How Traveling Alone Made Me Feel Stronger
I've only traveled on a plane by myself one time. It was two short flights and I was being picked up at the end of them. Not too hard, really.
But I had never actually traveled out and about on my own before.
I've struggled with anxiety for more years than I can count now. The thought of being alone in a strange place makes my heart race and hands sweaty. I can't even have the radio on when I'm driving somewhere I've never been.
But, when I traveled to New York City with my fiance, I knew I couldn't stay trapped in the hotel room all day while he went to his conference.
I've been to NYC twice before this trip: once with my choir in high school and once with my fiance about a month before this trip. I had never been to the Financial District before, which is where I found myself this time. My anxiety makes me a planner. I love planning. Making to-do lists makes me almost as happy as I feel when I cross things off of them. I plan trips down to a 't': where we'll eat, where we'll stay, and what we'll be doing each day. Sometimes I can convince myself that I can change plans. Other times, change of plans convince me I need to go into freak out mode.
I had two full days to myself and a third day to lead my fiance around to wherever I thought he would like. On the first day, I planned to keep my outdoor traveling to a minimum. It was colder in New York than I'm used to in Georgia and it was supposed to be warmer the rest of the week anyway.
New Yorkers aren't exactly like the people I'm used to. I smile at people whether I know them or not, I hold open doors for people, and if the
traffic sign says don't walk I do as I'm told. But, being alone, I forced myself to adopt this persona that I see New Yorkers wear. Whether it's their real persona or the facade they put up as they walk through the city, I can't say, but either way that's who I decided to be on my journey.
And it was liberating.
I wasn't afraid, not once. I expected to never leave the hotel room after all. Instead, I woke up, walked to a Dunkin' Donuts, and then proceeded on with my day. I traveled to the Federal Hall and Trinity Church, stopping to see where Alexander Hamilton was buried before making my way down to the Charging Bull. I ended up in Battery Park where i strolled along the river, checking out the Statue of Liberty in the distance and admiring what little nature the city could provide me. I felt at home. I felt confident. I felt like someone brand new.
I walked the streets like I knew them, even crossing the streets whenever it was clear regardless of the traffic light. There was something about this way of life that struck me and turned me into Carrie Bradshaw. I even dressed like a New Yorker.
I made my way to Beckett's Tavern for a late lunch and ended up at a swanky party that evening with my fiance and all of his conference comrades. There was free food and drinks, I was wearing a new dress and heels, and we were in a building overlooking the stretch of water between NYC and Brooklyn. I was living the high life.
The next day proved no different. I got ready and went shopping. I even walked all the way across the Brooklyn Bridge. Both ways. I strolled through Brooklyn neighborhoods like I knew exactly where I was going. Man, I really liked Brooklyn. My lunch consisted of ice cream from Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, which was more than a little tourist-y, but undoubtedly worth it. The way back to the hotel consisted of more shopping and exploration of the World Trade Center. The only place that through me for a loop was a Burger King that had set-down service, menus, and served alcohol.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would be able to do this, on my own, in a place I'd never been to. Whatever took hold on me in New York didn't let me go. I was solid as a rock for the rest of our trip. Is this a feeling that everyone gets when in NYC? Will this feeling stick with me if I ever have to travel alone again? I'm not sure of the answers to either of those questions, but I do know this: traveling alone made me feel stronger than my anxiety has let me feel for a long time. I felt confidence that I haven't felt in ages and I don't want to give that up.
Maybe it was New York, or maybe being by myself woke up something inside of me. Something that's been resting, dormant for years that I've finally unleashed. Either way, fiance or not, maybe I'll be traveling solo more often.