Monday, January 27, 2014

Be your own travel buddy

I see them in airports all over the world.  They are clearly Americans, these couples: slightly frazzled, wearing the latest in travel fabrics and clutching fleece jackets despite 90 degree temperatures, the man walking a half step ahead of the woman as she anxiously attempts to translate signs in a language she clearly doesn't speak.  They look tense, just one delayed flight away from a meltdown.

I recognize them because that used to be me.  I was married once to someone who did not like to travel.  He would have been happy lying on a beach somewhere, but I dragged him up mountains and into jungles.  He spoke loudly about the drawbacks of third world countries while we were in them.  While I liked to arrive at the gate with plenty of time, he disappeared into the bathroom while the flight was boarding; while I was happy with snacks in the terminal, he insisted on a full meal.  Bars in the airport called his name, while I wanted to find an empty set of chairs and read my book.  Clearly, we were not compatible in travel, or anything else.

Most of the time I travel solo now, but I'm not really alone.  I meet up with a group of people, strangers at first.  We climb a mountain, or hike a trail.  We become friends.  We are traveling together, but also separately.

When I used to travel as part of a couple, there was some security there.  There was another person to talk to, to help figure things out.  But traveling solo has been a gift.  I rely on myself.  I don't get annoyed in long immigration lines anymore, because there is nobody there to complain to.  I'm more relaxed.  I figure things out myself.  I don't have to worry if another person is having a good time or not.  I hike with someone one day and another person the next.  I meet people I would never have met.  People approach me in Latin America and ask rapid questions in Spanish, assuming I'm local.  On layover days in places like Buenos Aires and Kathmandu, I wake up with no plans and decide what I want to do.

So here's what I think.  Don't wait for someone else to be ready.  Don't go with someone to the mountains if he'd rather be on the beach.  By all means, if you have a friend or partner who is just as thrilled about the destination as you are, take them along.  But if you don't, or if it's just not the right time for them, go anyway.

Obviously, be safe.  Do your research.  Hire a guide if you're not sure what you're doing; it provides jobs for the community and you'll learn a lot more.  Don't expect travel to cure your broken heart or to provide all the answers.  But what it will do is show you that the world is a lot bigger than you think, and you are lucky to be able to see it and to be in it.

Just go.

9 comments:

  1. Yay! I'm traveling to Stockholm this fall! I'm meeting a friend there, but I'm going alone! That is HUGE for me! And I'm gonna look around London alone for a few days. Super excited!!!! Love your pic:)

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    1. That sounds so fun! I've never been to Europe!

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  2. hi, new to your blog. Wow!!!! you fly helicopters..wow! :)

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    1. Hi, welcome! Technically I don't fly them, but I help the pilot with the radios and GPS and sizing up fires and choosing landing spots. I have flown some but I'm not very good!

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  3. Love this! Speaks to a lot of us, usually women, who wonder about travelling alone, and perhaps put off adventures we would really like to take! Am forwarding it to Adventures in Good Company, a travel company for women, who often try to answer the questions and quell the fears of women considering solo travel!

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  4. Well said. Many times I've wanted to go skiing or hiking, but can't find a companion. What do I do? I go anyway - by myself. And it's just fine. I also enjoy traveling by myself sometimes. You can do exactly whatever you want to do, and no worries if everyone is having a good time (when you're the mom this responsibility falls on your shoulders!)

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  5. Great post, and I totally agree. One thing I've found when traveling alone is that staying in hostels or mountain huts is a great way to meet people.

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  6. I've traveled by myself before, sometimes for work and sometimes for pleasure, and there is something to be said for it. I love traveling with my boyfriend and our family, but there are things I like to do that they don't, and it doesn't mean I should cut those activities out of my life.

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