When my mom died in 2006, after a long illness, I had to do something to get a handle on my profound grief. I was so filled with sadness that even being with friends and family didn’t alleviate the pain. I needed private time to understand and explore where my life was going now that my “greatest cheerleader in life” was gone. So for the next few years I traveled solo. The more exotic and far away the destination—that’s where I went. I can now say that it was the most liberating, healing and exhilarating experience I’ve ever endeavored. I can’t say that at times I didn’t think “What am I doing here?” but overall it taught me things about myself and how to be my own “greatest cheerleader.”
When traveling alone I inevitably encountered various cultures, customs and destinations. I was face to face with people on an intimate meeting point and any preconceived ideas or prejudices I may have had melted away. My father use to tell me that you can read all the books in the world but the truth is when you travel to these places and see for yourself.
I learned so much. The uncomfortable feeling of being outside of my comfort zone quickly dissolved once I allowed the power of my being to embrace the moment—realizing all my fears were unfounded as I began to relate to the new experiences with the wonder of a child.
I remember case in point when I visited Laos. I arranged my Guesthouse , driver and guide before I left the States. My guide and driver would be with me through the day however at night I would be on my own. On one particular day as my guide dropped me off at the hotel I heard such a melodious chanting from the temple not too far from when I was staying. I wanted to visit this temple with such peaceful music. I stepped out my guesthouse and started walking towards the sound. I got as far as the temple, sat outside and then—fear gripped me! What was I doing – out in the evening- alone- not being able to speak the language—a woman. I was gripped by panic and quickly got up, rushed back to my guesthouse—truly disappointed that I couldn’t explore because of the fears I had developed over the years. After tossing and turning all night I was determined not to let this feeing overtake me again! The next day after my guide dropped me off, I ventured out again. I walked to the temple , sat down and enjoyed the chanting and actually felt quite at ease. With my new found confidence I then walked towards the small town. On my way I encountered a night market with the women of the area selling their handicrafts. Although I didn’t speak the language, all the women I met were so friendly and with sign language we were able to communicate. I bought a few items but still wanted to enjoy the evening. I walked and walked and found myself in the center of town and now wanted to have a nice dinner. Looking at various restaurants (they all had pictures of the food selections) I chose a nice place to eat the local cuisine. It was wonderful! Again all the people I encountered were patient and very friendly and after dinner I walked back to my guesthouse with such a feeling of accomplishment. I didn’t let fear grab me and take me hostage.
After this I felt my power. Never again would I allow an abstract feeling to paralyze me and from that moment on was able to enjoy being with myself to explore. Traveling throughout the region I became more and more confident. I know this experience had changed my life.
The furthest placee I’ve been on my own would have to be Bhutan. In this lovely country I spent 3 weeks hiking and discovering the wonderful culture and along the way made lifelong friends.
The experience has taught me allot about myself and how to feel safe in my own skin.
Of course I’m careful and don’t take unnecessary chances however following my inner guide I’ve always been safe.
I do enjoy traveling with friends and family however the unique experiences I gained by traveling alone has been invaluable—expanding my limits and embracing all there is.
I would recommended this to everyone. Now you don’t have to go as far as I did but anytime you travel alone it teaches you so much about yourself. What better way to get to know our true best friend!