Life is full of contrasts – night and day, hot and cold, happy and sad. Somewhere along your travels, with perhaps incense and candles burning in some tiny, poorly lit room, you may learn about the duality of your very own nature. So in celebration of that contrast, we previously captured the spirit of travelling as a couple and now we will dive deep down into the heart of solo travel and why it’s so damn important.
All your life you’ve been around people. You may not have enjoyed their presence as you locked yourself away in your room as a teenager, put on those headphones and gave the infamous middle finger to world, but alas you were not alone. Yes, our friends, parents, coaches, teachers, class mates, dogs, cats and siblings were always there.
iNew Zealand. Photo from the KOSAN archives.
In fact you may have never been alone. And to borrow some famous lines from the movie Jerry McGuire, which by the way has nothing to do with travel, but applicable to my point: there is the ex-wife saying, “He can’t be alone”, and in turn the future wife is saying “You need to be alone!”.
Freedom is a relative term, my dad sung that in a song once. I’m not sure if those are his words or borrowed, but regardless, the point is that we all define our “freedom” in different ways. I believe that the ultimate expression of freedom, the freedom you’ve craved since puberty, and the freedom that allows you to truly discover who you are, is found in travelling alone. Yet, it would be a bull faced lie to say it isn’t scary as hell—at least in the beginning.
When you’re in a new country as an outsider, rifling through your Lonely Planet trying to “figure it all out”, for the first time in your life (maybe) you can see things from your own perspective; not mom’s or dads, not professors, bosses or your other travel companions. Just yours. All of a sudden all that stuff you piled into you life, that kept you busy, entertained and occupied disappears like sand castles in the wind and next thing you know you’re at your edge. We’re talking metaphorically, and literally; picture yourself, your heart is racing as you cruise on your scooter, finally breaking free from the chaos of the city traffic, farther and farther away from your hostel and city blocks giving way to the country side, dotted with make shift homes and indistinguishable landmarks. Now you’re starting to question whether you actually know the way back but determined as hell to get to whatever place you heard about last night at the bar. You press on. Damn right, you find it and of course you make it back, maybe with a few wrong turns, but within these moments is where you can quite possibly discover an entirely different you.
Santorini, Greece. Photo from the KOSAN archives.
Which will likely result in a deeply renewed spirit; a refined energy deep down in your core that shines through your eyes in quiet confidence of your new found self and god given ability to conquer, well, whatever you please.
But stop. Don’t start thumping your chest just yet. There is one nasty, rickety and uncomfortable little suspension bridge you need to cross before that happens…the bridge of Loneliness (because who doesn’t like a good bridge metaphor). Yes, your solo adventure will be filled with moments of self-revelation and powerful friends, but those amazing experiences don’t happen every step of the way. It is these moments, when the beer isn’t flowing and your not busting some glorious dance move that the journey, your journey, morphs from outward to inward. This is the moment when you dig deep inside, channel your best Jerry Mother Fucking McGuire, accept it and…wait for it….wait for it….let it pass.
It is here, on the other side, that you learn to slow down, that you get to know yourself a little better, that you embrace the stillness that exits both in the world around you and deep in your soul.
Next thing you know your leaving your comfort zone, figuring out how to convince your driver to take that fork in the dirt road and see where it leads.
The best part will be that moment when a challenge arises you don’t look left or right, no you’ll be looking in. And all of a sudden you’ll realize that you don’t need to rely on or wait for anyone to go where you want to go. It’s your move.
Bagan, Myanmar. Photo from the KOSAN archives.
Then, as your journey unfolds, you can explore experiences that call to your heart, welcome different travel companions to you adventure and eat where and what you’d like. People will come and go; moments will pass, buteach will shape that incredible, transformative, experience you lived out.
And finally when that moment comes, when someone along the way starts getting all metaphysical on you (yes, pretty much what we are doing now) and teaches you about your duality, you will already have come to understand that it is through your fear that you find courage; it is through your loneliness that makes companionship feel that much sweeter; and of course it is in our differences that make travel the incredible experience it is.
“Don’t be scared to walk alone. Don’t be scared to like it.” John Mayer