Solo travelers have been described as fun and adventurous, bold and courageous. And we do, in fact, possess these qualities; however, solo travelers are also human. And for me, I know that being scared is what fuels my fearlessness and bravery. Solo travel shakes me upside down like a piggy bank, surfacing everything I am inside — especially the repressed and hidden struggles and thoughts I have in my daily life.
When I solo travel, it’s not very “vacation”-esque or relaxing. I seek connection to other people and the cities I visit. I explore myself in respect to these cultures and their histories. It teaches me new things about relationships and human connection. It opens me up, and sometimes that means it breaks me down. It forces me to rely on myself and trust myself, and this means facing all of my flaws with compassion. It also means taking a more selfish approach to how I live my life and following what I believe to be right for me.
I’ve kayaked the Algarve with new friends, explored the bamboo forest in Arashiyama, climbed a glacier in Iceland and have biked to a mountaintop of lavender fields in Hvar. But even while having these amazing experiences, there’s the overwhelming burden of not being able to wholly disconnect from my “real life.”
Because of the distance, new experiences, and new perspectives, my life back at home is never the same when I return. Because I’m never the same when I return.
I leave every trip I’ve taken changed, and each particular trip has its own unique difficulties and fears associated with it. And I’m scared.
I am afraid that by seeking travel and extreme experiences, I will never be happy with a routine life back home. I am afraid of finding comfort in being a nomad. I am afraid that I am running away from something by running toward nowhere in particular. But even so, I find myself fearing my capability of being tied down and growing complacent.
I’m scared because I didn’t know when I tried to solo travel I’d end up wanting to never live a life without it. I fear I’m not cut out for the traditional life my bicultural roots expect of me. I’m scared that by declaring that and choosing something unconventional it means I’m de-prioritizing my family and choosing less time with my aging parents and with my growing nephews.
I’m scared my life of travel means I’m only destined for transient relationships, even though I know I’ve built lifelong ones. I’m afraid with every trip I take I’ll grow further and further apart from those I hold dear to my heart, and I worry that choosing a life of solo travel makes me selfish.
I’m scared because making one choice means saying no to the alternative, and I wonder if either choice will ever be enough for me. I’m scared of not knowing when the right timing is, and I’m scared it’ll never come. And most of all, I’m scared of denying myself the best life for me because I’m so paralyzed by my fear.
Solo travel has become my vessel for exploration and seeking. It’s what gets me out of a predictable routine in my home life and gives me perspective on what’s important, what actually makes me happy and the changes I should make if I’m not.
But yes, I’m absolutely always scared when I solo travel. And with anything in life, fear can be the underlying catalyst for tapping into something great. And I know that solo travel wouldn’t mean as much to me as it does, or provide for me the great experience it does, if I weren’t fearful. It’s because I’m scared that I know I’m living — and by embracing this fear, I’m on the right path for me and on the path of figuring out how I want to live my life.
This story first appeared on The Huffington Post and is republished here with permission.