By Anna De Leon
When Beyoncé wrote the lyrics of Independent Women, she mentioned almost everything that a self-respecting woman of the 21st century should be doing – from buying her own diamonds, to paying her own bills and that, should she need to depend on anyone, it should only be on herself. What failed to mention, however, is that an independent woman should also be able to travel on her own, at the very least, once in her life.
Travelling by all alone has ended up on so many lists like, “Things to do before you hit 30, 40, 50 and Beyond,” “Things to do before you die,” and even “Things to do before you settle down.” And for a woman who has travelled quite extensively on her own, modesty aside, I don’t see any reason as to why this particular aspect of being an independent woman was ruled out of the anthem of alpha females.
The travel bug bit me real good in 2008. It was Holy Week when I set foot at Fumicino Airport in Rome, Italy. Though it was slightly chilly, the sun peeked through the blue skies, and flirtatiously beckoned me to explore the cobbled streets of Via Veneto and gasp in awe at the magnificence that is the Basilica di San Pietro. The moment the Italian breeze caressed my cheeks, I knew that I had fallen in love with the adventure that is called travelling – on my own.
Looking back at my adventures while travelling on my own, I can now understand as to why this particular activity has landed in so many lists. Exploring unknown places enabled me get to know myself even more. Getting lost in Firenze en route to Roma, I realized that studying the Italian language wasn’t enough, using it was key. So, with my misuse of andare and vedere, I was able find my way back to Roma. Aside from learning that when you are lost in a foreign country where they don’t speak English, the best way to communicate your thoughts is to speak like a local, gesticulation included. I learned that I can actually throw caution to the wind, not analyze my verbs and speak my heart out in Italian. If I can speak in Italian, I can, most certainly speak in French, when lost. All inhibitions were left at the train station.
I didn’t realize just how creative I can be until I learned how to use my SLR,in manual, I might add, in capturing all the jaw dropping sceneries and architectural masterpieces while gallivanting around this lovely planet of ours. Seeing all the wonderful places that I have been blessed to have seen, I simply could not bear not to give justice to its beauty. My skills in cropping, composition, rule of thirds, let alone yoga inspired “photo taking” positions were put to the test.
Being exposed to such sublime creations and scenery also opened my eyes to see beauty and art in things that would seem ordinary to most people. Having seen the imposing Basilica di San Pietro, the Gothic spires of Duomo di Milano and the Eifel Tower made me realize just how powerful the human mind and resolve is – that, if you want to create something magnificent, the unavailability of modern technology won’t stop you because it certainly did not stop Bramante and Bernini from doing so.
My five senses run wild when I travel. I feel like a newborn vampire whenever I step out of the airport of a new, undiscovered destination. My sense of smell is so sharp that it can detect a bakery in Soho, even when I’m as far as Times Square! My mouth can taste the spices of the chorizo from the Mercat de La Boqueria upon arriving in Barcelona, and I can most certainly hear the lyra at Mt. Lycabettus from Plaka beckoning me to come and dance. Travelling by myself has sharpened my senses not only to appreciate beauty, but and more importantly, to sense danger. It has made me more aware of my surroundings, giving me a sense of who is following me from my peripheral, and in some cases, who is checking me out.
There are valuable lessons that can be learned when you travel that can never be earned in a classroom. Out of all those lessons, though, the most important one that I wish to pass on to my kids is to respect each and every person that you meet. Being in a cosmopolitan country like the emirates, one learns to be tolerant of other cultures. But then again, why stop at just being tolerant when we can go a step further and simply respect other simply because they deserve it. It is a tall order, but once you have been exposed to the multitude of cultures and behaviors of people from different countries with different upbringing and values, you will know and understand, why being ‘just tolerant’ isn’t enough.
So yes, by all means, buy your own diamonds, pay your own bills, climb that corporate ladder based on your sheer awesomeness. But remember, a woman of the world has to pack her bags and discover the unknown which will lead to her uncovering her otherwise untapped potential that will help her conquer her fears and the rest of the world, one destination at a time.
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