Reading this memoir was an inspiring yet terrifying experience. As a single 25-year-old female who loves to travel, I identified with Kristin. It was something about the way she wanted to do her own thing and see the world, but at the same time she wanted to find love (because that’s normal and what we’re supposed to do, right?!). In so many ways I felt like I was reading the memoir of some sort of alternate-universe version of myself, with the main difference being that Kristin is hilarious and I can only dream of being as funny as she is.
I felt the connection in the first chapter. “The first time I blew off steam internationally was not born of carpe diem. It was born of deep despair.” Add in the fact that Kristin’s deep despair was caused by a rough break-up and at that point in time she was only one year older than myself right now… well, it sounded eerily familiar. Her first international escape was with a friend, the friend’s boyfriend, and the boyfriend’s friend to Paris and Amsterdam. She spent an extra few days in Paris by herself, trying to be the Girl Who Has Fun Alone and, ultimately, she admitted that those days didn’t go as well as planned.
It was like reading a twisted version of my own journal. My first solo international experience was also born out of a break-up and the combination of a need to get away and the desire to be independent. Instead of just taking a trip to visit good friends in New York or Philadelphia (which probably would have been the sensible thing to do), I booked a solo flight to Munich for Oktoberfest. Why Munich? Because my friend’s Italian coworker was working there for a few months and had mentioned at one point that if any of us were in Germany we should let him know. I took that as a sign that I should go. I had visions of myself breezing through the streets of Munich, sipping coffee and eating pretzels outside some gorgeous café, drinking liters of beer with attractive single foreigners from all over the world. You probably aren’t surprised that the trip didn’t live up to my expectations: I really struggled communicating in German, I found it difficult to meet people, I felt unsafe navigating through a bunch of drunk people by myself, and felt generally alone for a bigger chunk of time than I’d like to admit. However, I did manage to get a few things right: there was lots of great beer and good food, a hot Swedish guy made an appearance, I met some really cool people from Australia, and most importantly, I made it through an international trip all by myself and had an overall good time. Mission accomplished.
I drew all these parallels between my life and Kristin’s, and it was only the first chapter! As I continued reading, and learned about her adventures in Russia, Argentina, Australia, and more, I felt so inspired. I kept thinking to myself, this is what I’m going to do with my life. This is how I want to live. I started telling people that traveling was the most important thing, that I wanted to see the world, that I didn’t want to settle down, that I wanted to enjoy being single. (I didn’t tell them that I was almost quoting from a memoir that I was reading.) Kristin matured throughout the book; she became more self-confident and carefree when she was traveling. I kept picturing a future version of myself that was right there with her, just going with the flow and enjoying life, living each moment abroad to the fullest, not afraid of being judged. For the first time, I felt capable of achieving all of my lofty travel goals. If Kristin could do it, then so can I.
The last few chapters sobered me up a bit, though. Suddenly, the amazing and confident Kristin was in her late thirties, and afraid that she missed her chance at love because of all her adventures. The woman I had come to identify somewhat as a heroine was dealing with life questions that I can’t possibly understand at 25, and as I read her thoughts I realized I was afraid of the possibility of encountering the same problems. What if I traveled so much and focused on myself so much that I miss other opportunities? What if the adventures that I’m planning at 25 turn me into a crazy cat lady at 35? The last few chapters left me feeling nervous rather than adventurous, cautious rather than bold. By being honest about her thoughts and her life, Kristin presented the opportunity cost of being so independent and well traveled. But at the same time, she kept traveling and doing her own thing, which I found inspiring.
After finishing the book and letting it sink in for the past few days, I realize that I’m still inspired by Kristin’s life. She knew what she wanted and she went out to get it, and even though there were tough spots along the way she kept going, and along the way she met some amazing people and racked up countless stories to share. And in the end she regretted nothing, which to me is the most important thing.