I like to think that I am a very independent person. Once I got my license, at the naïve age of 17, I really started to do a lot on my own. Having the ability to drive places and pay for my own gas was liberating (until I realized I should have let my parents pay for my gas as long as possible). However, that fervor to be independent that has continued to grow ever since, sort of plateaued here in Rome. I found myself constantly feeling as if the only way to leave my apartment was with a friend. The buddy system started to define my schedule, literally. I saw nothing wrong with it since I genuinely knew nothing about Rome, yet looking back on it now I wish I had branched out earlier.
This morning I convinced myself to go on the metro and get off at a stop I had never been to. If I am being honest, I almost did not do it. I kept having this voice in my head telling me something was going to go wrong and I would get lost or kidnapped. These thoughts were ridiculous and still legitimate. But, these thoughts would be legitimate if I had just arrived in Rome and neglected to venture off with a buddy. Here, a month into my program, I should be confident in my abilities to navigate the metro and walk around an area I know nothing about. Finally, exploring a new place and actually kind of getting lost was an amazing experience. The second I realized how fortunate I was to be able to just hop on the metro and go to a mysterious, incredible place, I knew I had to share my experience and offer advice.
I say offer advice because, when you think about it, just roaming around different parts of a foreign city can get dangerous. Also, if you do not like being by yourself and you get nervous, then bring a buddy along! I talk about my wanting to be independent only because it is something that I think defines me, and my type of independence is not necessarily everyone else’s type of independence. Being independent can also be something that you do with friends or family. There is no one set of guidelines in order to be independent and there is no one set of rules for traveling in a foreign city. What I am trying to get at is find those set of rules that pertain to you, those guidelines that you follow, and deviate from them. Explore in a way that you never thought you could, and form new perspectives that you never knew you had.
In reading this, do not feel obligated to go somewhere different and get lost. Your version of getting off at a new metro stop could be going to a new restaurant for dinner. There is no one way to take advantage of living abroad, the only commonality is that you absolutely have to take advantage of living abroad in any way possible.