Like many people, I believe that traveling is an amazing form of adventure, experience and education. Unlike many, however, I believe in traveling solo, and before I met my fiance, I took many of my trips alone. This may sound odd since most travel ads and agencies cater to family excursions to theme parks or Disney worlds or sell couple’s only escapes to windswept beaches. Make no mistake, I have nothing against sand and sun or a good roller coaster, but to me traveling means a journey, preferably to another culture where I can taste new foods, meet local people and attempt to communicate in a language that is not my own.
I once preferred to take off alone and spend my time exploring a new terrain. I have navigated the cobbled streets of Quebec, visited the opera in Prague, been chased by wild dogs at a shrine in Bangkok, and wandered the Prada museum in Madrid. Sometimes my friends thought me a bit mad, a single woman flying off to distant lands, usually with no itinerary. “Don’t you get lonely? Aren’t you afraid?” they asked. And I answer truthfully, “Yes. Sometimes.” But I think that was the point. I like to test myself, to see if I can find my way all alone, to wake up in a foreign land and head out onto unknown streets. The feeling of freedom far outweighs any feeling of fear or loneliness.
I do like to travel with others but sometimes feel the energy expended in often complex group dynamics to be exhausting. Once I went to Miami with a group of five women. While the trip was enjoyable, I felt myself growing more and more anxious with each passing day. People wanted to do different things at different times, eat different foods, meet up at different points. We only had one rental car so trying to satisfy everyone’s needs and expectations for the trip was impossible. I realized as we debated 20 minutes over where to eat breakfast that I was truly spoiled by my solo excursions and, perhaps, I was utterly selfish in how I chose to spend my travel time. I am not used to such negotiations.
Now I have a steady travel partner, a man who loves adventure as much as I do. He met up with me my fifth week in Costa Rica and was ready to get out the 4-wheel drive and slog down barely paved roads, hike up to active Arenal volcano and hop into a raft for a white water excursion down the Pacuara River. I am thankful for the many trips I took as a solo traveler, sometimes just me, sometimes my beloved Australian Shepherd and me if the destination was driveable…but now I am even more thankful to have a partner to go on the journey with me. It’s a different kind of experience, and I have learned that sometimes it’s far more gratifying to have someone to share an adventure with, someone to turn to and say, “Look …What an amazing sunset!” And we can watch the color of the sky turn from yellow to pink to red together.