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On December 26th this past year I said goodbye to my good friend and travel companion and set out to see the world alone. The choice was an easy one for me, either go home or continue traveling solo.

There’s no way in hell I was ready to go home. 

I am not a stranger to solitude. I’ve always felt the most at peace with a warm cup of coffee, a book, and silence. The next three months of backpacking from city to city seemed not much more daunting than all of the other times I needed a long break from small talk and forced smiles. 

However, the more I talked about my time abroad, the more my departure seemed to disturb not only those who loved me but also those I had just met. Every time someone questioned my motives, or drilled me on staying safe I thought of other young adventures, who to be honest had much more daring stories than mine. Nothing seems more cliche than an American college student backpacking through Europe, it’s not like I planned on climbing Everest without a Sherpa, guide, or friend. 

My whole life I’ve heard courageous stories of young men venturing out to see the world. I barely even noticed the fact that they often embarked on their travels alone, it just seemed like a natural part of their process. I would watch Into the Wild and dream of the day when I too could live, even for a small amount of time, with only myself to rely on. 

Now it seems every time I check into a hostel they have to ask multiple times if I’m sure I only need one bed. When I ask for a table for one, restaurant employees assume I made a mistake and give me two menus just in case. And perhaps the most interesting (and saddening) responses are from the other lone male travelers who cant seem to wrap their head around the fact that I would want to see the world with myself as my companion.

“But you’re beautiful” One man comments as if looks are the only ideal characteristics of a travel partner. It did not even occur to him that I might not want the annoyance of another human impeding my journey. 

The same day another man said, “I don’t understand what you are doing here.” As if backpacking alone is solely a male endeavor. 

When my parents call, they double check to make sure I’m doing everything in my power to stay absolutely safe. They think it’s dangerous for me to be here. I disagree. 

They tell to me to keep it a secret, to pretend my companion is just down the hall. But I’ve lived with this body my whole life I know that the question “are you here alone” is exactly the same as “are you traveling alone.” I hear the words no matter what continent I land in, no matter what street I walk down. 

It’s funny because my “advice” about traveling alone as a woman does not sound all that different from the “advice” I would give for existing. 

I think it’s dangerous for me to be anywhere. Every day whether I am at home or in a new country I carry a vagina, and by its very definition I am not safe. I cannot walk down the street without wondering who might harm me. But I will not lock myself up in hopes I will be shielded. Cages do not equal protection they equal insanity. 

I love this experience because no opinion matters but my own. Because when I wake up in the morning it takes me a second to remember not only what city but also which country I’m in. Because when I need a friend I have to make one. Because in the past month I have seen the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic and Croatia. And because in the next month I will see Bosnia, Serbia, and Morocco. 

I love this type of travel because I can feel life coursing through my veins. It’s a high without drugs, it’s a thrill without stealing, it’s an orgasm without stimulation, it’s learning about yourself without pain. Confidence morphs from a daily choice into necessity. I rely on no one but myself. 

Before I sign off I want to clarify, I do not think travel is necessary for growth. To those who say “the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page,” I scowl and say that privilege is not the only way to mature. My point is that seeing as I do have this opportunity, I would like to enjoy it without so much questioning and interference. Perhaps my next alone adventure will need to be outside of human contact for a real splash of solitude.