And why I travel alone.
The first time I ever travelled alone I was 19. Do I even need to say more?
I was utterly clueless. They sat me in the exit row. The other male passenger in my row masturbated under a blanket. We had a stopover in Seoul which I was grateful for, although petrified I was going to miss the plane the next day. I remember getting to Heathrow and feeling more overwhelmed than I ever had before. Once I got to my hostel near London Bridge, I had a complete meltdown. I was so traumatised about being alone that I almost booked a flight home. I had $2,500 in my bank account, no job, no friends, no family, no plan. I had left behind all my friends, a uni degree, a boyfriend, a car...A life that I took for granted.
I went on to stay for about nine months and in the end, I learnt to (kind of) enjoy my own company. I even went on Contiki by myself, although was very soon enveloped by a group of great new friends. I was hooked on travel. But I missed home deeply. I craved comfort, familiarity, my family, my boyfriend (who by then was not my boyfriend, but you know), my friends. I told myself that I needed to do something "with my life now".
It wasn't for many, many years later when I learnt to be with myself (and by myself, although a string of co-dependent relationships didn't give me much time to do that), that I came full circle and booked some time in Melbourne on my own.
I craved the headspace that being alone allowed me.
Sure, I had been on a few trips where perhaps the departing flight was taken solo (still one of the most amazing feelings), but I hadn't had more than a day or so by myself since that solo voyage in my teens.
My first solo trip in my thirties was shrouded in insecurity, anxiety and immense over-planning. On my mind was the impending breakdown of my marriage, what I "should do with my life" and the fact that I wasn't happy with myself, with my relationship, with my current state of being.
I thought a lot, and interspersed the thinking with way too many activities...Early morning yoga (with a long walk to and from), coffee and meals at certain cafes that each had their own journey to reach, massages at student clinics dotted all around the city, social catch-ups and of course, some work mixed in.
I fell in love with being on my own though. I fell in love with waking up and having the whole day completely open to do as I pleased, to not talk to anyone (or to talk to everyone), to not have to make compromises, or plans or anything really.
As much as it had scared me and challenged me, I was hooked.
When my marriage collapsed and took me down with it, I needed to plan an escape. I booked two weeks in Bali, completely solo (or so I thought at the time). I desperately desired to regroup, to rediscover who I was, to find the lost parts of me that had been buried in years of co-dependency.
I actually ended up sharing these two weeks partly with my soul sister, and had the time of my life. Again, the time I did have on my own I planned within an inch of its life...I barely had anytime to sit by the pool! Mornings were gym, breakfast and coffees, daytimes were various treatments and shopping, afternoons were yoga and evenings were early!
I was consumed with some drama back home which unfortunately pulled me out of the present quite a bit, and I allowed myself to be distracted...But again, even amongst all this, I was able to connect with myself more deeply than I ever had before. I felt proud of myself for surviving the four days on my own.
I fell so in love with venturing out solo that I spent a few days over Easter on my own in the Gold Coast. It was the perfect time to find space and bring myself back after a crazy few months post-Bali.
With these solo endeavours under my belt, I booked the next trip and planned for double the amount of time (eight days) solo, in Ubud again. I don't know what it is about Ubud, and about Bali in particular. Well, I do. It's the amazing, organic coffee. It's the overwhelming amount of wholefood cafes. It's the beautiful people. It's the amazing scenery. It's the weather. It's the vibes. It's the yoga and the CrossFit and the surfing and the cycling and everything in between. It's my favourite place in the world (and I have been a fair few places).
It's the perfect location to visit on your own. It's safe. It's affordable. It's easy to get around. The beauty, the feeling, the welcoming people allow you to settle in and...Breathe. I can breathe better here.
I was nervous about this trip, eight days on your own when you are usually surrounded by people can be overwhelming. When my partner left me at the airport I had a moment of panic, a moment of SHIT am I going to be able to handle this? But once I calmed myself down, took a few deep breaths and settled myself, I knew I had done the right thing.
I didn't over plan this time. Sure, I had a few things in mind that I wanted to do, work that needed to be done, but I didn't map out a schedule, I just let life flow.
It was magical. The days flew by with fun gym sessions, various types of yoga classes, feasting on beautiful food, lying by the pool, reading, chatting to friends back home, massages and simply wandering the streets to take it all in.
I wasn't distracted. I wasn't trying to fill my days. I just was.
I found clarity. I found myself practicing gratitude in every moment of stillness. I found peace within myself, that I hadn't been able to find in the busy-ness of my life. I found myself being content with where I am in my life.
Sure, I set intentions and made plans and had to make some arrangements for returning home life. But I was able to do all this calmly, confidently and more clearly than ever before.
Solo travel has seriously changed my life. I thought being on my own was scary, and it took me awhile to overcome this, but now that I have, I am addicted. I can't imagine living my life without pockets of solo time away from home. It brings me back down to earth, it grounds me and it allows me to find space.