“To travel is worth any cost or sacrifice.” Elizabeth Gilbert’s words echoed in my mind during the late nights at the office or when I held off on buying the newest beauty product and indulging in the latest trends. “My trip is worth this,” I’d tell myself, “Elizabeth Gilbert said so.”
I had been holding her words close to my heart for months, after I booked a solo trip to Asia to relax and reconnect with myself after a challenging year. In her memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert left her New York life behind and set forth on year-long trip around the world, hitting Italy, India and Indonesia. I didn’t have a year—I had four weeks—but I was ready for my own journey; Eat, Pray, Love-lite I like to call it.
When I told people I was heading to Asia on my own I was met with mixed responses, but the most common response I got was “Wow, you’re so brave!” I’ve never really thought that about myself—I’m not brave, I’m the one who holds the bags while my family goes on the scary roller coasters—and yet I heard it over and over again. When my chin quivered as I was facetiming my parents to say goodbye, I definitely didn’t feel brave. But as my trip progressed, I realized that I was, in fact, pretty freaking brave. Six new countries, one moderately sized suitcase, and limited wifi connection…I like to think that even the most daring roller coaster junkie would have a few worries taking that on.
Travelling alone does take bravery, but I think it’s one of the most rewarding things you can do. Experiencing new places and cultures broadens your understanding of your world, and doing it on your own will push you and stretch you and help you grow. In those four weeks, I learned so much about myself and about the world. Here are the top three things I learned while travelling alone.
Keep your head high and smile. That’s all you need to do to make friends. Often we bury our faces into our phones to avoid any sort of social interaction, and it gets to the point where we forget the friend-making basics we learned in elementary school. Before I left I was worried that I’d go days without talking to anyone, and feared the awkwardness of sitting alone at a restaurant. All it takes is an open mind and a friendly face, and you will meet and connect with people. Sometimes limited wifi is a good thing.
The world is (mostly) good. I got stuck in an airport for nine hours. My stomach was questionable for a few days. Things can go wrong. But oh my god there is so much out there to see. We live in one of the best countries in the world (I may be biased.), but there’s endless wonder and beauty beyond our borders. Food, culture, fashion, nature, you need to experience it. Trust your instinct and trust that the world is good and you will be just fine.
Just go with it. When those things do go wrong, you have to just go with it. When travelling with another person, it’s easy to place blame. “If Jenna didn’t spend 45 minutes getting ready, we wouldn’t have missed our train,” or “The restaurant Amanda picked gave me food poisoning.” But when you’re on your own, you have to own it. If there are any positives in your current situation, try and focus on those. That delay that had me sitting in the airport in Bali for nine hours meant that I got to spend the night in Singapore (and add one more stamp to my passport). If all you can think about are the things that went wrong, you miss out on all the things that are going right.
So be brave and get in your car, or on a plane, or maybe even a train and make your mark on the world, and let the world make its mark on you. I promise it’ll be worth it.