to the hostel later that evening, I talked to the very first person I encountered. I ended up sharing dinner with them and many other hostel guests. I met countless awe-inspiring human beings with wild stories which inspired me more than they could have imagined. A feeling of utter success rushed through me when I drifted off to sleep that night. The following day, I went on my absolutely incredible skydiving escapade. Part of the rush was the spontaneity of it all, similar to my entire time in Prague.
So many pleasantly unexpected opportunities were granted to me while in this culturally dense city. Connections I never knew I was capable of making were created, as well as lasting friendships. I learned so much about myself, as well! I fully embraced flying solo, and reveled in the heightened feelings of competence, independence, and adventure rushing through me. I thought I would feel lonely, but found myself surrounded by adventurers with the same goals and aspirations as I instead. Many of my bucket list items were checked off, and I also currently feel as if I can handle anything now because of this experience — or as some may say, conquer the world!
I am now back in Rome, sitting on my same window ledge with a new outlook and advice for you. These are some of my greatest takeaways from my spontaneous traveling experience:
- Don’t be afraid to create your own crazy adventure. It can be daunting, but the most amazing memories are created when testing your limits.
- Put yourself out there and meet as many people as you can. You can learn something from every encounter you have with everyone and everything.
Prague? Exceptional. Flying solo? One of my most treasured experiences. What’s next? I have no idea, but I am ready for any opportunity that comes my way.
This post was contributed by Paige Kocourek, who is spending her spring semester studying abroad with AIFS in Rome, Italy.