Mariela: Traveling Alone

I’m on my way back from Utah today (I am not ready to go back to work!) I have one more guest post about embracing adventure to round out the week. (If you haven’t read Kinzie and Vado’s posts yet, go do it!) Today, Mariela is writing about the just buying a ticket and going but more importantly she’s talking about how adventure and being a grownup are not incompatible.

My tale of adventure begins with a nervous young woman sitting in front of the computer, purchasing herself a ticket to a European country for which she doesn’t speak the language, with only enough money for 4 nights of hostels & 6 of couch surfing. (I should add that notifying my mother of my plans lead to tears, excessive pepper spray purchases and her cutting a strand of my hair for my DNA, “just in case…”)

December of 2011 marked my first closed real estate deal, hooray! Most of that commission was meant to sit in my savings account in preparation for my cross-country move to Chicago that would finally putting an end to two years of long distance—something I’d been working two jobs to make happen. But in early January of 2012, I spent an evening watching Midnight in Paris and listening to the soundtrack on repeat for about a solid week to follow. Not more than three days later, Kayak came to my daydream’s rescue—a 72-hour sale on flights to Europe! I’ve always been one of those rambling believers of fate, ‘Everything happens for a reason,’ you’ll hear me say in the best and worst of times. And this? This was the very best of times.

For me, the hardest part of making the decision to take this trip was getting over the indulgence. There were so many things I should have been doing with this money, paying off our student loans, credit cards, saving for rainy days or potential months unemployed in Chicago; how could I spend almost a third of it on an unnecessary trip to Paris? And! I would have to take this trip alone, leaving my partner in crime behind because our spring breaks didn’t match up, and we really only had the money for one of us to have the adventure of a lifetime. (Editors note: There are many adventures to be had in a lifetime.) I’d be spending all my money, leaving him behind and going somewhere I’d never been with no grasp of the language more than “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?” which was not what I had planned for Paris. Taking this trip was not the mature, responsible decision but there was a small voice inside me that felt like this was one of those now-or-never moments. I had the cash, the time and the desire, and this would not always be the case. So, with my incredibly supportive boyfriend’s blessing and my mother’s travel sized bottle of Holy Water, I was off to Paris for ten days of “finding myself.”

Except that I didn’t find myself in Paris. I found crepes, art, good people, blisters and so much cheese my mouth salivates just thinking of it, but Mariela was nowhere to be “found.” I learned a lot in those ten short days, wandering the streets of my dream city, but I think what I really learned was something I’d always known: I get to decide what kind of life I lead and most importantly that being a “grown-up” version of myself (which my friends will tell you is on my mind FAR too often) doesn’t mean living without adventure. This all came to me after my low point, when I learned that while I can do most anything by myself quite happily, walking through a museum is not one of them. I am too much of a chatter box to have no one to complain to about how much my feet hurt or how odd it is to actually see the Mona Lisa in person and… not like her? Feeling especially lonely lead to a two hour nap in the Musée D’Orsay, which has the comfiest couch on the top floor (I am pretty sure I drooled a little on the old man beside me. This is not an important detail, but it makes me giggle, so I figured I’d share it.)

After a full day of Museums I was second guessing myself. What was I doing in the most romantic city in the world, ALONE? Maybe I should have joined one of those tours? Or been friendlier at the hostel? I hadn’t joined a tour because I am not fond of schedules, being told what to do and general guiding in my regular life, I didn’t imagine they would please me on my European Adventure. I took a walk through the park outside the Louvre and, like a beacon of hope, the Eiffel Tower peaked out between the trees. I’d told myself I would make it to the top, but my love handles and the blisters on my feet had convinced me it wasn’t worth the agony of climbing the 8 jillion steps or waiting in line for my entire lifetime. Seeing her from below was good enough—until it wasn’t. I made my way to the tower, waited in line for only ½ my lifetime (since no one is dumb enough to walk up eight jillion stairs by choice when there is a perfectly nice elevator to do the work for you, no one but me of course) and about fifteen cramp breaks, where I pretended I was stopping to take pictures from every twenty-five stairs so I could catch my breath, a longer snack break and a short elevator ride to the very top later, there I was, at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

I watched the sun set over Paris with a flute of champagne in hand and a smile on my face. That was when it hit me:-I had made this happen, I had gotten myself to Paris, was getting myself to Chicago and was living my life in the most adventurous & fulfilling way I knew how. If that isn’t being a grown-up, I don’t know what is.

6 thoughts on “Mariela: Traveling Alone”

  1. Mariela, I love this so much. I absolutely love traveling alone and this is a nice reminder to me to still make that happen, even though I also have an awesome partner to travel with now too.

    I got all choked up in your last few paragraphs. Part of it is remembering what it’s like to be there, feeling like you’ve conquered the world when actually you’ve just climbed a million stairs, and part of it is seeing the most beautiful picture of you with the victorious champagne flute. Cheers to the next great adventure (because Beth is right– there are many adventures left, promise) !

  2. Mariela, your post reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.” – Alan Keightley. There are many more perfect sunsets to come.

  3. Those are the moments eternity is made of!! Living on the moment and finding that the only thing on your way sometimes is really our own believes. Reminded the day I left my country and arrived in SFO with $1000 in my pocket one piece of luggage and a big dream! I can’t wait to hear where are you going next!

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