Take the Journey
All photo’s taken by Sacha Jean
“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.” Hans Christian Andersen
The other day while dusting off my book case I came across some old travel books, Paris, Turkey, Spain, New York…. I picked up one of the books and a post card fell to the floor that I had not laid eyes on for a long time. It was a postcard that I wrote and mailed home to myself ten years ago while on a solo trip to Italy.
Well, out of sight out of mind because I’d not given any thought to that postcard in all these years (yes I dust off my bookshelf but it had not fallen out before – giggle). I picked up the post card and skimmed it over. Among other interesting things on the card something stood out, “Remember all of your special thoughts and feelings” and “Remember me, I will always be with you”. Well, I grabbed a seat to re-read the card and absorb the message because anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not the sappy type at all and when I read the note it really took me back. Reading this card, I felt like I’d written it especially for this kind of moment. A time when the the magic of a trip is worn off and the day to day necessities of life like, commuting, meetings, grocery shopping, moisturizing, counting calories, beefing with family and “friends” or dusting off bookshelves are the norm again.
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Henry Miller
Do you know how exhilarating it is to walk down the streets of Shanghai China soaking in the people, language and architecture?
How exciting it is to be kissed by an elephant in Chiang Mai?
How adventurous it feels to hop on a tram and pick a random spot to exit and explore a neighborhood in Istanbul?
Do you know how amazing it is to sit ring side at a Thai KickBox match in Bangkok with a Belgian guy on one side and a Swiss on the other?
Well I do, and I did it all solo.
I love to travel or better yet I have a passion for travel. I travel more than anyone in my circle of friends and family and I don’t come from a family of travelers. I’ll lobby friends or family to go someplace and when everyone turns me down I’ll go it alone anyplace on the planet. Just recently I started to figure out why I am always so anxious to experience new places and do whatever it takes to get there and also wonder why everyone else doesn’t feel the same passion. Well its because they have other passions like, work, boyfriends, hair, reality tv…no just kidding….well kinda. I often get, ‘Sacha, I can’t afford to travel like you’ and my response is neither can I so rack up airline points and I save save save because like I said its a passion for me but not for many.
I look at it this way, travel its the fastest and easiest why to bring on a new perspective to my life. I can go on a trip for two weeks and come back affected by my journey. I then hang out with someone and kinda get a feeling like, I’ve grown in some way which means changed in some ways. As a result, I think some of my relationships are affected in one way or another.
“There is a kind of magicness about going far away and then coming back all changed.” Kate Douglas Wiggin
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” Augustine of Hippo
A two week trip alone through Thailand will surely get your mind charting brand new territory about yourself, your life friends and family. This is not something that you can accomplish at home, you have to actually take the journey.
One year, I think 2003, I took a short solo beach holiday to the Grand Bahamas. I booked a cheap but nice room near the beach and laid out on the sand all day then drank and ate my way around the Lucaya area. I met up with a group of 6 from Ft. Lauderdale that came over on this huge sailboat (the boat belonged to a couple that sailed it from South Africa to the US originally). They invited me to sail back with them to the states. Well I figured they were vampires or something… I mean who does that right? Well long story short, I took the bait and it was an amazing experience sailing back that night into the next morning. You have to trust your own intuition. I would not recommend this type of behavior and would probably not do anything like this again but I gotta say it was exciting. Now, this is not something I could have experienced from home; I had to get out to take this journey.
“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” Mary Anne Radmacher
So my first real solo trip was to Italy in August 2004 then Turkey (also solo) in November of the same year and since then I have not looked back. With Rome as my home base I took a flight to Venice and train to Florence. I remember reading reports that August was a bad time to visit because the locals leave town for vacation and there would be nothing to do because everything would be closed. That was rubbish and glad I didn’t listen.When I bought my train ticket to Florence the agent asked ‘ only one ticket, you travel alone’. Sure I felt like a spot light was switched on me and a neon sign was flashing on my back that said ‘LOSER’. Turns out he invited me to dinner with him, his wife and friends. It was lovely, and everyone was really kind. I had a wonderful time. Again, that’s not going to happen here in DC. I had the opportunity to get a real understanding and feel for Italian life. This is something that I’d never have the opportunity to experience outside of that journey.
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” Terry Pratchett
After all the planning is done and I am all packed and headed to bed the night before a big trip I often think….hey what the heck am I thinking going on a solo trip like this. Every time I return I’ve always been so grateful that I went. You know the saying “all I have is my reputation”, well I agree in that I am not my house any more than I am the clothes that I wear. I am what I do (my experiences) and for a large part what I think. When I travel I never come back the same, I mean how can you actually? When I do a solo trip I have a lot of time on the flights, hotels and days to just talk and think to myself. It may sound odd but I find that I’ve gotten to know myself during these journeys.
Stepping out of my comfort zone
I have friends who will not travel alone, even to a beach in the Caribbean. Yeah I get that it can be dangerous to travel alone, that’s a real concern but I read in the Post that someone got mugged a block from their home walking to the metro. If this is your reason to stay home all I can say to that is you are missing out. Everyone has their own journey and this is mine. my truth is not your truth and my journey is just that, mine. But my advise is to try it just once!
When I travel solo the trip takes a different direction. Often times a travel partner may influence the itinerary. Some folks are late risers or don’t like to walk or have different budgets. When solo, I set my own schedule for the day and if something catches my eye that I want to detour and explore I don’t have to consult anyone. Also, conversations can distract you from what’s going on around you.
“Personally I like going places where I don’t speak the language, don’t know anybody, don’t know my way around and don’t have any delusions that I’m in control. Disoriented, even frightened, I feel alive, awake in ways I never am at home.” Michael Mewshaw
One question that I get most often is “how will you be able to communicate”? Honestly that is the last thing on my mind and no matter the answer I still take the trip. You can’t allow any imagined obstacles to derail your trip. These are just excuses in disguise. Read about my China trip here.
Feeling uncomfortable is a good thing when traveling solo. This usually means that you are being pushed out of your comfort zone. When I am pushed out of my zone I grow.
“A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are for” William Shedd
So back to the post card. Over these past few weeks I’ve given the message a bit of thought which meant reviewing my time in Italy. Its caused me to bring back a lot of things I’d not given much thought in a long time. Like how beautiful and delicious Italy was and how brave and adventurous I am.
Places I’ve traveled solo: