Beyond the Bubble: If You're Bored, You're Boring
I am beginning to think that my travels abroad are less about "studying" and "finding myself" than they are about “Game of Thrones.” Everywhere GoT goes, I follow. During my first trip to Europe, I spent most of my time in Northern Ireland. I watched hundreds of extras line up outside of Titanic Studios in Belfast, and I ate lunch on the rocky coastline where Melisandre gave birth to her demon shadow baby.
It's been a few days since I arrived in Dubrovnik Old Town, Croatia, and it turns out that I'm living on the same lane where Cersei did her naked shame walk through King's Landing. And in case you're still wondering how cool my life is, today I hopped on a ferry and had an afternoon swim on Lokrum Island, aka the City of Quarth, the "greatest city that ever was or will be."
I'm mentioning these two trips for a few different reasons: 1) I'm beginning to think the GoT theme of my vacations is more than a coincidence. I never actively search for GoT filming locations and I don't go on Game of Thrones walking tours on principle (though I've stolen a few complementary fan t-shirts), so I think the universeis trying to tell me something. 2) As humbled as I am by these experiences, it still feels good to brag. 3) And lastly, the most important reason of all — I went on both of these trips solo and had a damn good time doing it.
I'm telling ya, traveling alone is the new black. When abroad in Europe, the world is literally at your fingertips. Wake up, pick a European country, hop on a low-budget flight or high-speed train and arrive in roughly two hours. It's really that easy. And what drives me absolutely insane is when students miss out on traveling to new and exciting places because their friends don't want to go.
It makes perfect sense — for many of us, it is our first time abroad. We are in a foreign country. We hardly speak the mother tongue. And all around us people are using Monopoly money to buy strange food. Of course our first instinct is to look around, find the other kids in Dartmouth hoodies and latch on to them for dear life. And that's fine to do in the beginning (fear of the unknown hits pretty hard the first few weeks abroad), but at some point it's important to ditch the crowd, pick up a map and do some exploring on your own. Go where you want to go, when you want to go and how you want to go. We barely get nine weeks abroad, and it's a shame to waste that time treading on someone else's heels.
Did I mention how utterly luxurious it is to travel on your own? To explore a place of your own choosing on your own time and on your own terms? Unburdened by anyone else's needs or desires? The benefits of solo travel abound!
You can fall asleep for hours on a park bench in Barcelona (shout out to the rangers at Parc Güell) without someone whining that you're "boring" or "breaking the law." Even better is that before, during and after said nap, you are required to speak zero words to zero people. You are under no obligation to make conversation with anyone (least of all the girl on your trip who won't shut up about her boyfriend from home)!
Speaking of boys, traveling alone means you don't have to be anybody's wing-(wo)man. This time you can be your own wing-person and stay out late flirting with whoever the hell you want because guess who doesn't have to be back at the hotel room in time to Skype their soon-to-be ex from America? That's right, you don't! And guess who doesn't have to wake up at 7 a.m. to stand in line for the country's most overrated landmark because Becky’s grandma said it was "absolutely to die for?" That's right, you again!
And best of all, if you find a dodgy pub in Dubrovnik whose playlist is 100% Cher, you can go back there every single night and belt out "Believe" while inhaling a double cheeseburger because you won't be embarrassing anyone but yourself!
So pretty much what I'm trying to say is you should take at least one trip alone during your term abroad. Have no fear — you don't need to travel with four big and burly Rugby players to stay safe on the streets of Paris. And you definitely don't need others to have a good time. If it requires a troupe of drunk and disorderly Dartmouth students to make you smile during vacation, then maybe you're the problem. In the words of my middle school crossing guard, if you're bored it's because you're boring.