Solo Travel: Alone or Lonely?

I like to think I’ve gotten good at being alone.

Some would call that sad, but the truth is there is a huge difference between being “alone” and “lonely”. When I travel solo, I choose to identify with the first.

A lot of people seem to be afraid of making a trip alone because they think they would feel lonely. That’s what I used to think, so I understand the sentiment, but being alone has taught me more than being with others ever could and now I cherish the moments I have to myself.

It wasn’t always that way, though. I never really minded being alone, but I would almost always have something to distract me from sitting with my thoughts. There was always a TV on, a book open, or a video game to keep me busy and away from being fully present.

Travel seemed to change that for me. Travel requires that we stay in the present moment.

I started traveling alone because I wanted to travel everywhere all the time and pretty much everyone I know either didn’t want to do that or was too afraid to do that.

Perks of having divorced parents meant my family was blessed with two or more vacations every year since before I could crawl, but as I got older, the more I wanted to make it full-time.

Finally at 19 years old, I decided to take the money I made to travel on my first trip alone. My plan was to “start in Puerto Rico, exploring all through Central America, and ending in Colombia to live and travel happily ever after”.

How quickly I realized money burns.

I made it to Mexico before that plan died by lack of funds, so I decided to skip the rest of Central America and find my way to Colombia. When I told my parents I was going alone, they were sure to drill into me the dangers of it, emphasizing the travel warning set by the USA for North Americans looking to travel to Colombia (which turned out to be a lot less scary than it sounds).

Besides my parents I get a lot of funny looks and comments when I tell people I’m traveling alone. Some people think a young single woman shouldn’t be traveling alone anywhere, and they will tell you that. Others comment on how scary they imagine it is or tell me of the dangers of human trafficking.

I used to be afraid of all of these things and I won’t lie and say I don’t still think about them, but there’s a difference now, where before there was not: I am in love with travel, and I won’t let anything stop me from traveling, including my own fears and doubts.

I did start these trips feeling lonely. However, I’m 24 now, so 5 years of traveling solo has taught me some invaluable truths that I will take with me for the rest of my life and pass on to my children.

1. We are never truly alone.

Okay, in the physical, time-space dimension, sometimes there is simply no other person around to talk to. Sometimes you feel like no one is there for you, or no one understands because no one you know has been in your position.

What helps me through these times is the knowledge that I am never alone. It sounds weird in a way, but I’ve learned that “I” is someone I can talk to. “I” is someone I can love. “I” is someone I can comfort and talk through my deepest issues. And “I” is someone I should do all of that with. In fact, “I” is the best one to do those things with.

And my second truth:

2. I need nothing outside of myself to feel happy.

Yes, my friends and family are very helpful in helping me feel happier. Yes, yoga helps me feel amazing. Food is awesome for increasing my mood, and a joint is also pretty great in those opportune moments.

There are a thousand and one things in my life that can improve my mood, but the one thing that I have found to help in any case, under ANY condition, is meditation.

Or rather, being present with myself. No distractions, just me and my breath.

At first, this sucked for me. I couldn’t keep my mind quiet and I didn’t have very nice thoughts, a lot of the time; not about myself and not about others. The thoughts that I was thinking and the actions I was taking as a result caused periods of depression. I let them go on and on for years, like a record player in my head because I never noticed them and acknowledged a bigger and more positive truth. By sitting with those thoughts and realizing how untrue they were, I was able to replace them with more conscious truths.

Thoughts like “I’m not good enough” were slowly replaced by thoughts like “I am worthy of my desires”, and my new favorite: “I give myself permission to be happy”, and I started reflecting that in the real world by taking action based on this confidence that was slowly building.

Feeling deserving of my desires wasn’t about anything I did or didn’t do. I literally decided it one day, and as my belief aligned with my actions, day by day, I felt more and more worthy of what I wanted. It took practice and constant reminders in the beginning, but now it’s an easy thought. As easy as riding a bike.

These days, I love being with other people, as well, but the difference is I am much more able to enjoy it now using this mindset.

When you spend your whole life thinking “I’m not worthy to talk to this person” or “I’m not good enough to have that so why should I even try?”, life can be miserable.

I felt that in my teenage years because I believed that my being borderline obese was reason enough to not feel worthy to talk to others who I thought looked “better” than me.

Thanks, media.

Commercials telling us we should buy this or that so we can change x to get y are effectively telling us we aren’t good enough. At least this is how I interpreted it.

This is why I don’t watch TV anymore. This is why I’d rather be in my own movie than just watch one.

That mindset is ridiculous, I know this now. I realize with full confidence (now) that I am worthy of my desires, including talking to whomever the heck I want, no matter what weight I am at; no matter what I look like. I realize with full confidence (now) that I am worthy of the things I want, and not just some of them, but all of them.

It sounds like such a simple switch, but years of practicing that depressing thought of feeling undeserving of attention gave me a really bad habit I finally had the sense to kick later on in life. I could probably credit solo travel for that, but the truth is I must credit many things–like meditation, support from my family, lots of TED talks and other YouTube videos to allow me to explore my mind, and ultimately my own emotional guidance system–that led me here.

When you’re thinking you’re not good enough a lot of the time, life kind of sucks a lot of the time. You have fears and doubts about literally everything you do and I’m still working through old doubts and fears on a day-to-day basis. It’s all about practice, though, and retraining the brain to think the way you want it to think. This is the most valuable lesson I have learned to date.

I can say with confidence that when you’re thinking you are worthy of all that you want, life is pretty damn great. Sure, shit still hits the fan sometimes and I have to take cover until it passes, but I don’t mind it as much now. My thoughts are my safety net. Life has only gotten better ever since.

Though I still occasionally catch myself thinking “I’m not good enough for that”, the difference now is I can more easily catch it because I am more aware of my thoughts as a result of putting in the practice to sit with them. When I catch that thought, and any other that arises like it, I immediately replace it with something that feels better.

When you decide you are worthy, you are worthy, and nothing can keep you from what you want.

And that’s pretty much why this blog is called Freedom Mindset. This mindset is true freedom and can take us literally anywhere we want to go in life. This type of mindset was something I was taught through the guidance of tons of different sources, but truly what has gotten me here is myself and my own desires. And that is something to be proud of.

So, here I am, writing this from an AirBnb in Venice, Italy, and while I’m alone at the moment, I feel far from lonely.

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