Traveling alone, conquering my fears, writing my own history
“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spend working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” –Jack Kerouac
I went on my first solo trip right before I turned 17 when I went alone to Ithaca, New York, for summer school. I remember feeling scared, nervous and lost in central New York City, asking every friendly looking passer-by where could I find my bus. I remember the fear that had drowned me, draining all my energy.
Luckily, I survived that trip, and my parents since have been willing to let me go far places alone. After graduating high school, I planned a gap semester to go on a solo trip to France.
The first half of my trip I spent most of my time with my friends and teammates from the work camp. One night, I left my friends and took a train to Lyon.
When I got out of the train station, I bumped into some homeless people stopping everyone on their ways. I was scared and kept walking fast until I found my metro. But I didn’t know which train to take, and without internet to assist me, I was standing still and feeling completely hopeless just like in New York. Except, this time, a girl came up to me to ask if I needed help. She was a college student in Lyon and spoke better English than others in France. I showed her my hotel on the map I screenshot, and thank god she knew which station I had to go to.
When I came out of the metro station I had to find my own way once again. It was another one of those rare moments in my life where I felt completely out of my comfort zone and did not know what to do. But I got help from another friendly person, this time a janitor who pointed me in the right way. I made it to my hotel successfully and the rest of my trip in Lyon was pleasant.
The highlight of my solo travel in France was backpacking the French Alps. I remember being too hyped to fall asleep the night before. When the time finally came, it was a dream come true. I hiked alone, following other hikers. That night, I bought simple salads and fruits for dinner and ate sitting outside, alone, watching the peaks of the Alps, enjoying my meal and enjoying my life. I felt like a happy little child, finally finding the shelter of her soul. It is the best memory of my life.
My second day of my hiking was tough and lengthy and not as pleasant as the night before. For supplies I only had two bottles of water, two bagels and a box of raspberries in my backpack. Again, I followed the major route and trying to look like I was not alone by walking with other travelers. Despite feeling anxious, the breathtaking view along the trail cleared my mind and body. Although I was out of my comfort zone, conquering my acrophobia (I had it for several years) and all the fear that came with being alone, I was purely happy and energized by Mother Nature.
On the route to the top, I lost my way for a while and couldn’t find the other hikers. I was climbing the hard rocks with my hands and feet, feeling scared and helpless. But my mind pushed me through the hardest part. My mind took control of my body and that’s when I learned to confront my fear, to embrace my own incapability. Because it’s ok to fear. It’s a human instinct for survival, and it’s also out of respect for nature. The hike to the summit was my journey deep down to my soul. I was alone but not isolated. As I walked with my fear, my spiritual strength, I found a new way to get along with all my emotions.
That’s the biggest gift of traveling alone – becoming at peace with yourself. Your biggest enemy is yourself. Your biggest comrade is also yourself. It’s your challenge to find a balance between your strength and fear. Keep climbing, because every step you take, you are writing your own story.
“Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.” –Jack Kerouac