It has been my greatest dream but yet my most dreaded fear to travel alone. The thought of sitting on a long haul flight with no company scares me. Actually, no, the in-flight entertainment will always be my hiding place despite the presence of a company. I love to spend time with myself sometimes. Other times, loneliness will start to creep in and drain the remaining vigour I am left with. That is when the discouraging and self-condescending thoughts set in and some external influences are much needed to turn everything around. Am I so vulnerable!
Unfortunately, that first bit is only the tip of the iceberg of self-doubt and notion that everything will go awry. It seems as if my mind has been made to reckon the 12-hour painfully lonely journey as incomparable to the 12-week clueless wandering in no man’s land, unaccompanied. Thinking of the possibilities of incurring all sorts of chaos and disorder along the way involuntarily washes away any excitement and curiosity that initially drives the quest. When I am not in my comfort zone, nothing will go my way, I suppose. I love the idea of orders and plans, and thus the abstinence from them will leave me on the edge of my seat. As we all know, it will either make us fall or become a laughing stock sooner rather than later.
I will be going for an overseas study exchange in two months’ time. Upon receiving the email that there will be no other students heading to the same host university, my heart broke. I was worried about a lot of things all of a sudden. My expectations were not fulfilled. All the while, I have been imagining the scenarios of embarking on the adventure in a small group of twos or threes, at the very least. The outlook of travelling in group was abruptly removed from the equation and I was stupefied, alone.
I have to think of another plan, I thought to myself. Travelling solo, it is. That is honestly not a plan since I have no choice after all. I cannot just abandon my desire to study abroad for such an insubstantial reason, can I? I believe there are much more justifications to carry on despite the many disadvantages that may come with travelling alone such as losing out on deals for two, having to muster all the courage to do the necessary things and be completely independent. I am telling a lie if I say that I am not afraid and that am prepared to face the uncertainties. Every great thing comes with difficulties and risks is my sole consolation for the time being. Ultimately, you only live once.
There is no dumber way to look like a walking giant duvet bag than struggling to carry all your luggages. Since you will be travelling all by yourself, nobody else will be looking out for your belongings except you and possibly some robbers. Therefore, pack only the essentials that you cannot live abroad without. Your childhood teddy bear is excluded, though.
Do not look like you are lost even if you are.
This is your only chance to release your inner actor and shine on the stage of life. Look up and walk confidently as if you know where you are heading although your heart is pumping blood to your limbs faster than to your head. Also, make sure to research about the places you want to go. Since that is nonetheless futile most of the time, be wise in choosing whom to ask especially in the unfriendly neighbourhood.
Reserve and thoroughly research your transports and accommodations.
Unpleasant things do happen in public transports and anywhere at night. It is important to know the reputations of the train or bus routes you are taking and the vicinity of your accommodations well. In case you are hungry in the middle of the night and forget to do groceries, you know where to make your way to.
Do not shy away from opportunities to mingle around.
If there is a clubs and societies fair, attend and sign up for any of your interests. If there is a party nearby, dress up and show up. If you are lost in the middle of nowhere, brazen out your fear and ask a stranger. Who knows he is a fellow solo traveller and you two end up travelling together? Point number two, though. Be friendly and you will have friends.
Have an open mind.
This includes learning the basic phrases of their native languages. I would pick German, Spanish, Italian, and French. It is too much to ask? Download a language app on your smartphone, then. Since you will be meeting many different people if you follow point number four, be open to suggestions and changes in plans. The most memorable experience is usually the unplanned and spontaneous one. Get lost in the culture but even so keeping your safety first at any point of time.
P.S. Pardon the excessive use of the second-person pronoun. Just take it as if I am giving instructions to myself.
Overall, do not sweat the small stuff and enjoy the big stuff that you will get out of travelling solo. Although I sound like I have been on this voyage before, this still remains as one battle that I have yet to conquer. All my life I have been wanting to go solo but so many distractions and hindrances are dampening my spirits. Luckily, I have to wait no longer. In two months’ time, I am going to execute these tips I have written for myself to be like a stretchable rubber and an absorbent sponge.
This post is published in response to the Daily Prompt: Back of the Queue.