We've all heard or read it before; "traveling solo is something that everyone should do at least once in their life". And while I tended to believe it, I wasn't so sure that I would be drinking the kool-aid. I generally think that life it more fun when shared. There are intricacies like the the waiter and his pasta jokes, the cute couple that doesn't understand a lick of the language but is getting by on smiles and charm, and fully realizing the gravity of how incredible the little bodega is on the corner. You see, these are things that you experience. Not tell.
But, hey, I thought I'd give it a shot. After all, most people aren't willing to quit their job in search of adventure in Europe for five weeks. Unless of course you're totally out of your mind and blindingly trusting the universe (i.e. me). And I have to say, they were right. Traveling alone is one of the best, most fulfilling, most awe-inspiring times of my entire life. It certainly won't be my last.
Here are three (of hundreds of) lessons that I learned while traveling solo.
1. Humans Are Nice.
When you're traveling alone, you're much more prone to striking up conversations with random people. It's a lot less intimidating to walk up to someone all by herself than the couple smooching on the edge of the Amalfi Coast. Because of the sheer aloneness, I was able to get insight into other worlds that I otherwise wouldn’t have.
For example, while I was in Ravello I went to a cooking school. Naturally, I was surrounded by all honeymoon couples… and then there was me. The chef didn’t understand. He couldn't fathom that I was traveling the Amalfi Coast solo-cholo. After he cracked jokes about it for an hour, we became fast friends. He secretly invited me back to the school to do a whole second day (and other 4 course meal) for free. Noting that I could simply “sneak on in without going through the fancy hotel's procedure”. Because of course, I was his "assistant". :)
Then there was the cute family in Mallorca who spotted me solo-ing around. The village I was staying in was very small so you tended to see the same people everywhere. One night they spotted me at the local bar. I sat on the edge of the dance floor enjoying a glass of wine when one of the women came up to me and asked "Would you like to dance with us?" Of course I wanted to dance. I got right up in their family circle and started boogying. Turns out, they lead crazy inspirational lives in Berlin. Needless to say, they’re probably reading this now and I have a bedroom to stay in when I hit Germany to visit them. Boom.
These are just two of many stories. I firmly believe that traveling alone takes down the walls that are otherwise built up around you. You're able to get in with the culture, meet the local wine maker, enjoy the local traditions, and even find someone else to drive your big rental car through the teeny-tiny mountaintop streets of Deia when you're too scared to do it yourself. Not that that happened to me or anything…
2. The Health Food Obsession Can Scram
Ok, yes this is called "Mind Right Wellness" and yes, I do like to fuel myself with nutrient dense foods to keep my whistle clean and healthy BUT there is no need to go crazy. When I left on this adventure I bought a mini blender to take with me. The intent was to go to local farmers markets and use their fresh ingredients to blend up smoothies in the morning. I even brought my own damn organic mushroom protein powder. WTF. Before I left, I thought I was genius. Now, I'm laughing at my stupidity. I used it once (on the first day). I was trying to fit my normal routine into my life abroad when the whole point was to break it all, to experience it all, and to live it all. How was I supposed to fully understand the beauty of croissants for breakfast if I was running around trying to find coconut water (which is not a thing) for my smoothie. I gave up, and I gave in. And I'm so glad I did. I had croissants for breakfast, pasta for lunch and wine at dinner (pretty much every single day). And you know what? I felt great! If I did that in LA I would fall over in pain and question everything I’ve ever done with my life.
Sure, maybe the way it's made is different in Italy but there is an emotional aspect to all of this that goes far deeper. As my yoga teacher Heather Lilleston said, "bread can't touch you if your mind's right". And it’s true. When I was in Europe I was so full of life, fueled up on adventure and new experiences. I wasn't so worried about making sure I had "fat, protein, fiber and greens" in every meal or questioning if gluten would ruin me. I was just enjoying. Taking it all in. Relaxing into the moment, the place and the experience. And I've never felt better. While there may be a slight pasta bulge that I'm bringing home (and proud of it!), I know now that things can tip a liiiiiitle too far here in LA. I'm going to try to keep my head on straight as I re-enter the wild world of wellness that is bursting at the seems.
3. Home Is Everywhere.
We've all heard that "home is where the heart is" cliché bullshit, but actually... it's true. I thought that with all the movement I was going to feel off center. That the anxiety would creep in, the breaking of routine would wear on me, and that I would miss my beloved human interaction.
But none of those happened. Breaking routine unleashed creativity, passion and a world of lessons that I was keeping buried in my subconscious because I’ve been too busy trying to control it. There were plenty of people to talk to, enjoy with, and engage in while abroad. And I realized that I could be "home" anywhere in the world. I would imagine myself living in these places, and for most of them could honestly picture it. I even got offered a job in Rome! But the reality is that all this running around, chasing sights and experiences all just brings you closer to yourself. You find out what you're made of and how capable you actually are.
All the fears I had in traveling (getting lost, driving a car in the middle of nowhere and having a panic attack, losing my passport, my wallet, my mind) were all just blocks that were there to try to keep me in my everyday routine in LA. I'm so glad I pushed past them and said, "Not listening, I'm doing it anyway". I decided to choose faith over fear. And in doing so, learned that safety and security lies inside of me always. I know now that I'll always be ok, no matter where I am in the world.
I also learned that Italians are super sexy and getting out on the water is always a good idea :)