Confidence, or self-esteem, is defined as “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.”
Today seven in ten women believe they’re not good enough in some way, whether it be their looks, intelligence, or social status. That’s 70% of women who feel inferior; I used to be part of that 70%. Through most of my high school career, I struggled with body image issues, eating problems, and felt generally lost in my own life.
In the summer of 2014, I took my first solo trip abroad to Europe and it completely changed my life.
I went from an insecure, self-conscious girl who was always worried about everything, to a confident and proud, free-spirited woman.
I visited eight different countries on that trip, and have since to be to a half a dozen more. In each country I visit I’m always in awe of the cultural and societal appreciation of women – of all women. All across Europe women are celebrated and cherished for who they are and all the different shapes and sizes they come in, and the careers, education, and talents they’ve pursued.
I remember traveling through Italy, home to delicious pasta, decadent gelato, and the finest wine, and all I was concerned about was how many calories were on my plate. In Italy, not licking your plate clean is very offensive to the chef who’s worked so hard to deliver your delicious meal. More than that, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not fully indulging in the masterpiece in front of you. The amount of freedom I felt the first time I decided to stop the mental calorie calculation and fully enjoy the experience that was eating a bowl of pasta, guilt free, was one of the best experiences of my life.
I’ve accepted the fact that I will never have six pack abs because it means I am indulging in Italian pasta, or Parisian baguettes, Portuguese tarts, and German schnitzel. I’ve given up my Victoria Secret bikini body dreams, and a life of saying no to these things, for an adventurous, fully-experiencing-every-single-moment life of yes’s. A muffin top is a fair trade off for all of the amazing experiences I’m able to enjoy.
Ove the years, traveling has confronted me with a lot of hard truths and helped me discover the person that I truly want to be. Along the way, it taught me life skills, confidence, and happiness. Here’s a look at some of the most amazing ways travel has made me a happier, more confident person.
Travelling taught me how to approach new friendships
When you’re travelling alone, there is inevitably going to come a moment where you’ll need to initiate contact with another human being; whether it be to ask for directions or to ask if a seat is taken. Travelling solo helped me get more comfortable with approaching strangers and making new friends on the road. Some of my greatest friendships were started by simply saying “hi” to a new face in a foreign country.
Aside from traveling, this skill has helped my immensely in my everyday life. I no longer find myself hiding out in a corner at networking or social events, and my growing desire to interact with new people has lead me on several public speaking journeys. All because travel forced me to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and reaching out to new people.
Travelling made me comfortable to be alone
As easily as travelling made me comfortable with approaching people, it also made me comfortable in approaching silence. Being alone had always been a negative thing in my mind. I would feel like a loser if I was sitting by myself at a coffee shop, or I would feel judged by sales associates if I was shopping alone.
Now, travel has showed me how beautiful and refreshing it can be to be alone. We live in a world where we are constantly connected to people that sometimes taking a quiet break for yourself if the best thing you can do. Being alone on the road showed me how to get comfortable with my own thoughts and how to embrace the freedom of being able to do whatever the hell I want. Exploring new coffee shops and taking myself out on a date to a restaurant alone are some of my favourite things to do now. I’ve found that I make quite good company.
Travelling taught me how to make tough decisions
My boyfriend will be the first one to tell you that there is nothing more annoying than asking someone a question and having them say “it’s up to you”. It’s so easy to pawn an answer off to somebody else, whether it’s as simple as dinner reservations, or as big as whether or not you should take that next trip.
When you’re alone on the road there is no one to pass your decisions onto. This was almost crippling for me at first, as I was so terrified of making a wrong decision. “Should I stay left at the fork, or right? Am I even reading this map right? Is it time to go home, or stay a few days more?” Being confronted head on with tough decisions helped me properly evaluate situations, be more comfortable with making the tough calls, and ultimately not being afraid to be wrong. I’ve learned that the worst case scenario is never as bad as you think it is and sometimes you just need to get out of your own head and take that leap of faith. And if you’re wrong, you’re wrong. Just as quickly, I’ve learned to accept the repercussions of making the wrong decision and bounce back without it letting it get to me. It’s not a matter of making the right or wrong decision, it’s the simple act of making the decision yourself.
Travel showed me there is so much more to life than your reflection in the mirror
“There’s no such thing as a diet on vacation”. I used to think this was a really bad pickup line waiters would use to con you into dessert, but it’s now become a staple in my own speech. If I’ve just flown across the ocean to visit a place, you better believe I want the full experience, and that means the culinary aspect too. Food plays such a huge role in culture that not enjoying traditional fare is like skipping out on a huge part of traveling. I knew if I had come home from that trip to Italy without enjoying pasta, pizza, wine, and gelato, I would’ve regretted it for my entire life.
I also used to be a very heavy makeup wearer. In my defense, makeup was my thing in high school and I enjoyed playing with it a lot, but eventually, my insecurities about my skin were at a point where going out of the house without makeup was not happening for me. Can you imagine how difficult this made my life travelling? How much time I wasted in my hotel room staring at my own face instead of out in the city staring at literally anything else. Once I figured out that by not wasting the mornings getting ready I could spend an extra two hours exploring my new destination, my perception of makeup and natural beauty also changed. So I set out on my trips now with my naturally uneven brows, un-contoured nose, bare skin, and the biggest smile on my face.
Travelling helped me get over these insecurities by showing me how women of all shapes, sizes, heights, and skin colours were celebrated across the world. No one is looking at women who are soaking up every minute of life and thinking about how fat they are or how bad their skin is; they’re thinking about how happy they look. Since that first trip I made it my mission to be the “happy girl”. In high school I was obsessed with being the “skinny girl” or the “pretty girl”, but now at 21, I find the “happy girl” to be a lot more radiant and enjoying life a hell of a lot more.
Travelling taught me how to trust myself
All of these things combined have created the formula for the person that I want to be.
I’ve never been more comfortable in my own skin, with my life choices, and my decisions. Travelling showed me how to accept every single part of myself as is, and not waste time on those who can’t do the same. Travelling has shown me how to make the tough calls, and be okay regardless of the outcome. Travelling has taught me that my gut and intuition are almost never right, and that I shouldn’t doubt myself. Travelling has opened my eyes up to a world of cultural discovery as much as self-discovery.
Travelling showed me how to trust myself, whether that be to follow a map or to follow my heart.