Since I was a child, I have been travelling with my parents to many different countries within South America, all pertaining to my ethnicity and the familiarity of cultures. Although I did a fair share of travelling in my earlier years, I can say that I never truly appreciated it…nor did I feel any sort of fulfillment.
Don’t get me wrong—I loved reading on beaches and sipping on unlimited virgin pina coladas every day, but it still felt like something was missing.
One of my earliest childhood memories took place on a family vacation to the Dominican Republic. Although travelling to tropical countries does have its perks, my parents took me into the village of Puerto Plata and for a day, I witnessed a life that I had never known to exist.
Being a 5-year-old, up until that point I did not comprehend what homelessness or poverty was. I could not fathom why people were sitting on the street corners without shirts on or why children were in a school with a missing roof.
That day, I left the village with an empty feeling in my stomach—not only would I never see these people again but, I knew at that point that A) I could not help these people improve their circumstances, and based off of what my parents had told me, B) Nothing would change. I saw similarities between my family and the villagers, not because we were of the same ethnic background or shared similar skin colours, but because we were all human beings.
I did not understand why children there had to miss out on receiving an education in substitute for helping their family make a living, while I whined about not going to school to sleep in.
My need for travel correlates with my desire to push for social change on both a micro and macro level. Yes, I love travelling on its own and I love helping populations who need it most..but even if your reasoning for travelling doesn’t correlate with mine, I still encourage solo travel because it is the BEST thing you will ever do.
Many people glorify solo travelling, when in reality, it is nothing like what it is sought out to be. If you are stuck in the situation where you fall terribly ill…you will have to be the one to drag your own ass to a hospital (with a good chance that they are not fluent in English).
Prepare yourself. If you are stranded in the middle of nowhere, in a town where no one gives a crap to stop and help you with directions…you will have to be the one who saves yourself with a compass and a map at hand.
I am the most horrible person when it comes to directions, so this was a rude awakening!
You will have to face every single fear that you have created in your head throughout your lifetime, and breaking each one of them is it most bittersweet feeling you will ever experience. Although travelling alone is terrifying, it is also so beautiful to learn about many things in which you are capable of. You learn to have great respect for other cultures, learning about their norms and values, perhaps even challenging your own.
You begin to live a life you have never known, and somehow that in its own changes you. I’m not sure if solo travelling has the same experience on every individual out there, but subjectively speaking…it has shown me how brave and resilient I am.
Let me clear this up.
By “dropping your shit” to solo travel, I don’t necessarily mean that you have to quit your job and hop on the next plane to Alaska.
“Dropping your shit” encompasses the fear and anxiety that surrounds the idea of backpacking itself. The fear of loneliness. This was a huge one for me. I’ve always been fine doing things on my own—living alone, going to activities alone; simply enjoying my own company…but once you are on a plane and you are throwing up, fainting in an airport and have no one to take care of you, the ball game changes.
In this moment, I remember how much I had regretted even hopping on a plane alone. What was I thinking?! I’ve been dealing with motion sickness my entire life. There I was, in PEK airport with sweat and vomit all over my shirt, passing out on the bathroom floor, praying the headaches and nauseousness would stop.
Then, of course, nothing lasts forever. I bought a change of clothes and somehow managed to drag my ass on my next flight and slept off the feeling.
As much as I hate to say it, in that moment of vulnerability, even as an adult…I wanted my mom so badly. She tends to always find a way to make me feel better (I would probably never tell her this because she would never let me live it down). When I recovered from it all, I couldn’t help but feel accomplished and proud of myself, and in that moment, I felt unstoppable.
From all of the horrifying events that I have endured, solo travelling has taught me that no one or nothing will ever come in the way of my dreams, by deeming me as incapable.
There is nothing I can’t do.