Why I’m Not Afraid of Traveling Alone

I left my home of St. Croix for New York City at the age fifteen and decided on my own that I needed to leave my homeland. My mother rarely spoke with my father in a co-parenting fashion, but she said I should talk to him and let him know of my plans. They both agreed that each would help with half of the airline ticket and that I would work, save, and plan for this journey.

Before I went through the security gates at the airport, my mother in her way of being reassuring said I was doing what people normally do and that I shouldn’t be scared. When she used the phrase “doing what people normally do,” she was referring to the migration of people – herself, family members, friends, the Caribbean Diaspora – who she had witnessed leaving their childhood homes to pursue educational and professional opportunities in the United States and Europe. As a child, I heard the stories of those people time and time again and here I was following in their footsteps and about to embark in a similar fashion.

Although I had traveled before, it was always with my siblings and even though we were young we always had each other. When I arrived in New York, I was met by my mom’s youngest sister who had left St. Lucia some years before to move to the Big Apple. Always very direct and matter-of-fact, she greeted me with a serious question in an earnest tone. “Why are you here?” My response was simple, “I want to finish high school in America.” Deep down, I wanted to say that I was here to gain an inside track on America. I didn’t want to be American by way of the Caribbean. I wanted to find out from the inside what life in America was like.


High school in Brooklyn was completely different than the school I attended in St. Croix. My teachers had a teaching philosophy that I hadn’t yet experienced, namely that every student, no matter how poorly behaved or inept, could have a personal or academic breakthrough. This style of teaching helped me to finally excel at math, which I had always struggled with and it is one of the reasons I choose education as a career.

Upon receiving my high school diploma, I left the city behind and went to college in Rochester. My aunt accompanied me to the bus station and sent me off with the words, “good luck” and a hug. Once again, I was alone on yet another important journey. I had made my mind to get away from the city and its noise. I knew that college would take more discipline and NYC had too much distraction for a teenager. This feeling of being alone on important journeys had settled and I accepted my destiny to pursue college.

In college I became completely immersed in campus life. I held positions on the Black Student Union and wrote for the school newspaper and literary journal. During my junior year I decided to study abroad. I needed to break free from the microscopic lens of campus life to better understand myself; I decided to study abroad in London the second semester of my junior year.


I remember sitting in the cab at JFK and thinking to myself, “Joseph, you’ve done it now. Your quest for self-exploration is about to lead you even further away from the people you know.” Despite the fear in my heart, I could not let it paralyze my ability to put one foot in front of the other and move forward. I was going to explore a new country with no way of knowing for certain what could happen. My only solace was knowing I had done this before and it always worked out and it helped to have a solid plan in place as far as school and where I’d be living.

I left London certain about a few things in life:

  1. Each time you go it alone, you give yourself an opportunity to tap into inner strength and ability to adapt. It takes a strong person to navigate life with all its ups and downs. Figuring out a destination by yourself in a strange place at any age liberates you.
  2. You get to meet people from a different background who have a shared experience of having to leave home in search of opportunities.
  3. You interact with cultures and although you may not speak the language you try and find a way to communicate. This increases your awareness of how you fit into the world in a global context.
  4. You commit to knowing that things will work out in the end and it eases the pressures and stress of figuring life out.
  5. You embrace that it takes a degree of risk taking to find a newer you and it ignites your creativity and imagination.

I finally have something to say to my friends and family who ask why I am not afraid to travel alone and start over in a new place. I can honestly say its because it’s what many people have done to survive and find themselves. I’m not special or unique in this journey of traveling and starting over. I have lived in a few cities across America and always found that it was easier because of my early and formative years of embracing traveling as a means of survival. If I share my travels and seem to be an anomaly…I’m not. I’ve just embraced the journey that I’m on. It involves traveling as a means of finding renewed strength and purpose and some journeys take me further away for longer periods. I use my experiences through traveling all in the same way. I use it to achieve a heightened sense of who I am and what I’m capable of learning and doing with that knowledge.

8 replies
  1. Alicia Briggs
    Alicia Briggs says:

    Beautiful! I am learning to explore and go out there and see the world. My mother sadly sheltered us from the world. However, meeting you has taught me there is huge world out there! I am in New York and I have you to thank for it. This lil southern belle is definitely out of her comfort zone but you know what…..I LOVE IT!

    • Joseph
      Joseph says:

      Keep exploring and the encouragement and inspiration I share is only a fraction of what I’ve received over the years. So pass it on to someone else!

  2. Tisha
    Tisha says:

    Carrie,This is marvelous! I just returned from the Movement Disorders Society (MDS) meeting in Paris and learned so much. You continue to inspire us. Best wisese,Irhne

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