You can always look back and just know the moments that you will remember forever. Those moments that you just sit and think, “What person would I be if I never experienced that?” Do I regret anything? No, of course not. But would I change the way I thought about things, and the conceptions that I brought over with me, definitely.
Traveling alone for the first time is a daunting task, it is not something that any one person would do to be in their comfort zone. It is an adventure that one undertakes to break from the norm, to feel free. To just be with themselves and under the influence of none. I didn’t take this adventure to escape from life, I took it to prevent myself from loosing it. Fresh out of high school, trying to find a life that doesn’t revolve around assignments or homework or grades. This was an attempt to inspire myself to become the person that I know that I wanted to be. However there was always a dark cloud of doubt in myself that was overhead. Something that was always telling me that what I wanted in life, this perfect image of what I will be was never going to happen. Society was telling me “that’s life, that’s the real world”. Life was the reason I wasn’t going to achieve the things that I wanted.
My first trip without the familiarities of family, friends or a plan. I had barely organised my accommodation when I landed in Spain. I was lost and at this point in my adventure alone. I started with a romanticised version of my travels in my head, sitting in a Spanish bar making friends and discovering the European nightlife. The beauty of traveling alone is that you are able to discover things about yourself that you wouldn’t have otherwise, say if you were with a friend or your family. You get lonely and you feel isolated, and it is in that retreat from all others that you explore, live and create but without the company of another, without the laughter, without the ability of being able to share that experience with someone you love. If you have been like me and never done anything adventurous or exciting on your own then this can hit you, and this hit me hard. I started to lose motivation, suddenly lying on the bed in the middle of the day using the free wifi seemed like the better option, despite that fact that there is an accent city, a buzzing night life, glorious foreign fresh food just a short walk from there. I was forced to over come the difficulties of being alone, there is no one there who cares enough to be a shoulder for you to cry on. No one is there to deal with your problems because they’re all dealing with their own. I had to realise that this is what I signed up for, there was little time to be homesick to have a cry and stay in bed all day. I had to think of how long it took me to save, how long the flight was and all the effort I put into this trip. What would I regret not doing the minute I landed back home. This is the feeling of travel, and only when I embraced the freedom did I really start to enjoy myself.
The whole backpacker culture, and just the general culture of South America itself is incredible. I met people and the next day we were catching up like old friends. I found that you can plan as much as you like, however those plans were changed, pushed back or just forgotten altogether. I planned for 2 months volunteering in Peru, which changed to 4 weeks of volunteering and 3 months of traveling down the west coast of South America with old friends from the day before and nothing to slow us down except the lack of sleep and the lack of cash in our wallets. Everyday becomes a new adventure, a new story, I learned to expect the unexpected. I learned that everything gets better with time. At this point I barely remembered the feelings of isolation in Spain. What I will remember is the bus breaking down just after crossing the border into Bolivia. Just deciding to bike down ‘Death Road’ and only telling my family the day after. Spending an hour setting up for a photo on the Salar De Uyuni. Biking through the Vally De La Luna in Chile to watch the sunset with newly found mates. Bussing it to a town with no accommodation because I met someone who saw an Instagram picture of this beach and thought it was beautiful.
I became amazing at first impressions, there was no such thing as an awkward silence. The conversations about what people have done and the stories everyone brought to the table were so inspiring. It makes me want to do more, see more places and meet so many more people. Its these personalities that I fell in love with, the time I spent with the people in these places is what you remember. Sure there will be sight so majestic in front of you there are no words, i.e. when I finally made it to the top of the endless stairs at Machu Picchu. The place would be nothing if it were experienced alone, without being able to share it with amazing people. go through the struggles together and experience the reward at the end together. And then being able to say goodbye to these same people the next day, knowing that you may never see them again.
I know that this is one of the most cliched line for a traveler to say. But the moment I landed back home, when I knew my trip was over and I had to face the everyday adventure of regular life again. I felt changed. now almost a year on, the feelings have stayed. And with everyone around me not fully understanding how special it all was just allows me to feel like I am a part of something bigger. I once heard the quote, “To understand the world, you first have to see it.” That is what has changed, my view of the world, just my place in the world a bit more.