5 Top Lessons I Learned From Traveling Abroad Solo For One Year
Have you ever wanted to just drop everything and travel abroad for a year or longer? In 2019 that’s exactly what I did. Last year I moved to France for a year with my rescue dog! I had my year visa and I had planned to renew again the next year. I gave all my furniture away to Goodwill and I donated a lot of my clothes. I ended my apartment lease. I packed my bags, including my scissors, nail clippers, one 21-inch computer, two laptops, a year worth of vitamins, shoes for every season, my coloring book, markers, batteries, international chargers, and adapters, clothes for all seasons and everything for my dog. My year of travel was a dance and a fun adventure. I couldn’t have prepared for what was to come. Here are just a few lessons I learned on my journey traveling to France.
1. Pack Light
Half the sh$% I packed I didn’t even need. I had 3 huge suitcases and a dog cage for the plane, two carryons, and a huge purse. I had to negotiate with the airline representative to let me take all my stuff for under $100. The initial cost to bring my suitcases on the plane would’ve been over $1000 . To my credit, I wasn’t coming back to a home, everything I owned was with me. I wanted to prepare for everything, except an easy journey. Upon arriving in France my cab cost more because I had to find a van in Paris that would hold all my suitcases, my dog, and my dog cage. Honestly, at the time of packing for my trip, I believed that everything in that suitcase, I needed. but by the end of my trip, I gave away even more stuff than I did packing for my trick in the beginning. As I let go of things in my life I found it was easier to let go of items I was carrying with me. Letting go of things allowed me to gain experiences in exchange. Learning to lighten my load was a reoccurring lesson I had to learn during my year of travel. I had to let go of friendships that didn’t fit my vision for my future. I had to let go of relationships with men who were not good for me. I had to let go of thinking negatively. By the end of my trip not only was my spirit lighter but so were my bags! It still wasn’t always an easy lesson to learn.
2. Build Relationships
Through exploring my surroundings and speaking to people around me many opportunities came to me. when I first arrived in France, I was living in Paris. I felt that Paris wasn’t the place for me to stay for the entire year. So, I ended up picking a place on the map close to Geneva, Switzerland, just close to the French border. The city I choose to live was called Annecy in France. It’s a beautiful place, I will never forget. As soon as I arrived I stayed in a hotel that was just outside of the center city of Annecy. I didn’t know where to go but I just explored the city and stopped for a bite to eat lunch one afternoon. I met the owner of the restaurant who then introduced me to one of his co-workers named, Thibault. Ironically Thibault introduced me to a community center that offered affordable French classes at every level. I had been studying French on and off since I lived in France as a teenager but It had been many years since I practiced speaking French. After joining French classes, I met many people from different countries. I met my French teacher who had an apartment available to rent. My french teacher let me move in with his family until their apartment was ready the next month. If I never met Thibault, I never would’ve found out about the french classes, and I never would’ve met my french teacher and his family. I met other teachers that told me about a few other places I could take French class as well. From there I met many friends, mentors and found resources that added much value to they travel journey. I also joined a Meetup group with other expatriates where we would speak French and English and meeting with this group was so refreshing and I learned so much from other travelers. All these serendipitous encounters made such a wonderful difference in my travel experience! The lesson I learned was to always to be open to meeting new people, build relationships as you never know what opportunities will come from it!
3. Be Prepared To Hit A Wall And Get Homesick
There’s an adjustment when moving to another country, like there is an adjustment to any new event in life. Around the 5th month mark of moving abroad, I hit a wall. I didn’t want to explore or meet new people I was tired of speaking French. I missed the comforts of the USA. One of the comforts I was missing during the peak of Summer was air conditioning. It was hot! A lot of the businesses were closed because it was simply too hot to work. I wanted to go home, I was tired, my brain was tired of translating. I was tired of everything. However, I assure you at some level you will go through this feeling of being homesick and missing all the things you are use to, but this is where the fun begins. Take a break but not too long. The homesick feeling will pass and when you get to the other side you will be happy you stayed. After my joy of travel returned and the rush of feeling homesick subsided, my French language skills improved, I started knowing my way around Annecy very well, and I had a good rhythm of life abroad. At that moment is where the growth truly began. Don’t give up when you are homesick. Try to get out and experience as much as you can because when it’s time to go, those memories are all you have to hold on to and they will carry you through for a lifetime.
4. Everything Happens For A Reason, Trust Timing
I was trying to renew my Visa for another year as the year was flying by. I tried to get an appointment at the prefecture in Paris but as much as I tried I was unable to schedule it for one reason or another. To be honest my budget was overextended and an mysterious airborne disease had hit China. Little did I know this virus was making it’s way around the world. Although I felt like after 11 months and two weeks living abroad I was just getting comfortable and meeting friends, communicating well, and exploring the country, my travel had come to an end. A Few months later this mysterious virus had spread all around the world and France had strict rules and fines for people who did not adhere to the laws of staying in the house. I went home right before Covid-19 hit France and in hindsight, it was the best thing for me to be closer to my family and in my home country instead of in a foreign land of France. I had no idea why I was back in the USA when I didn’t plan to go back but being back in the USA has only given me a vacation and grounded me, as well as given me a rest for my language brain in order to gain perspective of all that I experienced during the year. Though I didn’t understand it at the time, I know even more than ever that everything happens for a reason and to trust the timing. I arrived back at a new location, Denver Colorado. I had just enough time to be able to get an apartment, and a job and a month later the world shutdown.
5. Growth, More Confidence, More Autonomy
After my almost year of solo travel ended, I came back with the confidence of knowing that I could go to another country, not know anyone, not have a place to live and figure it all out, trust my instincts, and make it on my own. I came back knowing that If I can make it in another country, I could make it in my own country, in a new city. I was able to join groups in my new city of Denver, find my way around, learn how to take the train, find a job, find an apartment, and do it all with confidence. When I first started in real estate years ago I was told I just needed to have confidence. I thought to myself at the time how the #%^&& do I have confidence if I never did something before? Do I just grow it like I grow an arm? How do you grow a new arm of confidence? You just learn to have confidence by doing things that make you scared and you go through it, you learn, you grow. Through travel, I came back with a new appreciation and gratitude for the simple things in life, like air conditioning Etc, etc. I learned how to have confidence in any situation and anything can be achieved through prayer and faith!
Tina is a traveler, writer, real estate agent, plus model and dog mom she loves many things! Keep up with her online at @realtalktina on Instagram. @lasttoletgo on Twitter and @realtalktina on YouTube for more travel adventures and life lessons.