I’ve never really told my family about my passion for travel as I don’t think they would understand. My parents still see me as a little girl, not as a grown woman.
I live a pretty ordinary life. I’m a single, 35-year-old woman who works at an insurance company from 8 am to 5 pm. I have a house and a mortgage, and despite that, I have no reason to stay at home and miss out on the opportunity to fulfil my dream—to see as much of the world as I can. I love to travel; I’m addicted to it. I love going to places that my friends think aren’t worth seeing or are too afraid to go.
I have visited 16 countries on my own and am currently preparing for my next one. Each country taught me something new about myself. I’ve experienced many situations that showed me that I’m stronger than I ever knew and that I have the courage to stand up for myself and others.
If I would have to make a list of countries that I like most, I couldn’t judge them by the cities I’ve visited but by the experiences and adventures I’ve had and the lessons I’ve learned. I will share a few stories with you below as an example.
1) In Scotland, I shared a hostel room with a girl from Canada, whose name was Pascal. My first name is Pascu. What are the chances that you meet a stranger away from your home country with such a similarly unique name? We hit it off, and this made me realise that you are never alone in this world. There are always other people somewhere out there that feel exactly like you. Travel really does bring people together no matter what their background is and where they are from—this is one of the things I love the most about it.
2) In Ireland, I got motion sickness on a bus and ended up getting sick into my scarf. I went to the bathroom and bumped into a girl from the United States who had a bleeding nose due to altitude sickness. I keep thinking back on this situation: two complete strangers, suffering together in a foreign place. Both of us chose to go travelling on our own, far away from our homes, families and friends to follow our dreams and fight through whatever would be standing in our way. Minor setbacks like this couldn’t stop us from exploring the beautiful Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, and I’m so glad we pushed on and saw them in all their glory.
3) In Bethlehem, two men were fighting at a bus station. A Palestinian man started an argument with someone from Japan because he felt disrespected. I tried to stop the fight and started talking to the Palestinian man, asking him different questions about the town and his work (he was a taxi driver). I asked him to tell me more about his country to distract him from the conflict, and it worked! In my daily life back home, I’m usually not that courageous. But at this particular moment, when I chose to intervene, I felt incredibly proud. It gave me a big confidence boost because I felt my actions could make a difference.
On this trip, I also noticed that locals often protect women who travel alone. The same day I witnessed the fight, I had to return to Jerusalem in Tel Aviv. Since it was Friday Sabbath for the Jewish, all transportation systems shut down which meant I had to catch a taxi. I had to share it with a girl from the USA, a guy from Latvia, another guy from Italy and two men from Turkey. The taxi driver noticed the concerned look on my face and instantly reassured me: “Don’t worry, you are safe with me.” And I was!
4) In Romania, we have a proverb that says: “God makes a nest for the blind bird.” On my trip to Spain, I was left with no money on my last day, walking the streets with no more than three euros in my pocket when I met a man from Great Britain whom I asked to take a photo of me. He did, and we started talking and ended up spending all day together (nothing like you might think, he is 71 years old). He bought a ticket for both of us to visit the Castle in Malaga. He bought me a drink and paid for my dinner while we sat on the beach and talked for ages. The universe was looking out for me that day.
Since I’ve been travelling, I get quite annoyed with some of the questions that my friends and co-workers ask me, especially, “Are you not afraid to go on your own?” My answer is always: “Why should I be afraid?”
Of course, when you travel alone, you do have to establish a few rules for yourself. I avoid staying out too late in dangerous areas or far away from my hostel/ hotel. I eat only in busy places (a sign that the food is good) and am careful about who I talk to. If I get lost in a city, I ask trustworthy people (e.g. police officers) for help, etc. These are just a few examples.
Do you know what the beauty is about my travels? Travelling is something that belongs to me alone. It’s something I am passionate about and something I do for myself. My family doesn’t know anything about my travels. I’ve never told them about my passion for travel as I don’t think they would understand. My parents still see me as a little girl, not as a grown woman.
While I’m writing this story, I realise for the first time that I am using the word “woman” when talking about myself. Since I’ve started travelling, I’ve developed so much and have changed from a girl into a woman. A woman who isn’t dreaming about things like shoes, bags, jewellery, men or marriage.
Right now, I am preparing for my next adventure. I’m planning to go to Finland, Russia and Estonia in June and I can’t wait to see what it will be like over there. My dream is to see the world, and I’m only just getting started!
Author - Ana Pascu
Ana is from Romania. She is currently working in an office day job but if she got offered a position that required her to travel, she wouldn't hesitate to leave it all behind and go.