The Art of Travelling (and Simply Being) Alone
One of my favourite people in the world and amazing friend from Barbados, Mikaela, is currently on a solo trip in Europe. This is for her.
Earlier this year, I mentioned to my friend Mikaela that I was interested in travelling to Spain and Portugal this summer. It was something we were both enthusiastic about (~PLUS~ I just really wanted to reenact 'Strut' from Cheetah Girls 2 in Park Güell).
Unfortunately, sometimes shit happens and doesn't work out. While Mikaela was available in May, summer school did a grip me. No matter how hard we tried, schedules and priorities couldn't align and suddenly the idea of a Euro-trip with a friend was gone a river bed #RIP.
When I heard that Mikaela was going to Europe anyways, I thought "no man...what a rass snake!!". Was she going with another friend? Would I (highkey) be salty the whole time she was living out the fantasy I wanted? Yes- but that's not the point. I was purely jealous. Her IG feed was going to be fire.
But that's when she bursted my dramatic ass bubble...she was doing a solo trip. A trip. By herself. In a different continent. By herself.
I wondered how the hell could someone even do that? Yeah, I've always wanted to 'Eat Pray Love' and channel my inner Julia Roberts, but maybe in like...5 years? Ya know, when I'd be older and more mature and ~responsible~. Not gonna lie, I'll call myself out on being a generally dependent person but I just knew I couldn't possibly be in the mindset to travel by myself.
For someone who can't even travel down the road to Starbucks by myself, my respect for my friend grew enormously.
It takes so much dedication, time, energy, commitment and bravery to do a solo trip. Especially as a woman, especially in this political climate, especially in this culture of never being alone.
It seems impossible to travel alone as a woman nowadays. I get terrified to walk home alone in the dark. How could I possibly travel miles alone? Yeah, I suppose one may argue that 'things are better than they were before', but that doesn't mean things aren't still ~bad~. Harassment, sexism and safety concerns are universal issues.
Mikaela told me about how an American tourist cat-called her in the streets while in Valencia. Although she said it happens everywhere this instance stuck out to me. Imagine. This is another tourist in a foreign environment yet he feels such power that he is able publicly harass somebody. That isn't something that anyone wants to experience at all- but especially when alone. It's scary to feel vulnerable in a society that tends to take advantage of that.
Additionally, every week it seems as if a brand new news title of a global threat or incident appears. The world is a messed up place and often travelling is a means of trying to escape those realities we face daily. In a world where it feels as if your life depends on being in the right place at the right time, it's scary to go straight into these areas that you see on the news.
But travelling is about not playing by probability. Anywhere in the world, in this political climate, we could experience these things. It could be right in your back yard or half way across the world. Why are we betting on a chance when the window of an incident may be relatively small?
To top it off, this generation is so anti-social. Not to sound like one of those annoying Baby Boomers who bash Millennials for ruining the economy with avocado toast, but I can testify. Our faces are always in our phones...and if they're not in our phones, we are distracted by something else. We simply can't be alone- hell, I have a fear of it.
When I see someone eating alone, why do I immediately feel sad and assume that they are lonely? Being alone does not necessarily result in loneliness. Mikaela endlessly ranted about not being able to order Paella alone. Or being alone at restaurants. Or not meeting people yet in her hostel. But my gyal said screw that shit. She met up with friends and got Paella. Grabbed a book and glass of wine and enjoyed being alone. Met new friends of a lifetime at her hostels.
Why do we let all of our fears consume us? Not even about travelling, but the smallest of fears. Mikaela and so many other travellers haven't. Anytime I talk to her, all she has to say is how this was the best decision of her life. She is the literal embodiment of living your best damn life. She has done all of this by herself and hasn't regretted it one bit. All of these concerns that trouble us, she experiences them but it doesn't stop her at all.
Travelling and being alone allows you to engage with your environment. It makes you see things like never before. It forces you to meet new people and take in everything around you. It puts you in control of your own decisions and is truly self liberating. There are no set rules or guidelines of how one must travel. The ball's in your court and it's always your play.
It's an experience like no other that I hope one day to have.
Most importantly, however, it allows you to truly learn who you are. Yeah yeah, you can't discover that all in one trip, but it allows you daily to find out new things about yourself that you didn't know before. Something as small as figuring out that you like to operate on schedules or enjoying being alone in the park is what you can discover by simply being alone.
As I talk with Mikaela as I write this, I notice such a positive change. Not to sound cheesy and sentimental af and make everybody cringe, but it makes me so happy and truly inspired to see how excited and passionate she is. Like wtf??...I want and need that in my life! I think everyone needs that shift.
Even though I haven't done one myself, I truly believe that everyone should do a solo trip at least once in their lives and be more like Mikaela.
Follow Mikaela on Instagram and show her some lurvvvvv.