It was supposed to be my long awaited reunion with Europe. A celebration of that last big milestone birthday. A romantic journey.

It turned out that it was only a small part of the above.

He was supposed to come with me. We had it all planned out. He had never been, and I was going to introduce him to my love affair with Europe. He was going to love it, I would see to that. We’d start out in London, then take the train to Paris, move on to Berlin, and then wrap up our trip in Prague.

Six weeks before we were set to leave, he announced he wasn’t coming. I sort of saw it coming. He had been complaining about money for ages, he hadn’t gotten on his passport, the signs were there. But I was still hurt. I wanted to celebrate my 30th birthday with the love of my life. Not alone, in a hotel room, singing happy birthday to myself, in a country where I could barely read the language, let alone speak it.

I threw myself into planning a different trip. Nothing had been booked yet, so I wanted to go somewhere new, somewhere fresh, someplace I had never been before. I decided since I had some plane comp tickets from United, to see the countries that would be necessary to fly to. I could always take the train around Europe next time. I chose to see Scandinavia. I booked a round trip from Portland, Maine to London, and from there I immediately flew to Stockholm, where I would embark on my new trip. My empowerment trip. My “this is my life, and I’ll do what I want” trip.

I was so absorbed with planning and arranging my new trip that I forgot about the hurt. I forgot about where we had gone wrong, and I focused on my adventure. It all worked out fine. Until it didn’t.

My second night in Stockholm, I decided to be brave and treat myself to dinner. I can do a lot of things alone, even going to the cinema, but going out to dinner alone is hard. I would be missing out on some great food if I didn’t force myself out of my comfort zone, and so I decided to dive in.

On top of eating alone, I was also in a foreign country, in the old town of a city where there are dark, narrow streets back to my hostel. I had spent the afternoon scoping out the restaurants that were located not far from my hostel. I wanted to try a true Scandinavian meal. I found something I liked, a place that was also an easy walk to my hostel, and I carried on my day.

That evening, I dressed up a bit, walked down to the restaurant, and suddenly, they had changed their menu! They had removed the few Swedish dishes from their luncheon menu, and it was now a full Italian restaurant. Okay, maybe I didn’t scope it out that well, but I knew what I wanted to eat! There were no other restaurants serving Swedish fare around, and everything was full. After walking around the block a few times to double check that was my best opportunity (okay, so maybe for two hours I looked for something else), I decided to try it out.

The man who seated me recognized me from walking past the restaurant so many times.

“Come in, come in.”

“Dinner for one, please?”

“Yes, yes, come, come. Here, sit.”

He placed me at a table for two, immediately in the center of the restaurant. Not near a window, where I could pretend to not see everyone looking at me.

The place settings for the seat across from me immediately disappeared, and the waiter came over and brought a candle, lighting it and setting it down in the center of the table.

“For romantic!” He exclaimed, winking and nodding like it was some inside joke that I was alone.

For romantic? Are you serious? Like, is it THAT obvious I’m alone, without a caring partner? Without someone to even go out to dinner with?

Yes, my mindset had something to do with my reaction.

Tears filled my eyes, and I pretended to be looking at the menu, wishing the tears to not fall down my cheeks.

The hurt I had felt six weeks prior came rushing back. The hurt and abandonment that something I so deeply desired, something that was truly important to me, was not important to the person I cared about.

Fear took over me. This trip is not going to be fun if this is how it’s going to be. This, this just sucks. I’m alone, in a foreign country, when I should be celebrating and exploring and having the time of my life. I’m alone.

Thank goodness that the wifi on my phone worked.

I managed to order a glass of wine and dinner and kept myself occupied by surfing the web and pretending like I didn’t give a shit. That’s what you’re supposed to do, right? Act confident, and soon enough you’ll be confident?

I sat through that dinner. My waitress was a horrible person, not checking on me to see if everything was alright, barely coming back until she handed me my bill.

“You leave tip?” She asked. I wanted to say no, but I nodded, seething inside.

Oh for God’s sake, stand up for yourself! My insides were screaming.

Three days later, and I’m in St. Petersburg, Russia. I take the ferry over from Helsinki, and it is a day before my 30th birthday. I understand none of this language, nor can I read it. I pray that the hotel clerk has given me clear enough instructions to get to the metro, and to my required stop so that I can begin to better understand this city.

I cannot read the metro stops. I’m scared of looking like a lost tourist. I have a vague idea of which direction I need to go in, but all I can make out are the first letters of Russia’s Cyrillic alphabet. I pull out what I think should be enough for a metro ticket, and I take my turn in line. The woman in front of me takes her ticket, and as I step up to the window, the woman behind the counter closes her register and walks off. There’s a mad dash for the next till, and I somehow end up at the back of the line again.

Well, that’s rude, I think to myself, just as a man in his 20′s cuts in front of an elderly woman.

I make my way through the line, and I hold up one finger for the lady at the counter. She seems to understand, and gives me my change, from the 100 rubles bill I have given her, along with my token.

I descend to the underground, a long, long escalator where teenagers are making out and smoochy noises are in my ear. My jaded heart wants me to tell them to get a room, but they won’t understand me, will they? I get to the bottom, and now I’m confused. I have a general idea which way to go, but which train do I get on? I study the names, and make out that one end of the line looks like the letter ‘n’ while the other end of the line looks like the letter ‘p’. I match which direction I need to go by the name, and hope I am getting on the right train.

It’s cold. I have been walking all day, and my legs feel like they have shin splints. It’s in the high 40′s, cloudy and windy, and in my high hopes of warmer weather, I only have several layers of clothing under my rain jacket. I think I have seen a glimpse of most of what St Petersburg has to offer. Without delving into detail, I have seen most of the iconic buildings. I get hit on in Palace Square by an African man who has been the only person who has spoken English to me all day. I stand in line for two hours with pushy Russians, waiting to board the ferry again. I get pushed and shoved and someone almost breaks my kindle, my only escape from the chaos.

I climb aboard the ship, and thankfully, I have a cabin to myself. I order the worst pizza possible, and end up treating myself to a gelato. I sing ‘Happy Birthday’ softly to myself as I walk back to my cabin, grateful for the silence that I will be greeted with.

I am alone.

Even though this trip was scary and I did it alone, without the help of anyone, it taught me a lot. It taught me that I am in charge of my own happiness, and next time? Next time is going to be one hell of a trip. Because one trip filled with fear and heartbreak will not stop me. And I won’t care if I’m alone.

Instead, I’ll celebrate that fact.

This post is part of the My Fearful Adventure series, which is celebrating the launch of Torre DeRoche’s debut book Love with a Chance of Drowning, a true adventure story about one girl’s leap into the deep end of her fears.

“Wow, what a book. Exciting. Dramatic. Honest. Torre DeRoche is an author to follow.” Australian Associated Press

“… a story about conquering the fears that keep you from living your dreams.”

“In her debut, DeRoche has penned such a beautiful, thrilling story you’ll have to remind yourself it’s not fiction.” Courier Mail

Find out more…

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