“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” (NLT)
For three years, I had a season of solo travel. 2017, 2018, and 2019.
The year before this season—2016—my life changed pretty dramatically. I recovered from a 10+ year battle with bulimia, broke up with my long-term boyfriend, and moved out on my own. Oh, and I also went skydiving and realized I had to start living again.
I had to start living the life God created me to live, whatever that looked like.
It looked like a LOT of things. A lot of trusting God. A lot of building friendships. A lot of growing in my faith. But, it also looked like a lot of travel.
Being single and introverted with a flexible schedule, I was intrigued by solo travel. After a successful solo trip to Savannah in fall 2016, I thought… why not try international solo travel? So, I did.
In January 2017, I flew to Paris for a long weekend. By myself. I had NO idea what to expect. Would I love it? Would I hate it? Not Paris, but the experience of traveling there alone.
Paris, in fact, was my dream destination since I was about 9 years old. And, it lived up to the dream. I had a pinch-me-I’m-dreaming, whirlwind adventure, and I didn’t mind that I was on my own.
Admittedly, I think I liked it more being alone. As selfish as that might sound, it allowed me to figure out who I was again. Remember when I said this wasn’t long after my bulimia recovery? Well, here’s something you might not know about an eating disorder unless you’ve struggled with one. It consumes your identity. In those 10+ years I struggled with mine, I lost who I was.
I spent the second half of 2016 slowly learning who I was again. Booking this Paris trip was part of that process.
You see, when you travel alone, you’re the sole decision-maker on how you fill your time—and that forces you to consider what you naturally love to do, and what feels like a waste of time. Paris gave me that.
God knew I needed that.
Coming back from Paris, I was sold on solo travel. In the years to follow, I visited the following countries alone:
- The Netherlands
- France (Paris again!)
- New Zealand
- Bosnia & Herzegovina
I learned that I love to challenge myself to face fears. In Italy, I did one of the highest ziplines in the world, with a max speed of 70+ mph. In Switzerland, I went bungee jumping. In New Zealand, I tried a canyon swing. On a few trips, I rented a car and navigated foreign roadways with signs I didn’t recognize (and, in some cases, couldn’t read!).
Basically, I had a lot of time and opportunity to figure out what lights a fire in me and what doesn’t. What I’m capable of, and what my limits are. How well I can solve a problem on the spot, and when I need to ask for help.
Most importantly, though, I learned how to trust God when I had literally no one else. I shared every moment of those trips with God first. They gave me a renewed sense of awe at His creation, finding joy in the little things, and practicing letting go. You see, I gave every trip to God. I prayed that if I wasn’t meant to go, it would be clear and I would be okay with it not happening.
One trip was canceled. Another had a flight delay that caused me to miss a day in Slovenia. But, you know what? I had so much peace. Unbelievable peace. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be in those places at those times.
Overall, my solo travel years were a season God knew I needed to grow into the person I am today—who is still growing, by the way! Aren’t we all?!
God knows us better than we know ourselves. He teaches us in ways He knows will resonate. Maybe for you, that’s not travel. Maybe it’s a hobby. Sports. Your job. A person. A specific situation. It can be anything. And, quire possibly, you won’t realize what God’s teaching you till you’re on the other side of it.
Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t know the future or how long that season would last—even though the future included meeting my now husband, John, in 2020.
Do I wish John was with me on those solo trips?
No, I actually don’t. It might sound odd, but I know God planned for me to meet John when I did, so we could enjoy the life we have now. No sooner. No later. The timing was perfect because it was God’s.
Do I wish John could jump in my brain and fully understand the places and adventures I experienced? Yes. That, I do. Mainly because stories and photos and souvenirs will never do any of it justice. If you’ve ever attempted to tell family and friends about a trip you’ve taken, I think you’ll understand.
So, no. I wouldn’t change those years if I could go back.
But, I also don’t miss them or wish them back. I love traveling with John and making memories together. I’m grateful I no longer have to travel alone. Not because I hated it. As you are now well aware, I LOVED solo travel. It’s just that even as I loved it, I knew it was likely temporary.
That’s because seasons usually are.
Whatever season you’re in right now—beautiful or brutal—know that it is temporary.
Going back to Ecclesiastes, let’s look at more of chapter 3:
1 For everything there is a season,Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NLT)
a time for every activity under heaven.
2 A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
6 A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
And, in verses 11-12, Solomon—one of the wisest men who ever lived—goes on to say:
11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.Ecclesiastes 3:11-12 (NLT)
I think the lesson here is to find the beauty in your season, no matter how great or small. Sit with it. Embrace it. Let it flood your soul with life and joy. James 1:17 tells us: “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father who created all the lights in the heavens.”
If you’re facing a beautiful season, embrace all the beauty. If you’re facing a challenging one, seek and you will find it.
Either way, it’s only a season.
One season out of many that will shape your life.