There seems to be a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and which camp I fall into is debateable. I like to think it’s “camp confidence”, but that verdict is dependent on the person doing the judging.
I have this “Julia-rism” that I’ve adopted as a mantra ever since I can remember, that being “Your blood is not blue and nor is mine”. This oddity has become a way of viewing the world, and one of my many world views that allows me the liberty of living in “camp confidence”. This “blue blood” business, I can’t recall the precise moment or time when the idea crystallised, but I must have been admiring someone. A celebrity, neighbour “Jones”, or simply the person whose grass appeared so much greener than my own, when it dawned on me that they are in fact HUMAN. It seems ridiculous to point out the obvious, that these people are human, and yet we need that perspective check. That moment of realisation when we demote them from cult status, stop comparing ourselves to what they do, stop thinking it’s impossible, and realise that we are not that dissimilar. It was in this moment that I realised they were not SuperHUMAN, hence no “blue blood”.
Our DNA was the same, now fast forward ten years. Hi welcome, you’re now in the present with me.
Sometimes I travel solo. Sometimes not. I go to the movies solo. I go to parties solo. I book a restaurant and eat solo. I also have a family and husband, with whom I share all these things too. The majority of the time my preference is to share these life experiences, but and here it comes the big BUT, if circumstances do not allow for others to join me, I do “it” regardless.
Increasingly as more people become aware that I travel solo as a female, the question, “aren’t you scared to go it alone?” is asked. There’s always, a “Yes” followed by a “But” from me. I’ll spare you the he said she said details of those conversations, and in short, the summary always concludes with (said female) replying that they would love to travel, but are too fearful to go it alone.
I find the greatest misconception that people have is to assume by travelling independently you are not afraid. I am. I’m afraid something will go horribly wrong, and I’ll be all on my own. I’m afraid of regret, I’m also afraid that if something goes wrong I’ll live with the burden of regret for having tried. I’m often afraid I’ll die. I’m afraid of the post-travel comedown when I return home. In fact, I’m fearful of the unknown in itself. BUT, in spite of all that, what I am most afraid of more than anything else, is getting to the end of my life with regret. The possibility that I could have a question mark, attached with “what if’s” at the end of my life is more terrifying than any of the my other fleeting fears.
Having just returned less than 24 hours ago from travelling through Amsterdam, Venice and Paris (again), I have this warm, fuzzy, (like drinking the first mouthful of scotch) sensation when I reflect on the people I’ve met in the last week. An eclectic group of people. All genders, ages, nationalities, religions and sexual preferences. Each person with their suitcase full of dreams, headed towards the elusive utopia that we aim to create for ourselves. Each person’s story fascinating and beautiful in its own right. Be it simple, or tragic, uplifting or inspiring, these encounters are the moments I live for.
Heightened by the adrenalin of being far from that which is familiar, connected by shared experiences with those that cross our path whilst travelling, and fuelled by the anticipation which comes with adventures, in this moment I feel more alive than at any other time. To be dependent solely on oneself, stimulated by the beauty of your surrounds, and at the mercy of all those around you, it is the ultimate sensory experience.
I often think of it like this, to “feel” is to live. If you think about it, it is the dead that no longer feel. Have you ever met someone who has been through a tragedy, and during the mourning process confesses that they are “numb”? Not happy or sad, scared or angry, just nothing. Void. Completely numb, and they just wish they could feel anything, something, just not nothing. And so yes, solo travel is lonely at times, and scary at other times, and things do and can go wrong, but in that moment, I am alive. It is life affirming and the ultimate validation that “I live”, because I “feel”. But it’s more than simply feeling, I grow, learn, discover and marvel.
You will never know what you are truly capable of until you step out of your comfort zone. Beyond the comfort zone is where growth begins. Independence, acceptance of cultural difference, empathy, confidence and an appreciation and awareness of the small space that we occupy in the world, and just how much of a blessing it is to actually be alive.
If it is fear that restrains you, crippling you of discovering the world, and limiting your freedom to seize the moment of life that you’re blessed with, then this is a call to action for you. For those such as myself with a nomadic spirit and itchy feet, cast aside your fear, arrest your excuses and resurrect the dreams you’ve given up on. Make tomorrow your “Today”, because “tomorrow” never comes.