Now I cannot say I have mastered travelling alone, I have taken 6 solo plane trips and only 1 truly solo adventure that lasted 3 days. However, it really tested my set ideas on my mental health and my body. I spent the last year having panic attacks in lectures, crying when I ate food and having the wonderful diagnosis of both IBS and vaginismus. In my head, my body was weak and fragile. However, after 6 weeks of CBT and some introspection, I decided it was time to challenge this idea that I was this “petal” of a human being. It was time to test if I would crumble at the first sign of nausea, anxiety, or pain. What better way to do that than go 897.2 miles away (yes I did check) to Berlin, Germany for a 3-day excursion.
I won’t lie, Day 1 was harder than expected. Getting up for a plane at 4am made me question why I was even doing this to myself. Luckily, the security and plane went smoothly, probably because it was stupid o’clock in the morning. After finding the right train to get, I headed into Berlin to explore.
The First Challenge: Eating New Food, Alone.
Okay, so it may not sound that dramatic but for me to eat new food requires a lot of preparation, let alone to eat it alone in a restaurant full of strangers. I found a magical vegan Vietnamese place and ate something called “Bun Cha La Lot”. I cannot fully say what it was except for marinated tofu with some form of salad, but it was delicious. Even better…nothing happened. I ate my food, read on my phone, and paid. I didn’t explode, throw up, or turn red.
So now when eating new food, I can remind myself of that forever.
(What do you do with your hands though, while you are waiting for food? Does anyone know??)
After food, I decided to explore Berlin. There is a hint of loneliness that comes with looking at sights and not having anyone there to talk about it with. Usually, I go on Germany trips with my SO, so to not have them here felt unusual. That didn’t dampen on how cool (and fucking long) the Berlin Wall was, though!
The Second Challenge: Getting Lost.
Here came the large stress event. Imagine this, your phone dies, you’re at the Berlin wall, and all you have is a paper map and the rain, which keep fighting with each other. I got the hang of the trains pretty quickly, so getting from the Wall to the train stop near my hostel was easy. It was the 10-minute walk to the Hostel that was the problem. The map didn’t have half the roads, and there were so many turns. Also when it is raining, INK BLURS. However, after 20 minutes and a few U-turns, I made it to my Hostel to check in and charge my phone. Was I stressed? Hell yes. But did I hold my composure, not cry, and keep my gut in check? Hell yes.
Day 2 was interesting. The creeping loneliness had taken a long walk off a short cliff and I was feeling very excited. I abandoned the crappy hostel breakfast and trekked 20 minutes to a Gluten Free Vegan Cafe called Jute Backerei. Honestly, when I die I want my ashes spread there because it was that magical (too morbid?). I even used my A2 level German to have a conversation which was amazing. I felt incredibly excited, for the first time in a while, I actually felt like myself. So I took that feeling and ran with it, using this new found energy to visit as many places as possible.
(I think you can see where the challenge here came.)
The Third Challenge: Pacing Myself
Now my body and mind are much better than they used to be, but I find they have a hard time differentiating anxiety and excitement. So as I got happier and more excited with the feeling of normalcy, the more nauseous and jittery I got. In retrospect, when this happened I should have stopped and given myself time to relax and reorganise. But I was so desperate not to let the feeling go, I burnt out. I got too nauseous and felt like I was going to throw up. So I rushed back to my hostel, cried, and called my mom, exclaiming that I am a failure as I expected. This was not true. What I actually was doing was taking care of myself, lying down, getting my feelings out, and giving myself time to relax, which my body had been demanding for hours. Last year, when this happened that would have been the end of my day, it would have totalled me. But that day, I relaxed, and then went back out to Sephora, to gaze at the beautiful makeup. That was huge, and it made me glad the whole mess had happened because I had something to look back on the next time I dipped.
The rest of the trip went smoothly, I left the morning of the next day and came home to find my mum just as happy as I was to have made it. That trip really showed me that I was not as dependent on my SO and my mum as I thought, and my body could handle a lot more than I thought if I gave it the chance.
The motto of this story is that while travelling alone can be scary, sometimes (when you are ready) you need to challenge yourself, to see just how much you can handle. No one is saying that something bad or stressful won’t happen, it is just that if it does, you can show yourself you were able to cope and you made it out alive.
This post was a little more personal than the factual posts I am used to, so I hope you enjoyed it.
My trip made me less,
Anxious and Hungry.