Most people think that traveling for eight months sounds incredible except for one thing: I have to do it alone. This is a really scary thought for a large portion of our society, and to this day I don’t fully understand why.
What are we really afraid of? Is it the worst case scenarios of being robbed or assaulted, or is it simply the fear of loneliness that makes solo travel seem unattainable? Why do we rely on others in order to have the courage to go after the things that are truly important to us?
There are many people whom I love and want to share my life with, but my passions are not the same as anyone else’s. My dreams are mine alone, and chasing them is the greatest gift I could ever give to myself.
Part of traveling alone is getting to know yourself and your place in the world. It’s a lot easier to understand who you are and what you want when you are removed from all of your normal external influences.
There are times being away from the people I love is really, really hard. Sometimes I just want to go home, but other times I have such profound moments that I know I can’t. I know the benefits far outweigh the temporary sadness.
Another big thing I want others to understand about solo travel is that I am very rarely ever really alone. At hostels and restaurants, and in streets, there are people all around. It is often hard to avoid meeting people. I have made more friends than I can count in just a little over a month.
Though we may only spend a few hours or a few days together, the connections made will last forever. There’s nothing like meeting someone from thousands of miles away who understands you, shows you kindness, teaches you something, or supports you.
After ten days in Panajachel with many of these people, I decided to make the move to a quieter village, San Marcos La Laguna for Christmas. I had seen enough Christmas parades, and was hoping to get a full night’s sleep. I planned to swim, hike, kayak, read and write.
I was able to do all these things, but the town turned out not to be what I expected. In Panajachel, I handed out my business cards left and right. After two full days in San Marcos, I had not had a full conversation with a single person. No one knew my story, or why I was there until the morning I left. I didn’t feel like I fit in, and for the first time on my trip, I started to really feel lonely.
At first, eating pizza by candlelight at a restaurant full of couples on Christmas Eve made me sad. I wanted desperately to teleport myself back to Panajachel where surely someone I knew would be sitting in one of my regular places. Then I realized that I had only felt lonely for one day out of thirty five days of wandering Central America by myself. If you ask me, one out of thirty five is pretty damn lucky.
There are so many people in this world who are truly alone, sad, or forgotten every day of the year. I am never really alone, because I have so many people with me in my heart, even if they’re not physically present.
This holiday season, remember those who don’t have anyone to miss. This includes many, but especially the homeless, sick, abused, incarcerated, addicted, and those at the end of life. If you have a chance to make a connection, take it. It might be the only chance they get. My hope for this world is that someday no one will ever have to live or die alone.
Traveling solo builds my courage, confidence and strength. It helps me to define my own heart and mind. It lets me be seen as an individual, and not as a part of a group. It’s a way for me to see and do exactly what fulfills me. I don’t fear traveling solo, I prefer it.