A golden early morning sun was just sneaking up to paint the sky copper over Charles de Gaulle Airport as I boarded my 6:30 a.m. departure flight. Running on (at best) two hours of sleep and an airport Donut snack, I kept thinking to myself, “Wow, I did it” — and I didn’t just mean getting through an absurdly crowded TSA PreCheck and to my gate on time. I had finally conquered Paris city on my own.
Perhaps “conquer” is gratuitous, but for someone who used to be paralyzed by the thought of traveling alone, the idea that I could go it alone on a cross-country flight for fifteen full days of solo exploration in foreign territory basically felt like summiting Kilimanjaro.
But frankly its not that simple. I would admit that every time I go on a solo trip I get nervous and I don’t just mean excited-nervous; I mean almost-having-anxiety-attacks nervous. And I don’t just mean before big trips; I mean before just about every single trip I take. As much as I have learnt a lot from my solo trips I also realized that every time I ventured on one it was about starting all over again as they lead to new lessons from not so expected incidents that blew me off guard on my travels. Boarding denial in Amsterdam with less than 24 hours Visa, Getting stuck in bad traffic jam at 0600 in the morning in Athens and a bad run for almost closed boarding gate, Receiving my Schengen visa stamped on my passport just 4 hours before my flight departed for Rome, Missing the last ferry to crossover the Bosphorus in Istanbul from Asian side to European side; I have experienced many panic attacks but it has never reduced my appetite to go there and explore more.
As I prepare for my solo expedition to see Northern Lights in less than two weeks, I am nervous. Every night I slide my feet between my duvet and my sheets, thinking this could be the last time I do this. I am convinced that I will end up with some mess up on the plane as usual and if somehow I will manage to reach my destination (which I always do) I will be stranded on the road at least once during my trip. This fear goes deeper as I will be taking a good number of cross country flights between Scandinavian Countries.
You must be thinking then why do I still go. Now thats the Kick!
Traveling on such trips has put me in multiple complicated situations but these are the reasons I still plan the next one
Traveling Solo has changed my Life
I was always happy with once a year family vacation where everything will be planned, we followed a touristy itinerary and came back with hell loads of photos with famous monuments and a bag full of souvenirs which always occupied more space in the store room. My first solo trip actually taught me that traveling was more than seeing the famous monuments, it was discovering myself and understanding life deeper. It gave me freedom to go and see places that I liked rather than piling on someones plan to just spend my annual vacation. I swam with turtles in the sea, Hiked up Caldera in Greece at 0400 am, meditated in the forest in Indonesia surrounded with natural springs, Cycled around Eastern Europe along the river Danube, Climbed up the pyramids of Giza, Had lunch with chameleons running over my feet in Africa, danced with local folk dancers in the golden dunes of Jaiselmer. I learnt that I have the freedom to go and see it all, well there has been no looking back since then. 35 plus countries and I still have a long bucket list of the adventures around the world and soon I take off to see Aurora Borealis
Solo travel helped me find the core of me
Part of my healing process in life juggling various setbacks has come from traveling. I took a girls trip to Bali to get in touch with my spiritual side. I went deeper into my yoga practice and started to meditate. This made me search for nature wonders that became integral part of my life. Watching Surise-Sunsets over the sea, hills, dunes, historical monuments; walking in dense green jungles, passing through rain forests; walking barefoot on the beach have been few activities that my heart yearns for. I discovered that nature is my biggest go to place. Being closer to nature is always one of the biggest purpose on my travels. traveling is like discovering a deep well, no one knows whats at the bottom; you can only imagine by what comes on the surface once in a while.
Solo Travel healed me
A very special moment for me was waking up in a tent near Arabian Sea on the beach somewhere in Oman I could hear the ocean, smell the sea, a fireball coming up from the Ocean turning the sky copper, I could feel the sweat beading on my skin as I shed a few tears coz’ I was awestruck by how beautiful the world is! My heart hurts much lesser than it used to hurt before and I felt freer that ever before. I started to feel grateful for every thing I had been through.
Solo travel is not Scary
Even though I have butterflies in my stomach before I take off to my next expedition to Iceland and it still leaves me anxious but let me tell you it is not at all scary. The thought of staying with the locals (I couch-surf in some locations and also use AirBNB). Walking on the Charles bridge with Dave, my host, who took me around Prague and not only showed me some hidden lanes but also shared many unknown stories about Graffiti on the streets and how he has seen Prague changing over years. These stories and authentic tours with locals get etched on my memory forever and make me forget every single incident that caught me off guard because in the end we remember reaching the peak of our being than remembering all the hardships. Travel has shown me that the the world is beautiful and awe inspiring, and that while at times the big picture can look scary and heart-breaking, there is no better way to restore my faith in the world than witnessing how endlessly diverse yet equally beautiful it is.
While I would continue to fight with my anxiety over next two weeks the pictures from my past trips are my source of confidence and clarity
When are you taking your first solo trip?