Someone asked me a while ago how travel has changed me and what I’ve learned from it. Honestly, I couldn’t answer that question until recently.
I spend a lot of time by myself especially when I travel. It’s both by choice and occasionally, it’s just because that’s how things pan out. Traveling alone primarily started this year, so it’s only been about six months, but it’s allowed me to really find and get to know myself because it’s opened me up to so many different experiences. You become so much more aware of what’s happening around you because you don’t have any other option but to adapt and to try to make friends. You learn to rely solely on yourself and you’re more exposed than you would be if you had someone to cling onto. It’s almost like a fish out of water scenario, and it’s tough at first but then you learn how to breathe.
People always ask me why I travel by myself. They’re surprised that I’m confident enough to go at it alone. I’ve been ‘flying solo’ mainly because it’s too difficult to link up with someone who is financially prepared and has the time available to do so. There’s also the element of people in general, and the fact that they are often unreliable. The reality of it is that most people I know aren’t as driven as I am in the travel aspect. When I set my mind to something, regardless of what it is, I will accomplish it. I’ll do whatever it takes to see it through and I’ve always been this way. So when I told people I was going to go to Australia ALONE in May, everyone kind of knew it was really going to happen.
I wasn’t really alone though. I ended up spending two weeks with the most amazing person I have ever met, and he showed me things I never thought I would get to see let alone experience. This is when I had an epiphany: when you travel, its not just about where you get to go and the things you see; ultimately it’s who you spend your time with and the company you keep.
The people you meet on your travels can change everything. I didn’t realize this until recently. That coupled with your overall outlook. You can go to the shittiest place on earth, and if you choose to get something out of it and to have a good time and to be open to the things that happen, it can end up being one of the best experiences of your life. The reason I’ve fallen in love with the places I’ve gotten to travel isn’t necessarily because of the cities themselves, but because of the people in them.
All cities are pretty similar in my opinion. Yes, you have your slight differences – but city life is about the same anywhere you go. New York City is fast paced and packed and just overwhelmingly huge. Chicago is a little more laid back, but I think the people are friendly so you get more of an ‘at-home’ feeling when you’re there. Sydney is practically run by Asian food restaurants and can be insanely expensive, but at the same time has some of the coolest hidden places. At the end of the day though, they’re all just places with large quantities of people and big buildings.
I normally spend a lot of time in bars because I’ve found that it’s easiest to meet people there; the atmosphere is pretty much made for that. However, when I spent two weeks in Sydney I only set foot in a pub maybe twice. I met significantly less people there than I did in say, Chicago when I spent an entire weekend doing an Irish pub crawl, but I didn’t really feel like I missed out on anything. I got to see more of Sydney than any other city not only because I had a fantastic tour guide, but I wasn’t hung over every day. This allowed me to pack everything into a 12-14 hour day, every day.
Don’t need alcohol to have fun, CHECK!
This seems like it would be a no-brainer, but six months ago it was tough for me to even imagine. I loved it though. I probably had more of a daily routine/schedule when I was in Australia than I do at home. I got up earlier and was able to get more out of my days. It was fantastic (this was after all the jetlag subsided of course).
Honestly, what really gets to me after all this traveling is coming home. I’m aware that ‘real life’ is much different than vacation, and it’s normal to feel like you’re coming down from a really great high – but it never ceases to amaze me how much my ‘home’ doesn’t feel like home anymore. Every time I leave it feels more foreign than the last place I had been traveling to. It’s not because of the actual places themselves though, it’s because of the people.
I am confident enough to believe that you can build a home literally anywhere and that it is possible to be happy there, as long as you’re happy with the people around you. This isn’t to say that I don’t love my friends or anything. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I didn’t have them in my life. I’m just aware that there are a lot of people in this world, so how am I supposed to meet them if I only stay in one place? I have yet to satisfy my wanderlust. The closest I have come to doing so was with this last trip. I know exactly why though. The biggest lesson I’ve learned from traveling has been..
‘Home’ is people, not a place.