Every time I come back from a long trip (okay, I’ve only done two in my life, but STILL), I’ve found solo traveling to be a great time for reflection and realizations. Each trip has had its own themes. My first trip to Southeast Asia was all about learning how to live in the moment, accept the present, and have faith that I can make things work (my motto from that trip became: “F*CK IT! Who cares!”).
South America was a very different trip for me, however. Just a year after my last trip to Southeast Asia, I found this trip to be all about becoming a more resilient person. I also learned how to be successful with whatever challenge or hardship that came my way. Traveling’s also great for gaining a better perspective on your own life at home.
Despite all the great, life-changing, and downright AMAZING times that I had during my travels throughout Peru and Bolivia, my trip to South America wasn’t easy at first. NEVER assume that you will have fun. Traveling can be hard at times. It can get lonely, it can be overwhelming, it can be dangerous – just like anything else you experience in your own life back home. Traveling, however, at best, is all about gaining a better perspective and understanding, and being grounded – in all senses of those words.
1. Being Okay With Loneliness / Aloneness – And Making The Best Out Of It
I LOVED traveling solo throughout Southeast Asia last year because I met lots of great people (locals and tourists alike) and enjoyed getting lost in the crowd sometimes. During my trip through Peru and Bolivia during the low season however, I found solo traveling to sometimes feel a bit lonely – even though I did meet some great people during my two months out there.
After a couple of weeks however, I learned to let go of my insecurities about feeling like a reject solo traveler and focused on what I did enjoy in EVERY moment and creating my own “fun”. And then my trip became pretty amazing – on many levels.
I wasn’t the only one that noticed that it was hard to meet people from time to time. I met a woman from Israel, who also mentioned how hard it was for her to find other people to travel with. During her other trips, she made lots of friends who sometimes partnered with her as she went to other countries and cities. Sometimes it just be like that!
Besides, once in a while I would also see travelers arguing with their friends in public. In fact, everyone I know that has traveled with friends has fought (sometimes A LOT) during their extended trips. That’s definitely one problem that I didn’t have as a solo traveler, thank gawd! No one was slowing me down at any time.
2. When Something Doesn’t Work Out, Don’t Get Discouraged — Keep Trying, Even When Your Confidence Shakes
Despite one not-so-awesome experience trying to get to know other travelers (in Puno), I learned that – despite one (or two) bad experiences – I shouldn’t get discouraged and give up. I eventually made a lot of friends along the way (mostly other solo travelers, but also some groups of friends – MANY from South America!) and have a bunch of folks that I still keep in contact with today (mostly through Facebook :)!
3. You Create Your Own Happiness Wherever You Go / Home is Something That You Make
It’s ALL about perspective. I learned to make a lot out of nothing during my travels. I didn’t enjoy the food? Well shit, I need to just appreciate that I even HAVE food (that was healthy) – and the ability to travel abroad! What a freaking PRIVILEGE. I got sick during my stay in cold-ass La Paz? Well, it could be a lot worse. It’s not like I have to be anywhere tomorrow! I should enjoy the fact that I get to sleep and rest all day without worrying about what I have to do next. I miss my friends at home? Well I’ll find a time to gchat my friends at home. There’s always another option. Why not choose the more positive and fun one?
From time to time I’d miss the conforts of home – the friends I could depend on, the guaranteed hot showers, the familiarity of my city’s streets. Over time however, I learned to create that sense of home in every city I visited. I made friends with the shop owners and the locals by frequenting certain places. I befriended some of the taxi drivers. I connected with friends of friends living in Bolivia, and spent lots of time with them. After spending more than a week in Cochabamba, I felt a HUGE sense of community and connection with all the folks I met out there (I still talk to some of them over email or chat today!)
No matter where you go, have the confidence that you can create a sense of community and home wherever you go. You just have to find it. Or make it happen.
4. Confidence And Energy Are Everything
I forget this from time to time, but it’s true – the energy you project to the world often dictates how others view and treat you. If you’re confident, at peace with yourself, and open to the world, others will oftentimes (but not always) respond well to you too.
I try to remind myself to have a can-do attitude – even in the face of hardship or adversity – so that I can make the best out of any situation that comes my way.
5. Impermanence / Life Is Short
I definitely came across this harsh realization when I was backpacking with my friends to Machu Picchu, and found out that another tourist had fallen off the path and down the mountain. Life is really short…which means that there’s no use in fighting about all the petty shit. Are people going to die or get hurt if something happens? NO? Then it’s really not that big of a deal.
Another thing: it’s a given that nothing lasts forever, but sometimes I forget that. Sometimes I think that if I’m having a bad time, those feelings are going to last throughout my trip. They rarely/never ever do. As with everything, things are constantly changing. One moment I may be having a bad time, the next moment I may be loving life. The reverse is also true – If I’m having the most amazing experience during my travels, those things too shall pass. The only thing you can do is have gratitude for your experiences and appreciate every moment. Even our worst moments are our teachers.
6. Traveling = Gaining A Better Perspective On Life
Besides learning a lot by meeting other people and experiencing what life is like in another country/continent, solo-traveling afforded me a lot (A LOT) of time to think deeply about some of the stuff that has been going on in my life. Since I was far away from home (and the situations that were deeply affecting me), I gained a much clearer understanding of everything – and WHY those things have been happening. I appreciated every moment of reflection time. It was such an amazing and profound experience. Sometimes you gotta name the problem and really understand it, before you’re fully able to let it go.
7. Take Everything In As A Learning Experience / Fall In Love With The Journey
Enough said. (See all of the above). Every moment, good or bad, is an adventure. Is something exciting. Is a new puzzle to solve.