Ready for some real truth? I'm crazy excited about my trip to Paris, but there's a part of me that's sort of afraid too. In fact, I have a whole list of fears that are starting to make me feel equal parts nervous and giddy in the midst of my planning and exciting. Yes, it's very brave and adventurous and glamorous to spend 6 weeks abroad by myself. It's also the second or third most frightening thing I've ever done in my life. Something wonderful can also be incredibly overwhelming and scary.
In no particular order, here are the fears I'm struggling with right now and how I'm trying to deal with them.
1. Fear: What if no one talks to me for 6 weeks? What if I make no friends? What if people are mean to me? What if I'm so lonely that I cry myself to sleep at night? (Pardon me while I spiral out of control here...)
Solution: Be friendly. Say hello. Introduce myself to people, even other tourists. Go to Mass and coffee hour at the American Cathedral in Paris. Meet up with my pen pal - bonjour Caroline! Spend the week with my friend, Tonia, who's visiting mid-trip. Take risks in introducing myself; all people can do is ignore me. I can also Skype with my family and friends back home and keep myself company with y'all here on my blog. Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook can also help bridge the loneliness gap.
2. Fear: What if I'm mugged or my belongings are stolen? What if I get sick or have an accident?
Solution: Register with the State Department online, so they know where I am and when. Wear my road id bracelet - aka dead woman id bracelet. Have a system of checking in with my family and friends at home. Use a code work check in system with my family and friends. Keep copies of my documents both electronically and hard copy in different belongings for safekeeping. Purchase insurance. Use common sense and trust my instincts. Don't necessarily tell people that I encounter that I'm traveling alone.
3. Fear: What if I get lost and/or disoriented?
Solution: Calm down, duck into a cafe, and consult my map/phone/itinerary/etc. Ask my waiter for info. Do not act disoriented on the street as it makes me a target for people with less than honorable intentions. Ask for help from an older couple, a mother with a young child, or public official. Contact the person I'm renting the apartment from if needed. Make good decisions about when and where I go, how much I drink, and with whom I interact. Keep id and contact info on my person at all times - road id bracelet again. Stop, gather my wits, and then make my way home. I am not in a hurry; I can take all the time I need.
4. Fear: What if I am unable to communicate in French at all? Or what if the French refuse to try to speak to me in French? Or what if I need to communicate something important and can't get someone to understand/help me?
Solution: Keep trying. Practice my southern-accented French. Nod graciously and continue in English if requested. Don't get offended if they laugh or are impatient with me. When in doubt, write down what I need or use the translator function on my phone.
5. Fear: What if I run out of money? What if I can't afford to do all the things I want to do? What if I end up with a lot of debt as a result of this trip?
Solution: Create a budget and stick to it. Skimp in one place in order to have enough money to do something extra. Try to find ways to have fun and explore that are free. Have multiple options for paying for items while I'm there. Do not keep all of my money or cards in a single location on my person. Have an emergency plan in place with my family back home if needed. Keep up with expenses daily to make sure the trip of a lifetime doesn't result in the debt of a lifetime. Make decisions that will allow me to have a good time without being too terribly extravagant. Eat at the apartment sometimes; it won't kill me to make an omelette or a grilled cheese.
There you have it - my fears list for my upcoming trip. What would you be afraid of if you traveled abroad alone? I'm sure there's something I should worry about that I haven't thought of yet. Hahaha!