The Most Important Lessons I learned Traveling Alone
1. Not everyone's going to understand your journey.
It can be al little frustrating at first; trying to explain exactly what you're setting out to accomplish. Especially when you're not quite sure yourself. I'm passionately curious? They may never understand, and that's okay. And although you may wince when "vacation" is tossed around, casually crushing all your toil and sweat in your endeavor towards personal growth, the only person that really needs to understand is you.
2. You must take care of yourself first.
When you're always living in the moment it's easy to push yourself to exhaustion. I'm sorry, but you've gotta harness that fomo if you want to end up alive. Going with the flow is the best way to travel, but a little routine can be crucial for your physical and mental health. Whatever it is that keeps you balanced - sleep, meditation, diet, routine, phone calls back home, do it. I cannot stress how important this is.
3. Trust your instincts.
Discomfort is part of growth, but know when to draw the line. You can tell when something doesn't feel right. Even if someone doesn't speak the same language, the eyes speak and the body speaks. "No" can be difficult when you're trying to squeeze every moment out of every minute, but it became my super power word. Some risks and some people just aren't worth it.
4. Making friends is brilliantly exhausting.
Travelers tire quickly of small talk. Where are you from, why are you here, what's your dogs name...yada yoo. Sure, it's good to know the basics, but within minutes you find yourself in year 3 of the relationship. There's no time to waste and no bullshit to be had. Authenticity and exposure are draining and uncomfortable, but once you let your guard down and connect, you remember why you came here in the first place.
5. Comfort is redefined.
You'll be able to clearly distinguish what really matters and what things are insignificant. Growing up in a first world country, we are pretty blind to our excess of comforts. From wifi and drive-throughs, to hot showers and clean tap water. There's a lot we think we can't live without... until we do. And even though I've chosen to keep a lot of my comforts, I try not to take advantage of them.
6. There is a lot of pain in the world, and there is a lot of joy.
There are more people fighting silent battles than we will ever know. And it's easy to judge someone before we know their story. Many of them are living a nightmare, yet you'd never see them frown. Human strength is incredible and it only becomes stronger with love. So be patient and be kind.
7. Somedays you just wake up and survive.
Travel isn't all fun and games. In fact, a lot of it, if not all of it is a struggle. It just depends on what you do with life's obstacles. It can get overwhelming, frightening and depressing. And in those moments it's so crucial to take a step back and re-focus on your goal. Is this still worth it? Can I learn something from this? If so, then get up. When inspiration is lost, discipline is essential. Today you don't have to be happy or sad or anything. If you have to separate yourself from people, do it. If you have to take a mental day, do it. These days are pivotal in your recovery, so the only person you need to respond to is yourself.
8. Change is inevitable.
I have a bad daydreaming habit. Like a female Walter Mitty, except that I tend to accidentally set my expectations really high - picturing everything I've accomplished at the end, all the stories I would tell people. But I'm learning to gracefully accept that not everything will work out as I imagined. Some things will be much better. And some things worse. Your plans will change, people will change and goals will change. And that's okay.
9. You find yourself asking strangers the weirdest questions.
Do you think you could check this mole on my back? Do you sell that cream? Code-red check me? No, I'm not peeing, nevermind. Is that me who smells? Won't this give me diarrhea? Do I have shit in my teeth? And then all of that in a different language.
10. Happiness is better shared.
Probably the hardest, yet most important lesson. In a nation so preoccupied with individualism, it's easy to to focus on our differences. It's healthy to spend time alone, to travel by yourself and figure out what's going on in that head of yours. But we don't need to prove we can do it all. It's okay to be vulnerable and ask for help. It's okay to bring a friend along. It's okay to adapt to other peoples wants and needs from time to time. We are social beings and community is a core part of our wellbeing. Although we each have our own, in this thing called life, we're all in it together.
Photo by Axel Holen on Unsplash