Travel alone? I will feel very lonely.
Perhaps, this is the scariest thought that comes into mind when we ponder the idea of traveling alone. But traveling alone can be an antidote to loneliness. Sounds contradictory? Let me explain.
A person feels lonely not because of lack of company but because of a lack of deep and meaningful relationship. Often times, the most popular and outgoing person is also the loneliest one. Because of the pressure to conform with the social norms, because of the insatiable need to create and maintain relationships, we cannot truly be ourselves.
This is why we often feel suffocated, feel lonely in a crowd. We often forget that the most important relationship we have is with our own selves, a relationship that is often neglected. But to establish a relationship with ourselves, we first need to know ourselves.
We create a fantastic opportunity for that when we travel alone. The absence of travel buddies drastically reduces the obligation to cater to their wishes and preferences above our own. It gives us all the time to do what our souls feel like doing.
Be it looking at the clouds for hours, be it spending a whole day in the museum, be it doing a childish thing, we have all the time and freedom to do it. And in this process we get to know what awesome personalities we are. We finally get a chance to hang out with ourselves, to get to know ourselves, to become friends with ourselves. We learn to take good care of ourselves, learn to accept and love ourselves the way we are. We establish such deep connections with ourselves that we feel thrilled to be alone, not lonely.
The bucket list mania
Life is not a list that we can tick off goals after goals in order to live it satisfactorily. It is an adventure where things happen out of nowhere. It is the randomness of life that makes it so beautiful and interesting. But we are so obsessed with setting goals that our holiday plans look like assignments. Sure we feel the pressure to set goals to get things done.
But sometimes, we need to do things without plans. When we set travel goals we are too busy reaching those goals to be open for adventure. At the best, we only get to achieve those goals, which are most often based on what is popular, rather than what is truly unique and enriching. But when we plan to be flexible, wonderful things happen to us. Things that we cannot even dream of, things that challenge us, things that are set to change our lives in a profound way.
A bucket list is a recipe for filling up our lives with emptiness. Let’s not be like stones and show off our hardness and gravity, let’s be like water, let’s flow and dance.
‘A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.’~Lao Tzu
I was always afraid to travel alone. Whenever I wanted to visit a faraway place, I pleaded somebody to come along. If I could not find somebody to accompany me, I just abandoned the idea.
So in 2013 I challenged myself to go on a solo journey to South America. Here are some interesting events that happened to me during my journey. I think those would not have happened if I was not alone and flexible.
“I am from the other side of the world”
Tired of visiting the crowded tourist attractions in Cuzco, I decided to go on a random walk. A walk to enjoy the magnificent landscape of Andean highlands in solitude. While I was passing by, a group of local farmers invited me to join them as they celebrated the end of a hard day of work. Since I spoke only a little bit of Spanish and they mostly spoke Quechua, our conversation was limited to the very basics.
But that did not prevent us from having fun. We spent some joyful moments together on the field, eating, drinking and laughing, as the sun went down. They were thrilled to meet a person from the other side of the world. I felt lucky to get a glimpse of their simple and unpretentious lifestyle. I never imagined something like that when I started the walk. Full Story in the book…
A boatman under the sky
When I was in the Amazon, I took a boat to explore Lago Sandoval, a humongous lake full of caimans (crocodilians) and piranhas. I was near the middle of the lake when a storm came, all of a sudden, or that is how it appeared to an inexperienced boatman like me. The sun was gone, nobody was around me and my old boat had a hole through which water was leaking in. As I fought against the storm to straighten my boat and reach the shore, I was not sure if I could make it alive or become caiman food for the night. Full Story in the book…
“Never saw in Indian before”
Although I was eligible for it, my visa on arrival was denied when I tried to enter Bolivia from Brazil. So I had to apply for a visa through the Bolivian consulate in Brazil. They told me that the process could take up to ten days. While I was waiting there at the border, in the Amazon part of Brazil, I met Hérica, a high school teacher. Although, we did not have a common language, she was curious about me because she never met an Indian before. When she learned that I was a research scholar she invited me to give an inspirational talk to the students. I managed to give a talk using my broken Spanish which she translated into Portuguese. The students were very impressed by my talk and treated me like a celebrity. It was an unforgettable day in my life. Full Story in the book…
The four months long solo travel in South America changed me in a profound manner. Afterward I went to many other solo trips without thinking twice about them. And I thoroughly enjoyed them. I enjoyed being alone and doing things my own way. To share my South American experience with others I wrote a book titled “The Story of an Indian Backpacker: Solo in South America”. I took such a great pleasure writing it that I decided to continue writing. A whole new window has opened in my life, thanks to the solo travel.
That is alright for you, but what about me?
It is easy for you but what about me? I do not have the money, time or energy to do something like this! Fair enough. But if you think carefully you will realize that it is not the how that is the problem. It is the why. I wrote this blog to inspire you, to tell you why I did it and what I got from it. This is not a “how to” instruction manual. I would say, do not even take this as a guide of any sort.
It is all about your own journey, as you travel alone. Your story will be very different than mine. Yes, you have many problems, many obstacles on your path. But I am sure once you figure out why you should do it, you will also figure out the how!
Thank you very much for reading this blog. If you like it, do not forget to share it.
Do you like to travel alone? Please feel free to share your story in the comment box bellow.