Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I say, Jump In

When I tell people about my intention to travel alone the first question I almost always get asked is, "How can you do it?" Followed by a statement of, "I definitely couldn't go by myself".
My response is usually, "Well, I did invite people to join me...but no one seemed to be able to...so, it turned out that I would have to go solo."

I've had some people look at me as if I were insane, others with a small measure of admiration, while others with fear and concern. I guess having decided to go to Greece alone had been a bit strange as well as my decision to go on future trips - alone, once again. But I knew that it wasn't enough to stop me from going. A part of me wanted, needed to go and another part of me hoped that no one could join me and that I'd be forced to go through with the adventure alone. I did go (to Greece)...and from that experience, I walked away having learned so much about myself - including, learning to trust...me.

So now, I'm preparing to be hundreds of thousands of miles away again, for 30 nights...alone. No 5 star hotel, no agent having meticulously planned my itinerary, no waiting chauffeur at the airport/train/ferry...a whole nother level of self trust and self preparation will be required for me to pull this adventure off by myself - safely. This time I'll be staying in Hostels and cheap but well rated Hotels, scheduling the train and bus transportations, and overcoming my ineptitude at reading maps. I swear, I am the most navigationally challenged person in the world (shaking my head).

15 nights in Athens and Mykonos had been an amazing preparation for the upcoming journey. There were plenty of lessons learned. Here are the ones on the top of that list, where I really kicked myself for not having known sooner:
1. Get sturdy luggage (the wheels on mine had broken! and I was left dragging a 30 lbs bag around!)
2. If you think you might need it...don't hesitate to pack it!
3. Bringing extra's of things you REALLY need (like contacts!)
4. Make sure your cell phone will work
5. Buy a calling card - you're bound to get lonely, plus I need to call my Mom so she doesn't think I've been "Taken". Damn that movie!
6. Don't stay on an Island for 10 nights (ugh! it was horrible - there wasn't enough to do. It was entirely too quiet and apparently I hadn't dealt with my issues before I left for the trip, so the combination of boredom, silence, solitude, and monster issues = a near mental breakdown. But oddly enough, I felt quite whole after the ordeal)

and finally...
7. Dear God, don't leave home without Anti-acids - or the very least, sedatives (I was overcome with an anxiety attack on my flight home from JFK due to the unbearable pain of acid reflux - only to have the flight attendants and medic sedate me because I was starting to panic...wow, that was memorable). If travelling alone, pass on the sedatives unless you're comfortable with whom you're sitting next to - or give them to the poor mother who's infant child won't stop crying - cus' it's going to turn out to be a looooong flight.

Additional fruit for thought, when travelling alone; I've kept in mind the following:
Don't share taxi's with random people (watch"Taken"- you'll understand)
Oh! And don't accept "artifacts" from strangers (have you seen Bridget Jone's Diary?).
If your internal warning bells go off...listen and follow your gut instinct.

But all in all, everything ended up going pretty smoothly, although my heart wasn't left unscathed, I was as I had hoped and anticipated...more independent and proud of what I'd been able to achieve and grateful for all the things I'd experienced. If there's any wisdom I can pass along it's that you can't be afraid to take a blind leap of faith, even when other's wouldn't do it, there's no reason you couldn't succeed or shouldn't try it. These are the moments in your life that you will never forget. I didn't set out to do something amazing or to prove something but I ended up doing just that for myself, walking away with an even deeper hunger for more.

Sometimes overcoming a struggle in your life means putting yourself in another situation that's just as challenging. For me, it put me face to face with the issues that I hadn't realized that I'd been running from. It took me to be far from everything that I knew, from my family, from my friends to break through this revelation - to break, period. I went through some serious ups and downs and the journey to Greece was exactly what I needed, opening a multitude of windows, streaming in the light of possibilities for me to discover. There's so much to learn about ourselves, pushing past the barriers we've created or imagined having existed. We walk away from these experiences with fulfillment, adding another layer of strength to our wall of confidence. The once impossible idea now becomes a memorabelia in our bag of accomplishments.

Think of something you've always wanted to do but have hedged around jumping into headfirst due to "excuses". I say, jump in...It's ok if the water is cold at first, your body will adjust and if you don't know how to swim (don't panic!) trust that your inate survival instincts will keep you afloat. More importantly, trust that you're not really doing this alone. You're friends and family will be behind you in the event that you really need them to bail you out.

With that, happy travels (and I don't mean physically). Life is one long journey, you'll enjoy it more if you cross the boundaries of your comfort zone from time to time. Be open to experiences, be wary of the potential consequences or bad scenarios but don't let them stop you from enjoying life as it was meant to be lived.

Happy reading and thank you for visiting! :)

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