“When was the last time you did something for the first time?” I remember constantly asking this question to myself about a year ago. To travel alone has always been a dream of mine, but I have always been scared. And that question motivated me to finally make things happen, despite how intimated I was by the thought of it.
With zero sleep, anxiety in my head, and a little courage in my heart, I headed to the airport at half past six in the morning of June 16, 2015, to catch the earliest flight to the rebuilding city of Christchurch. And that was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. A decision that still defines who I am today. Here are my five reasons why you MUST also experience traveling alone, at least once in your life:
No friends to rush. No family members to wait. No feelings to consider aside from yours. You are free to do whatever you want, whenever you want to. You can stay at a coffee shop for three hours. You can walk for kilometers as your feet can afford. You can spend your whole entire day trying out different cuisines. Perhaps, you can ditch your planned itinerary and make a detour. You will taste freedom like never before, but you will also taste homesickness. You will miss the company of your friends and family. And that’s okay, because you’re also free to miss home.
Increasing crime rates, terrorist attacks, and missing planes. We’re bombarded by news like these every single day. And I wouldn’t blame you if you’re afraid to trust someone in a foreign place. But if there’s one thing my first solo trip taught me that is: people are naturally kind. You will encounter a driver who will stop for you the moment he sees you running after the bus. You will talk with locals in a cafe and they will let you know the specialty of the day.
You will meet a friendly vendor who will offer you a free taste of his products, but never pressure you to buy. You will converse with an old folk about history and he will wish you good luck for your future endeavours. And you don’t have to worry who will take your photos, because you will meet someone who’s willing to take it for you. Even though this isn’t always the case, it’s still important to believe that kindness is everywhere. It’s in every corner. Sometimes, all you need is to approach it with equal kindness.
Being alone helps you embrace and connect more with the culture and stories around you. When I visited Christchurch City last year, the effect of the 2011 earthquake is still clearly seen. Constructions here and there, damaged premises, and abandoned streets. And there I realised, the world doesn’t revolve around me. And this life isn’t all about me. Traveling alone has a way of humbling us. Every place and every person we encounter has a story to tell. And more often than not, their stories are bigger than ours.
No parents to depend on. This time, it’s just you and the world. Finally, you have the chance to get to know yourself better. And yes in your alone time, you will discover so many things about yourself. Things that you didn’t know you’re capable of. You will realise that you can actually face your fear of public speaking, and how much you love the idea of going out of your comfort zone and that you’re actually not that bad. That you are more. More than your fears, doubts and your personal struggles. You will gain a sense of confidence that can make you believe that you can do all things.
And now it’s time to go home, you will pack your bag and head to the airport, but you are no longer the person you were the day before you caught that morning flight to your first ever solo trip. You are kinder, more grounded, much more confident, and you finally have a new appreciation of home. At the window seat, you will recall the things that happened in the past few days of being alone in a foreign place. And there, you will realise that you didn’t only see places, you have also witnessed yourself grow.