Story and photos by Lilly Pandis
Melissa Wellman’s suitcase will be packed and resting by the door. Her earphones will be jammed deep in her purse as she makes her way out the door and to the John Wayne Airport. It will be the Friday after finals and Wellman is prepared for her flight home, 17 hours across the globe.
A lot of Chapman students have discovered that traveling alone brings its own kind of excitement, and satisfaction.
Although traveling alone has never been easy for Wellman, it has opened her eyes to new people and cultures, which in turn has given her a whole new perspective on life.
“There’s something about traveling alone that brings confidence and independence,” said Wellman.
Growing up in Saudi Arabia, Wellman found herself traveling happened almost every month.
“By the time I was 15, I had to begin traveling alone back and forth from the States to Saudi because of boarding school and then college,” said Wellman, a political science and English double major.
Wellman is not the only student who gets a sense of self-confidence from traveling on her own.
Emmy Gyori, a television and broadcast journalism major, agreed that traveling alone helps students grow immensely.
“It allows for a lot of introspection and moving at whatever pace you’d like. I was also able to really observe the people and places I was visiting with concentration I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” she said.
Gyori studied abroad in London and went on a few trips around England by herself, as well as an unplanned solo trip to Switzerland.
Even though nothing ever happened to Gyori on her alone travels through Europe, she did have an experience that reminded her to always keep her guard up and be aware of her surroundings – a piece of advice that is important for everyone traveling alone.
“I was in this charming little town in Switzerland which seemed as safe as you could get,” said Gyori, “when this car full of German men started harassing me and cornered me on the street.”
According to Chapman Overseas Program Manager Jodi Hicks, anytime students go anywhere, they have to be concerned for safety because they don’t have someone with them.
“We always encourage students when they are going out to have a buddy, especially when they are studying abroad,” said Hicks.
“Take precautions, know areas where not to go. Don’t leave your friend alone. But that’s just anywhere, students should always be cautious and be aware of their surroundings,” explained Hicks.
Safety is important because there are always scary or unforeseen events that students should be prepared for.
Laura Liegler, a junior psychology and education double major who traveled on her own around Europe last fall, said the unnerving part about traveling alone is the uncertainty of everything.
“You don’t have anyone to help you or anyone to lean on when you feel scared,” she said.
Being lonely and afraid is a common feeling when students wander new places on their own, but usually this feeling leads to building new friendships and connections, said Wellman.
“I usually make an effort to get to know the people I’m sitting by [on a plane]. Whether it’s the mom of the annoying baby that won’t stop screaming or the cute guy sitting next to me.”
“I’ve met some of the coolest people on planes. Everyone has their own mission or own adventure awaiting them; when you travel alone you get to meet people with crazy backgrounds and dreams, it’s awesome,” concluded Wellman.
Overall most students have had the time of their lives while traveling alone and have learned about themselves while doing so.
“I love how fulfilling it is to travel alone,” said Mikaela Schneider a freshman business major, “I have learned to be resourceful by reading signs, asking attendants if I have a question, and thinking before acting.”
“Be smart but also have a lot of fun! [Traveling alone] is one of the best things you can do for yourself and it is so, so worth it,” said Gyori.
Wellman said, “I’ve learned about different cultures and I’ve met some awesome people. This has helped me grow mentally by expanding my knowledge of different parts of the world.”
Traveling alone is definitely a life-changing experience for most students. Leigler explained this experience perfectly.
“GO AND DO EVERYTHING! Even if you’re scared of being by yourself, just get out and see the world!”