I was fortunate enough to grow up in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I could always look across the shimmering bay and watch the sun fall from shades of gold and pink and purple to set behind the Golden Gate Bridge.
But iconic bridges, beautiful beaches and mild weather isn’t all California has to offer. There is a cultural diversity here that’s easy to take for granted. We have diverse palates, political views, hairstyles, tastes in music, incomes and family structures. I’ve made deep connections with people from different walks of life; from dope dealers stuck in trap houses to women stuck in men’s bodies.
For this, I have been afforded opportunities to practice the most practical feeling humans can harbor for one another: empathy. There’s nothing quite like meeting someone who seemingly couldn’t be more different from you, and then learning that you share a favorite band, or a birthday, or that you both put ketchup on your mac and cheese. And nothing has enhanced my ability to feel empathy, nor taught me more about myself and others than traveling.
I graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelors in broadcast journalism in 2013. I studied in Athens, Greece my junior year, and even though I cried at Athens International when I landed, wishing I was back at home, safe and comfortable, by the end of the semester I was hooked.
A friend and I bought flights to Italy for the summer, and when she backed out last minute, I had a decision to make: spend two months in Italy alone, or go home. As apprehensive as I was about spending so much time in a foreign country by myself, I was even more put off by the idea of wasting a flight.
I spent a month roaming around Milan, couchsurfing and learning the kindness of strangers. Then I found a job at a youth hostel in Rome and worked there the second month. I met good friends from faraway places, who I’m still in touch with today, and I learned that traveling alone didn’t mean what I thought it meant.
To roam alone doesn’t mean to stay alone, in fact it makes it easier to open up and meet people. Traveling alone is by no means as scary or as difficult as it seems, and it doesn’t take much more than the common sense precautions you would take on a trip with a friend.
To roam alone is a forceful experience. It forces you to let go, to open up and look around. It forces you far from your comfort zone so that you may build a new one. It forces the changes that we by nature tend to resist.
I created A Roam Alone in part to share my experiences and some of the knowledge I’ve gained while traveling solo. But also, I want everyone who reads to feel in some way or another, that they’re not so different from someone living halfway around the globe.