Most of my adult life, I dreamed about taking a solo vacation. I remember thinking that my first solo trip would be to a foreign country — I’d pack up my bare essentials, zip over to Europe (while sipping fancy cocktails on my flight, of course), and have myself an “Eat, Pray, Love” type of adventure. But I never imagined a breakup being the catalyst to my first solo trip.

Mere days into 2021, I ended a romantic relationship with the person I lived with and found myself diving headfirst into the courageous mindset that encouraged my first solo trip. Prior to the end of my relationship, I’d always feared traveling solo. In fact, whenever I indulged in dreamy conversations about jumping on a flight to go somewhere warm, it always involved a companion — whether it be my partner, a friend, or even my mom. It wasn’t necessarily that my relationship was holding me back from traveling solo, but when you’re in a relationship so much in life that could just be “me” easily becomes “we,” especially travel. When I found myself single, I also discovered a desire to push the boundaries of my comfort zone. I had convinced myself that traveling alone would be scary or uneventful if I had no one to enjoy it with, but I wanted to prove myself wrong.

So, I packed my bare essentials into a carry-on duffel, swallowed the fear that sat in the back of my throat, and zipped on down to Dallas, Texas. I picked Dallas because I’d heard good things from travelers who posted chronicles of their adventures to YouTube. From the comfort of my living room, I watched them discuss great food, friendly people, and the city as a growing hub for entrepreneurial women.

Ultimately, my trip to Dallas was a success. On the first day, I felt a little bit like everyone in the city could tell that I was there alone and unfamiliar with my new surroundings, but by the last day of my trip I felt much more like I belonged. Not only did I tour apartments in Uptown and Addison, so I could get a feel of what it would be like to live there, but I grabbed dinner at a restaurant in Bishop Arts with an online-turned-IRL friend. I even ventured out of my Starbucks coffee routine to discover a local coffee shop, where I sipped an upside-down latte flavored with lavender.

A canceled flight (due to a snowstorm in New Jersey) extended my trip by about two days. Initially, I was stressed having to deal with the airline, rescheduling my flight, and wondering where I was going to stay for the next few days, but within hours I found myself excited. Here I was, in a new city, blessed with additional time to explore and try new things. I was given lemons and proved to myself that I could make some really awesome lemonade. Not only would I have more time to tour apartments, try local restaurants, and visit other neighborhoods, but I would have more time to properly immerse myself in the city. It also gave me more time to reflect on some of the things I learned about myself during my time in Dallas.

I learned that I’m much more self-sufficient than I thought.

Don’t get me wrong, I always knew I was independent, but a solo trip pushes you to truly face any fears that come up about relying on yourself in a new place. I had to rely on myself to navigate the Dallas freeways, find where I needed to go, and get there safely. Driving in a busy city made me feel like a native by the end of my trip.

Had I not pushed past the fear of exploring alone, I would have never had these special experiences, large and small. I would never have discovered my new favorite coffee shop in Dallas or learned about the beautiful history and culture that the Bishop Arts District has to offer.

I learned that traveling alone brings up a lot of emotions that don’t have to do with travel.

If you travel to a place where you don’t know anyone, then you’re bound to have some alone time when you’re reflecting on life decisions you made before your trip. Traveling alone puts you in a space where you simply feel more vulnerable, and as a result, you’re able to ask yourself the hard questions that maybe you always avoided at home. It brings about such deep reflection and introspection that it can be almost overwhelming at first, but there’s something so powerful about diving deeper within yourself to learn more about your own motivations and emotions.

If you experience a moment of introspection during a solo trip, lean into that and honor it. During the evenings on my trip, I often had a lot of downtime when I would reflect on my day. Often, those quiet moments also led to a lot of random reflection on my life as a whole. I thought about my recent breakup and the major life changes that came with that, about how this trip was shaping me, and about what things I wanted to change in my life. Solo travel has the potential to do that for you — give you the opportunities to discover new things about yourself.

I learned that traveling opens you up not just to new places but also new mindset.

I went to Dallas thinking that maybe if I liked it enough, I could move there one day. I figured if I could tap into what it was like to live and breathe in the city, then maybe I could see myself there in the future.

Being alone in a new city and exploring on my own time allowed me to see how much I could truly thrive there. I got a preview of life in Dallas, but I also discovered that amazing things can arise once you let go of all expectations of who you should be and what your life should look like.

If you’ve traveled outside your hometown even once before, you know that it changes your perspective of the world. The world seems much bigger after — and your problems much smaller. But traveling also allows you to see the different paths your life can take, and if you’re open to it, you can explore one of those paths when you’re ready.

My first solo trip was unexpected and unplanned but also more wonderful than I ever could’ve imagined. I left Dallas with so much more clarity and a deeper understanding of the woman I’ve become in the past year. I was always the type of person who thought it’d be better to try new things with someone by your side, but this trip taught me that sometimes trying new things alone allows you to experience them in a much more beautiful way. Being in an unfamiliar place and having to get comfortable with being uncomfortable showed me just how quickly I can learn and how adaptable I can be. It made me realize that if I truly want to do something, try something, or go somewhere, I can do so by myself — I don’t need to wait for anyone to tag along or give me permission.

A week after my trip, I packed my bags for the second time in a month. This time to move to Dallas and embark on a new journey solo.