As the time approaches faster and faster for me to leave for South Korea, I find myself feeling so excited to leave and start off on my own again. For a while now, my mentality has been “I’m excited for a new adventure and to get out of here,” but now I’m shifting away from the “get out of here” part and more towards just craving the start of a new beginning. I’ve been reading a few books with short travel memoirs and I’m about to finish a collection called A Woman Alone, all stories of women traveling by themselves throughout the world. The theme of traveling alone completely appeals to me, and I’m eager to begin because I know that it’s the beginning of the rest of my life.
There are so many perks of traveling alone, and I wonder why so many people don’t do it. Most people want to travel with their friends or family, but to take a vacation or travel for months on end by yourself seems to mostly scare people. And I wonder, what are these people sacred of, or what are their reasons for not doing it? Are these people afraid to be alone with their thoughts with nothing to distract them? Are they sacred that something will come up that they won’t be able to handle on their own? Are they scared of being raped, robbed and murdered? Are these the same people who are never without a boyfriend or girlfriend? Or are they embarrassed to dine alone, anxious of what strangers might think about someone sitting at a table by themselves? Or, I wonder, if some people are using fear as an excuse, masking the fact that they have no real desire to pick up and leave, but feel lame admitting that.
I’m curious about this because obviously it’s not the way I operate. Traveling alone is amazing. You get to create your own itinerary, ditch your itinerary if you want, you don’t have to worry if someone is bored or cranky, and you don’t have to compromise what you want for someone else. Being by yourself allows you to be whoever you want. I mean, I normally act just the way I would in my everyday life at home, but the beauty is that there’s no one there who has a preconceived notion of exactly who you are. You have the chance to present yourself in any way that you choose, no one knows your past and you have this completely clean slate. However, often when you travel alone you rarely end up being by yourself for long. The backpacking community is SO large, and you make connections that will stick with you forever. In the short story, “Be Kind to the Muchachos” by Ginny NiCarthy, she says,
“On the road, alone, I often discover aspects of myself that surprise me, usually triggered by someone unexpectedly met, someone I’d never have paused long enough to truly see had I been with a friend or group. In real time, those encounters might last only as long as a butterfly’s life. Yet the warmth of them, or the insight gained, or the irksome snag in my image of myself, lingers for years.”
As far as being scared of traveling alone, I have the same fears as everyone. I guess the difference is that I would rather do something amazing alone rather than not do it at all. Also, I don’t have obligations at home tying me down (like a child). If something comes up like an emergency or flaw in your itinerary (and something always comes up) I know that I will be able to handle it. More than half the time I have to ask for help with whatever the task may be, but it gets done. And as a bonus for being put in the position of asking for help, I find myself continuously surprised at the generosity of strangers. As for the possibility of something horrible happening, I guess I figure something horrible can happen wherever I am, no matter if I’m at home or across the world. Rape and murder and muggings happen every day unfortunately, so my thinking is this: be smart about the decisions you make, go with your gut, and don’t put yourself in a position of unnecessary danger. You can’t live your life based on your fears; however, you should be cautious because shit does happen sometimes. And finally, as for being embarrassed of the fact that you’re alone… that’s just something you have to get over. There are times (many times) where certain places and amazing scenery make your body ache for someone else to be there. To cuddle up with someone, feel the romance that the scene is oozing and give in to it. Your heart always feels a little sting, no matter how much practice you have at traveling alone. But then you remember the many perks of being by yourself and the fact that it would have been so stupid had you missed this opportunity because you were afraid to go on your own.
With all this thinking about traveling alone, I sometimes wonder if I’ll miss out on some important things in life. What if I wake up ten years from now and regret not having a family? Not saying that I’m not going to have a family, but what if I spend all of this time traveling and I miss out on the experience of having a kid or husband? But at the same time I know myself well enough to know that I don’t want to just settle down somewhere with the 2.5 kids, a 9-5 job and a white picket fence. I would need to find someone perfect for me basically. Someone who has done a lot of traveling and wants to continue traveling even with a kid someday. But then again, I don’t want to continuously move a kid around or be absent half their life because I’m traveling. Ugh, so many contradicting thoughts clutter my head even when I know that there’s nothing I can do about it except live my life now.
If I end up single forever, it’s all good. I love myself enough to be with just me forever (there’s a leo statement for you). If I eventually find someone I’m supposed to be with and raise a family, super. But for now I’m more than happy to travel alone, letting whatever is supposed to happen, happen.