This is a list I finally decided to write down about the things I’ve learned and figured out while traveling on my own, for the most part.
Throughout the years, I’ve started losing the habit of writing, and the less I write things down, the more and more I forget. These I’d like to remember.
- Alone is an excuse meant to scare people from going out in the world. When travelling, you’re never really alone. There’s the fellow “alone” traveller, your roommates at the hostel, the old lady at the grocery store, the guy at the library, the tourists at the museum, the dog on the street, the coconut guy at the corner, the cashier at the deli… Believe it or not, the world is full of beautiful “alone” people, and we really need to say “hello” more often. Once in a while, we’ll be greeted with scorn or a shrug, but a lot of times, we’ll end up meeting the best people in the world.
- Alone is a state of mind. Traveling alone will teach you that the best company is your own. You’ll learn to be your best friend, because, guess what, you’re all you have out there. Traveling alone gives you the opportunity to sit with yourself without the outer distractions and have that honest one-on-one conversation with yourself regarding who you are and what you’re doing with your time. I always say this: we are who we are; people don’t change. We only become more of who we are. Traveling is a good refresher.
- Having said that, home is where you are. Not the home you share with the family, not the home you share with your partner/cat/roommates, not the walls, ceiling, doors and windows around you. Home is the set of flesh and bones holding your soul into a complete human being.
- Traveling solo keeps you in charge of your health. You’ll indulge in local delicacies and street food, but you’ll also remember to keep hydrated, fibered and boosted with the required amount of carbs/proteins/sugars.
- Travel redefines our friendships and relationships. Whether we want to or not, whether we’ve given it a thought or not, and even when you want to travel alone, we’re bound to bring people with you on your trips. They might be in your scrapbook or journal you carry with you, your ex’s t-shirt you for-some-reason still like to sleep in, or in those phone/skype/app conversations. I personally try to avoid bringing people with me, but my heart has grown softer over the years and travels, and it grows fonder of people the further I am from them.
- Having said that, letting go of people becomes slightly easier, simply because the people who didn’t make it that far with you, you won’t find necessary going back to. A lot of times we befriend people because of convenience of time and distance. At the risk of sounding like a complete asshole here, I dare say that people come with expiration dates – we learn from each other, serve a purpose in each other’s lives and then we’re off on our ways in different directions. Not all relationships are made to last forever, and not all relationships end in disastrous goodbyes, tears and screams. Some simply end with a “see you soon” that never happens again.
- Mental health. I have to write a few lines on that here. Travel has definitely calmed down my demons and made my raging fires less and less destructive. I’ve dumped some of my baggage in lakes, rivers, oceans and valleys along the way, and closed some doors and windows on things I now know are simply part of my life, my learning process and ultimately what makes me me. I still get panic attacks every once in a while, but I also do hold my breath then push myself further, but more importantly, the term “I got this. I’ll be ok” has a real meaning now.
- Privilege can go either way. Really.
- You’ll spend a lot of time on your own. A lot. Then you’ll spend a lot of nights on your own. If you’re into hook-ups and one night stands, you’ll probably be able to avoid that for a few nights, but chances are you’ll get some time on your own. That’s the best time to consider your love affairs and what exactly you want out of a relationship. In one random encounter, someone said that the ideal reason to get married is for the emotional security. Nothing else, he said. After a while now, that is starting to ring true. Sure, we want to grow and keep growing as individuals in a relationship, but it’s the emotional security that keeps us in one.
- What you seek in life will come and find you – when it’s time, when it’s ready, when you’re ready. Be patient. Be prepared for growth, but most importantly, when opportunity comes knocking, don’t you dare not take it.
- There’s something about travel that awakens and deepens your sense of conscious living, but also your collective consciousness with the people and environment around you, and also the planet in general. Each country has a unique landscape and set of norms and traditions that makes you realise through our differences, we’re joined at core by our desires and fears, our joys and aspirations, what makes us human.
- Sustainability. I need to say something about that as well. Travel makes you realise the impact a single person can have on the environment. Maybe we realise this in a greener city, or in a much more polluted one. Maybe we see it in a city with better infrastructure, or maybe in one where there’s no public transportation at all. Maybe in a city where you can refill your bottle by tap water, or one where you have to consume a lot of plastic bottles. I’ve learned to travel light, buy less and less on the road, eat local, avoid unnecessary packaging, do without a local SIM card and buy second-hand then donate back locally.
Plans change. If travel has taught me anything about life, it is that plans are fluid, mobile, ever-changing, constantly evolving. And if you hold on to them too tightly, they’d even throw in a bit of mockery for thinking they’d carry through. We do change and evolve with our plans too. You set out to do one thing, but life happens, and you end up doing something completely different, sometimes much better.
Sometimes the big things are the small things and the small things are the big things. Too many things! To put it differently, travel shifts our priorities, our aspirations and our intentions. When we look at things from afar, as an outsider, say while complaining about a delayed flight, then watching a family of six miss theirs back home, it kind of shifts perspectives, makes you realise your privileges, sometimes even luck. Like the bread and conversation you share with a wash-away star on the airplane, or a walk through a refugee park, or a late-night chat with a hostel roommate who followed his heart then lost his way back home. Travel gives us perspective, but also awakens us to what’s already there.
Life happens. Constantly. It breaks your heart, takes away your joys at times and challenges everything you thought you knew. Life happens. Over and over again. At least where I come from, catastrophe happens in an instant as well. Happy takes on a different meaning. Thank yous resonate from deeper within. And finally, after meeting people from all walks of life, I’ve learnt, then found this lesson in my encounters on the road, to always choose life.