Traveling on my own is an interesting challenge. It gives me more time and less constants in my day. I’ve had days where it would be nice to have someone to talk to and I’ve had days where eating alone seems pretty glum. Sometimes it takes a little extra courage to go for a hike in the jungle on my own or to arrive in a new town after sunset. It can be weird to get a hotel room with two beds when I only need one and sometimes its a lot more expensive to hire a taxi or a tour. I’ve even had days where I wish I didn’t have to make every single choice on my own.
But most of the time I wake up in my hotel room excited to start some music and make a rough plan for the day without needing to ask anyone for anything. I can listen to the same song every morning and no one gets annoyed and I can have the worst plan possible without effecting anyone’s day but my own. I could be on the bus to a new city, see a town that looks neat and get off the bus right there. Its simple to plan and as I learn more what kinds of activities I enjoy it becomes much easier to structure my time to enjoy more of it. I have all the choices and when I make good ones it feels great to enjoy the fruits of my labor.
The freedom is only one aspect of solo travel though. I am pushed out of my comfort zone every day just to get the supplies of life, water, a room or a bed and a couple meals. This morning I had to walk into a restaurant and order by pointing to my mouth and saying yes to every question even though I had no idea what was said. I looked like an idiot in front of at least 15 people, they laughed and I smiled. I had to put myself out there just to get breakfast, I can’t rely that someone else to support me even when I feel stupid or scared. I just have to do my best and use my own inner voice to say encouraging things. I’ve been in many scary situations where that inner voice has been the only thing to keep me calm. The challenge of facing challenges without someone to fall back on when it gets tough can make everything a lot scarier. It also makes the learning and personal growth so potent. I have been learning like a wildfire eats grass, every experience is intensified and the lessons come out easily with so much time to think. I love the way solo travel makes me rely on myself, I love how it gives me time to wander deeper into my thoughts, and I love the kinds of experiences it lures in.
One of the things I didn’t know before my first trip is that leaving home alone does not mean you will be alone while traveling. There are many opportunities to meet fellow travelers. I’ve met people because of shared hardship or confusion and I’ve met people because of hostels and other close proximity situations. I’ve had amazing conversations with people I knew for two hours and I’ve made good friends after 24 hours. Traveling has a way of converging paths if you let it, I’ve been in places or moods where I don’t meet a single backpacker and I’ve met 20 new people in an evening. Being someone that really enjoys getting to know new people I love talking to so many different sorts of people, I’ve been inspired by so many stories and little pieces of each person I’ve met I will remember and over time those pieces will become part of my personality. It is an incredible thing to sit at a table with ten people from ten countries and talk about politics, or music or education systems. I’ve learned a lot about other parts of the world that I have never been to just by talking to people from those places.
It’s also dangerous how much hearing about someones home country makes me want to go there. I feel like traveling alone usually means having the ability to choose who you are surrounded by everyday, it doesn’t mean your days are spent in solitude.
Tomorrow I will wake up and start my day knowing that every disaster and every triumph is mine, I will talk to whoever I want and walk wherever looks like my kind of path. By the time the sun goes down and I find dinner I will have plenty to ponder, I’ll ask myself how my day went or I’ll make a friend out of a stranger and ask them how their day went. Whatever happens I know it will be made up of that special recipe: one part choice and one part chance.
There’s no feeling like going to bed after a completely amazing unplanned day.