How many wanderlust articles do you stumble upon every day, while sitting in your office or on your couch? How many times have you daydreamed of packing your suitcase and going on that trip you’ve always envisioned? And then how many trips have you bailed on because you didn’t have someone with whom to go?
When I realized that my list of reliable travel buddies was getting short, I accepted two fates: I was going to either travel based on other people’s availability (and probably never go where I wanted), or put my big girl pants on and go out into the world alone. That latter decision was both exhilarating and downright debilitating, but as I look back on all of my adventures over the years, I’m over-the-moon grateful that I took that chance. And here’s why I did:
- I wanted to see the world through my experience – It’s easy to allow other people’s perceptions of a place to cloud (or create!) our own judgement of it. Because we’re constantly bombarded with images and news that indirectly shape our vision of the world, we become subconsciously afraid of it. Yet, it’s so beautiful! I wanted to explore it on my own, cutting away at those cords that other people have placed upon me, so that I could come home with a real Not only has that made for awesome story-telling, but it has turned me into a well-rounded person.
- I was ready to welcome my biggest challenge – Being alone, let alone traveling alone, is not without its struggle. We’re left to our own devices, and apart from logistical detail of travel, it’s really our mental state that takes the spotlight. Being a long-time yoga student and teacher, I knew that studying and giving way to my thoughts while traveling alone, especially in times of unfamiliarity, were going to be hurdles that would only strengthen me – eventually. How do I react when I don’t know where I’m going? What habit pattern do I gravitate towards when I need to rely on only myself? It’s these questions that helped me learn more about myself, which would have been harder to explore if I were traveling with a group or a companion.
- I wanted to see if I could do it – Plain and simple, this is one of my biggest reasons for solo travel, and it may not be as complex as some people would expect. I am inspired by people who follow their dreams and goals, especially when they’re outside of those familiar comfort zones. My own dreams of traveling were always playing, like a movie, in my mind, but I always hit the pause button. Mainly, it was because I was afraid of being alone, and similarly, I was placing heaps of heavy “what if’s” on every scenario. As much as adventuring lifts my spirit, the ability to push myself outside of what I’ve always stuck with is that much more liberating. At the end of the day, what I’ve learned from going out alone is that nothing is ever as scary as we picture it to be. And if I can do this, imagine what else I can do?!
- I was tired of waiting for the perfect (person/group/occasion, etc.) – There’s something delicate and exciting in planning a trip with a friend or a loved one, and this isn’t to say that I’ve never traveled in such company. However, when I realized that I was deleting places off of my bucket list because I couldn’t find a fellow traveler, I acknowledged that this was my sign to change my ways. I no longer pin my desires on who can share in them with me; and while it’s terrific to have someone by your side, my lesson has been that such people will either be there with you at the airport or you’ll meet them somewhere on the other side of the world. The beauty in this is that we’re all much braver than we give ourselves credit for, and the Universe works in wicked ways. In my travels, perhaps out of sheer courage to go alone, I’ve met strangers who quickly became best friends and still are.
- I wanted to get a little scared – This may sound like a weird reason, but fear controlled so many parts of my life. Before I took the leap, I was always afraid of going off alone, and I allowed that fear to fester, not just in travel but in anything that took me out of my place of comfort and convenience. When I started to book trips on my own, and especially when I started traveling, I began to view myself in relation to how I handle my fear. Sometimes I panicked when I didn’t understand the language or ran into travel changes, and I tried to pause in those moments to breathe and take notice. I learned that fear was something I created, and more so, something I perpetuated. I’m sure I could have gained this insight at home in any random, scary situation; but traveling alone puts you in real-time “sink or swim” mode, and it’s in those moments where I learned more about myself than I ever could have at home (or with a friend on whom I’d rely). And the beautiful thing is, is that my fear always gave way to its opposite – love. Those moments of solo travel time followed me home to show me how else fear has grown in my life. With the wisdom I gained, I could start to change there, too.
Traveling alone has given me the liberty to not only see the world through my own experience of it, but to see myself in relation to it. It’s created space for me to learn about myself, and therefore, about others. I’m grateful for the knowledge and the wisdom, but perhaps more importantly, for the time I’ve spent alone. I know now that the company of myself is as rich and fulfilling as the relationships of people I’ve come to love and admire.