A thought came to me as I was trying to sleep. I’m the only person staying in a guesthouse on a surf break in Indonesia. The owners don’t stay here so it’s just me.
There’s also a blackout, so the once fan-cooled room is now humid and damp. I hear the grumble of the ocean churning in the rocks below me. All round me is dark, empty.
I start thinking how I normally hate the feeling of an empty house; the shadows, the quiet. But right now I am at peace.
Where did this newfound contentment come from? I lay in the dark and thoughts tossed over in my mind.
It has to be from travel.
Every single day spent on the road challenges your fears and your comfort zone. Once I came to accepting that I was no longer in total control of my journey, the more I enjoyed the ride!
With the dim light of my torch I began to list the fears that I have faced from travelling. The more I manically scribbled in my notebook, the better I felt.
1. Being alone. I’m the person who craves constant companionship. I want people around me to entertain me, talk to me or listen to me. Travelling solo has made me appreciate my own company. I am now more attuned with my energy levels and seek meaningful interaction when I feel the need, rather than a constant stream of contact. Spending more alone time is becoming almost therapeutic for me, I feel like I am growing and learning more about myself every day.
2. Distraction. A fear that goes hand in hand with being alone is your own mind. Being left with my thoughts is something that frightens me, not because they are particularly terrible, but because they feel endless.
When you’re sitting cross-legged completely silent for the umpteenth hour in a meditation retreat somewhere in the mountains you have to listen and acknowledge your thoughts. When your devices are out of battery, your book is finished and you’ve got a 12-hour bus ride… you accommodate and listen to what you’re thinking. When you’re on your second day of meandering down a river in a groaning long boat, you can become at peace with your monkey mind.
“Being left with my thoughts is something that frightens me, not because they are particularly terrible, but because they feel endless.”
3. Making decisions. Some people are better than others at making decisions. There are the leaders, and those who are more than happy to cruise along with others’ plans. When you’re travelling solo you have no choice but to call the shots. For me, focusing on my needs and myself has made me able to think the clearest I have in years. I make decisions that affect only myself. When there is only yourself to consider you begin to reflect on what you want and need. It’s an unbelievably freeing feeling.
4. The ‘typical’ phobias. Don’t like creepy crawlies? If you’re on a budget I guarantee you; you will encounter your fair share of spiders and rats. In fact, you will most likely share the same quarters with them when you sleep. And unless you’re willing to splash out on a boutique hotel, you have no choice to accept their presence. In my case, I have been facing an ongoing battle with heights. Despite this, I’m not going to forsake a three-day trek because mountains make me giddy. I’ve learned to suck it up, trust myself and push my limits. But if I don’t make it to the top? No worries.
5. Shyness. Are you uncomfortable approaching strangers and asking for help? Do you clamp up in social situations? When you’re on the road you can’t always rely on someone to do all the talking for you. Chances are you will find yourself in a situation where you will need to speak up – whether that be asking for advice, befriending a local, or sitting in on a beach bonfire. Every interaction you place yourself in, will make you feel more comfortable in the long run. And don’t let awkward encounters hinder you – every time you communicate with someone an opportunity for adventure awaits!
6. Unplugging from the ‘real world’. This fear is so prevalent yet it tends to go unmentioned. Downtime on the road can reduce you to scrolling newsfeeds and asking for the wifi password. But when your tyre goes flat in a desert village, or your island bungalow has no wifi, or you find yourself at a hippy festival in the mountains – there is no connection to the digital world. That initial anxiety that comes with the feeling of not knowing soon merges into a resistance. It is okay to not always be connected. In fact, some of the best experiences happen when you completely absorb yourself in that moment and appreciate it.
“Some of the best experiences happen when you completely absorb yourself in that moment and appreciate it.”
7. Spontaneity. No one really admits to fearing the spontaneous, although I think we all know that one traveller who has everything planned to a tee. The pedantic, list-making, guidebook-toting tourist. You can’t always factor in a delayed flight, a flooded road or food poisoning. These things happen. Ditching the concrete plans and embracing the spontaneous can be initially tough, but the experiences are always worth it!