Updated: Jul 19, 2021
Paris won’t be my first solo travel trip. When I was 8, I flew to Phoenix, Arizona from San Diego, California, to visit my grandmother. I flew all alone, as an “unaccompanied minor” and spent the week with my Grandmother. We painted rocks, did cute egg crafts, watched old movies, saw Titanic in theaters, and had the best time. Flying alone was such a big part of that trip. It was a sign that I was independent, that I was trusted, that I was a big girl.
It was so freeing, and a bit nerve-wracking, to get on the plane by myself. I was 8 in 1998, so I remember my parents waiting with me at the gate until I boarded--they probably waited until the plane took off--and it was so great. I was taken care of by the flight attendants and even made a friend on the flight. That friend, it turns out, was Matt.
Kidding, but how cool would that be? I wrote in my journal that I met a girl named Amanda who was flying to St. Louis, but that’s all I know of this friend.
Anyway, that first solo flight was a game-changer. I felt so special. So grown up. Like a strong, independent woman. I was only 8.
I flew alone a bunch of times since then, to visit family, mostly, but in 2017, I took my first solo international trip. I was asked to speak at the Athens Coffee Fest in Athens, Greece. They flew me out and I spent about 4 days in Athens exploring the city, experiencing the conference, and speaking.
In a lot of ways that trip was incredibly difficult. I had been to Italy before and didn’t know the language super well, but Greek is a whole different beast. In Italy, you can tell yourself, in your American accent: Via de neri and it’s somewhat of a landmark. You can remember that. In Greece, it’s streets like Περιστέρι, which is much harder to understand. Some maps and street signs would have it written as Peristeri, but that wasn’t a guarantee. I was alone in a city I didn’t know and was hard to navigate. Still, I made it to see all the things I wanted to, I bought things in a grocery store, I ate out, and even though I had to throw all of my booze gifts away at the airport because I got to the airport 20 minutes before my flight left (the metro was stalled and I went the wrong way!), the trip was a success. Nothing dangerous happened, I managed the city just fine.
That trip to Athens gave me so much confidence in myself, especially as a traveler. I was able to navigate a city that was a bit run-down in places (including a ton of stray dogs and cats), and kept myself safe the whole time.
This confidence helped me when I went to Stockholm with my mom and sisters. We didn’t know the language, but Swedish words are easier to understand with my American brain, meaning I can say “Vasamuseet” in my head, with my American accent, and I can remember it and use it as a landmark. I ended up taking the lead on a lot of the navigation on that trip, and it all turned out great!
It is this confidence that I’m taking with me to Paris this summer. I am more than capable of keeping myself safe and enjoying myself in another country. I’ll be the most prepared to get to Paris though, because I took 4 years of French (2 in High School, 2 in college), and am currently using Babbel to brush up. So far, the brushing up is going really well!
I’m really excited to go to Paris, and I’m excited to go alone. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and it is going to be so meaningful to be able to do all of this just for me.
Note - I did try and learn both Swedish and Greek before these trips. I”m not a monster. But Greek is...well, Greek. It’s super hard. Or at least it was for me. I did okay with Swedish.