Lessons From a Solo Traveler
In my opinion travel is the most beautiful practice in the world. Some of us are able to travel more than others, but I think most everyone agrees that it's something we seek. Whether getting away from work for two weeks out of the year or becoming a nomad who makes it a way of life, travel offers something for everyone. For me travel has inspired my own personal expansion as a human being.
I never considered myself a brave individual who would dare to travel solo, until one day I did. Like getting a tattoo or taking drugs it becomes an addiction, but the high never goes away. Even after the fact you feel differently about everything you thought you knew. You're changed. The lessons I've learned have been both easy and hard, but equally impactful.
Lesson #1: I'm more clueless than I thought.
You don't realize how little you know about everything, including yourself, until you go in search of something different. Life at home is ordinary and routine vs. life on the road being a mysterious adventure.
You have to acquire a new skill set involving communication as you learn about different currencies, languages, and personality types. My ego is humbled after feeling embarrassed and without a clue while traveling. I once spent $80 U.S. dollars on a single meal in Norway because I didn't properly calculate the exchange. Ouch. Walking down winding roads not knowing where you are or exactly where you're going with a backpack more than half your size has left me feeling awkward at times. Each trip reminds me that it is okay to feel uncomfortable in my own skin, and the more you do anything the easier it becomes. The discomfort of the unknown always leads to new adventures and lessons.
Lesson #2: You can trust most people.
One of the most wonderful lessons you'll learn from a solo traveler is this one. I know the media says otherwise, but of the 14 countries I've traveled to I have yet to be proven wrong. I stayed in the homes of strangers who became dear friends. I changed all my plans to take a chance on a new adventure with someone I just met and got an entirely different and unexpected experience in return. You must have a keen sense of self and trust your intuition, especially as a solo traveler, but sometimes you just have to say, "why not?"
Lesson #3: Talk to anyone and everyone.
This is one of the hardest lessons for me since I am insecure about showing my true self until I know people for a period of time. For the first few days of my first solo trip abroad I spent a lot of time alone because I was too afraid to speak to anyone. A lot of the people I noticed had friends with them so I assumed they probably didn't want any extra company. The more I travel the more I see how wrong I was to presume that. Some people will like you and some won't, but you never know until you put yourself out there. Most travelers tend to share a similar mind set and most are wanting to meet new friends and have the time of their life. If you're ever in doubt about talking to anyone, find an Australian! In my experience I find they are travelers at heart and often travel alone so they're happy to have a chat with nearly everyone.
Lesson #4: Be Present.
The most important lesson I'm gradually learning the more I travel is to be utterly and completely present. In every aspect of your life, be present. Smell the floral aroma of the air, take in the heat of a muggy, hot summer day, and enjoy being somewhere unknown and not understanding the chatter of the locals in the background. Stop wishing you were somewhere else in your life, because chances are it's only a state of mind. Your life doesn't begin when you have no debt, finish school, or get married. It's happening all along and if you aren't present in your everyday routines it's quickly passing you by. No matter where you are in life currently, be there entirely.
Lesson #5: The world has more good than bad in it.
Some people say I should consider myself lucky - I've traveled a lot and haven't encountered a negative or life threatening situation. I honestly just think I try to see the best in people and in return I attract that back to me. I'm not saying things can't go wrong when you're traveling, but things can go wrong anywhere at any time. There is no safe ground, but I find most people are truly living out their lives to have meaningful experiences just like you and I. Keep your wits about you, but take a chance on believing in human kind. Once you get out there and dive head first into the unknown you will be blown away by all the love you encounter.
Stay tuned for more of my blogs as I continue onwards through Europe! There are many more lessons to learn and stories to create. In Budapest, Hungary now, next stop Romania. #travelforever