I both revel and despair in this chosen solitude. Where I am the only voice in these hallways of my mind. Where, as a solo traveler, I do not have the constant companion of distraction. I cannot call up my friends when I am feeling alone. I am unable to hid in the burrow I call my bed in the cave I call my apartment when life feels overwhelming. As a matter of fact, I actually don’t have either of those at the moment. My home is the pack on my back and like a turtle I carry it where ever I go. Unlike a turtle I cannot hide in my home waiting for danger to pass.
Some times it can be hard to live the life of a solo female traveler, other times there is literally nothing better. On good days, and many days are good days, you wake up with a bright smile on your face. You lay in the bed that may or may not be comfortable listening to the quiet or not so quite breathing of the 3-10 other people sharing the room with you and you are happy. You lay on your back and wonder what you will do in the upcoming day.
Some days are busy and stressful. Some days you need to some how fit the 500 shawls you seemed to have collected overnight into your 46 liter bag before catching 4 buses, 2 trains, and walking 45 minutes in the sweltering heat. Some days you slam your computer shut frustrated with this whole “needing to plan” bullshit. (To those of you who are wondering what the joy of solitude has anything to do with the developing knots the size of baseballs in your back do not fear, I’m about to tell you.)
Walking in 100 degree heat while wearing two 20 pounds bags is not most people’s idea of a fun pastime. But now imagine you are walking in 100 degree heat while wearing two 20 pound bags AND listening to A complain loudly about their sweat, B declaring for the 5th time in the last 2 hours they have to pee, and C demanding we stop for the third time to make sure we’re not lost. Walking with all your bags in the heat is pretty miserable, but at least you’re miserable on your own terms. You could call a taxi, just like you could have chosen to visit some where that wasn’t in the middle of a heat wave, but you didn’t want to. You didn’t want to pay the extra money for a taxi (a girl somehow has to have money for her all shawls after all), you didn’t want to go somewhere in the cold. As a solo traveler you have complete control over your life and the choices you make. This also means you are the only one you can blame when things go wrong.
When the hostel sucks, your fault. When the city isn’t that great or your stomach isn’t feeling that well after last nights questionable dinner, that’s on you. You are the only person you cannot run away from. Be that in the quiet comfort of an arranged house or with your home on your back. This persom will come with you no matter what path you take, and if you are truly trying to learn who occupies this body you must learn to accept all aspects that create you.
At times when I pull back the veil of my mind and peer into the dark and dusty corners of my soul I want nothing more than to flee. Learning how to love myself feels impossible when I acknowledge my own inadequacies. How do I learn to love myself when there is no one around to show me I’m worth it? Facing the truth of who I am has brought me to my knees, but coming out the other side in the clarity that solo travel provides paints everything in vivid colors. I am peeling back the veil of my mind. I am looking into the dark, dusty corners of my soul. I am learning to accept the bad with the good. What a gift it is to learn how to accept one’s self; to find the joy in solitude.