Traveling solo for me is mainly to remove myself from the daily bustle, the noise and the familiar, get clarity and figure stuff out. Traveling solo abroad adds a layer of interesting new challenges, learning to understand new culture, language, new rules and it forces me to get out of my comfort zone, reflect more and by default to grow. Simply because there’s nobody else to rely on. But it also opens the door to meeting new people, spontaneously change plans and create new connections. And I think that’s one of my favorite parts. I believe there’s a very different energy about a person traveling alone and people can feel that. Plus I noticed that we are generally more open to new experiences when traveling solo.
I have traveled to over sixty countries at this point and everywhere I went I made new friends or got connected to my friends’ friends. That made it easier for me and gave me the option to choose when I wanted to have the quiet moments of solitude that I cherish oh-so-much or hang out with my new found friends.
My last trip, however, was different. It was the first time in my life I was in a country where I couldn’t read or speak the language and didn’t know a soul. There were no options. It was new to me and very interesting, to say the least… And it didn’t bother me or hit me really until the last two days of the 12-day trip that while I was enjoying my soulitude adventures and spending a loooot of time in my head, my solitude turned into isolation and I developed a sense of loneliness. Only when I finally decided to have a day of doing nothing and sat down in a bathtub it hit me like a ton of bricks. Never in my life have I felt this before traveling abroad! I barely spoke to people, besides the three basic lines of excuse me, thank you and where is…? and the occasional text with friends back home, which in no way replaced the fact that I was in a very foreign and very new (to me) country. My physical exhaustion amplified the feelings and I spent the last couple of days even more in my head, eating cake and drinking sake in my hotel bed. Occasionally crying.
As anything in life that’s taken to an extreme (like for instance never being alone or being alone too much), it can be unhealthy and even damaging. And I felt like I was reaching that limit. I missed everyone I loved and realized I have never during my travels spent this much time with this little social interaction. So I started writing myself notes to not forget how that felt, but also to get out of my head. It helped. And while eating yet another piece of cake, I remembered that one of our basic human needs for survival is connection. Just as much as we need solitude to process and unravel who we are, I mean our unconscious requires solitude to process and unravel problems so much so that our body imposes it upon us each night in the form of sleep… we need connection and sense of belonging to be healthy, happy and to strive. And, well, also to apply all that we figured out in that time of solitude. Exhausted I smiled and was like, okay, lesson learned. It really is all about the balance.