For the last two days I’ve been walking around Stockholm by myself and it has been absolute bliss. Scandinavia has successfully captured my heart and I promise this will not be my last visit.

I first came this far North just two weeks ago when I went through Oslo and Bergen. The majestic landscape of Norway is full of contrast, with lakes and fjords carved out by glaciers long before the presence of man. The stark region boasts a challenge; it dares humanity to survive, and the people have thrived. This is no easy feat considering the sky is dark by 4:30 and the only fresh food available is fish. I loved it so much I knew I had to return, and so two weeks later I find myself in Stockholm.

I planned the trip as a solo endeavor. I’m no stranger to being alone, and I find travelling by myself to be quite enjoyable. Four days alone in Paris are some of my best memories. Besides being a great opportunity for introspection, I’ve also found it to be much cheaper. There’s no need to cater to the needs of other people, and I can happily survive on the cheapest food available. I’m not very touristy and prefer walking the streets for a day instead of paying for tours and attractions.

The round trip ticket from Geneva to Stockholm was $100 and my housing cost $50 a night. (I splurged here, justified by the fact that my ticket was substantially cheaper than normal since I flew on Friday the 13th.)

I’m now beginning my third decade of life, and reflecting on the last two has occupied much of my thoughts over the last several weeks. The normal questions have all made their impression: Who am I?, What do I believe?, What do I want to do with my life?, etc. But the most revealing has been How has what I’ve been through shaped who I am? Most of my life I’ve been an easily identifiable extrovert. I thrive off of people. I love customer service. Seeing you smile makes my day. Yet more and more I find myself preferring my own company instead of making plans and going out. This transformation does not worry me, but it begs the question: Why?

I see my introversion beginning in high school. (I still label myself an extrovert, but with limitations.) At the age of 14 I had no reason to not trust people. I had not experienced betrayal, didn’t understand prejudice, and couldn’t comprehend those whom I trusted deliberately lying to me. High school managed to expose me to all of these experiences. I came out with a strong distrust of leaders and a bitterness towards a group I had previously considered family.

More happened during my freshman year of college to further convince me that people are not as they appear. I was quickly learning to remain silent when previously I had opened up, to not express what I felt inside, and to rely on myself.

These lessons are distinct outcomes from several life events, but are they singular to me? Is life not one long lesson in avoiding pain? Everyone starts as an innocent child with everything to loose. Sure, you can shelter yourself from what will come your way, but for what benefit—remaining delusional about reality?

I don’t doubt that I’m coming off as cold and bitter. I assure you I’m not. Here’s the crux of what I’ve learned lately: though I may not trust people like I did as a young child, though I may not want to surround myself with as many people, though I may choose more and more to remain alone, I shall remain warm. I can still be congenial and accepting, offering open arms to anyone who asks. I will not let life turn me into a hard person who then goes on to hurt others. I will be sensitive.

I am happy alone. I like myself. What hasn’t stopped me before will not stop me now.

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