Both. Last week I had a spontaneous urge to get out and realign with myself. There are many things going on in my life right now. Mostly wonderful things like completing my studies, finding a job, planning my moving back to Europe (jup, I’m come back folks – stay tuned!). But all of these major changes are also exhausting and overwhelming. I am always striving to put myself in new circumstances and explore new sensations, but really adaption and transformation is never easy and you have to take good care of yourself not to get carried away.
So there I am sitting in my room on a Tuesday night reflecting on how crazy all of this is and trying to figure out what would really serve me well right in this moment. It became evident that trying to find distraction and comfort provided by some other person wouldn’t do the magic. I had to dig deeper, search for inner truth and calm. What I needed was some sun and beach. And if no-one wanted to come – whatever. And if the timing was not great because I still have to hand in a gazillion papers within the next four weeks – whatever. Working in a hotel in the evenings while spending the days at the beach sounds like a fair deal to me. I’m a student so thrifty traveling is my way to go. Since everything was very last minute staying in China was the cheapest option to get some time away on a tropical island – which is what I booked and flew out a mere week later, with only summer cloths, books and my yoga mat.
I’ve been on Hainan in South China now since Friday, on my first real solo trip ever (all alone, not visiting anyone). And yeah I have a lot of time on my hands so I thought I’d make use of it to reflect and blog about my solo travel experience quite frankly since I know many of you have been playing with the thought of daring to go on a solo trip. Maybe you will benefit from my experience.
Even though I have only been here for a rather short time, I have to say that it has been a really interesting experience already. It’s nothing like going on a trip with your partner, friends or family. You have only yourself to rely on. Would I ever have pictured myself solo traveling on a tropical island in South China where nobody speaks a word of English and I have to put my poor Mandarin skills to work? Hell no! I didn’t even know I was ever gonna move to China… But here I am. And I’m not only coping. I’m managing. Successfully.
So my first take away is: Solo traveling will teach you that you can do stuff on your own.
Solo traveling also teaches you how to be sufficient for yourself. I have for the longest time tried to be my own best friend. Do you know that feeling that whenever you spend a lot of time with another person at one point, no matter how much you love them, you get really fed up with them? Let’s be honest: This can happen with anyone. So if you are only with yourself, OF COURSE you will get fed up with yourself. Because you are not used to listening to yourself, and, more importantly, to be compassionate with yourself. Solo traveling is a damn good way to practice both. You decide what your day looks like, you have to plan the trips that you want to make, you decide what’s for dinner and when you feel like going to sleep. There’s no all-around-the-clock entertainment that will help you ignore your deepest thoughts – or fears. Solo traveling is work, it’s more than exploring a place, it’s exploring yourself, getting comfortable with yourself.
I am surprised how well I’ve been handling the being alone so far, how much I have enjoyed very deep self-reflections that I didn’t have the time for in my everyday life recently – and I am almost certain that at some point in these 10 days it’s gonna become tough. Of course it’s wonderful not to be alone all the time, but what a great experience it is to experience solitude and sit with it. Take it in and cut yourself some slack. Right before I left Shanghai I stumbled over Eat Pray Love in a bookstore, remembered that I had seen the movie ages ago and had a vague feeling that it would be a good idea to bring the book with me to Hainan – what a treat to have Liz Gilbert as a companion on this personal journey… Try it sometime.
I think I am starting to understand that both solo traveling but also solo living in the wider scope is not what I want to be a constant in my life. I like to have company and to share experiences. But most importantly I have learned that I want to invite other people into my life for the right reasons. Not because I depend on them. That would not be fair to them and not helpful or healthy for either of us. I think solo traveling is teaching me some important and healthy lessons right now. I love being with myself and I am my best friend – even if I find things annoying about me like I would with any other friend. It’s ok – I’m probably my only friend who I can actually change to the better. I’m growing and becoming the person I want to be, day by day. And in-between I know that I deserve a day at the beach, where I am asking myself “What time is it by the way?”, and I respond “Who cares?”.
I would love to hear about your solo traveling experiences and fears, please share them in the comment section 🙂