"You're traveling all by yourself?!" Yes, yes I am. I pretty much got the same reaction from everyone I met along the way. After the initial shock, they would give me a look like they pitied me, but eventually that look would change into an approving nod. But overall, nobody could fathom the idea that someone would take off and travel alone, let alone do it for 6 weeks.
So why did I go alone? I think this all ties into to my previous blog entry about why I decided to do this trip. I really felt that in order to connect to the parts of me that I was trying to tap into, I needed to be alone. As an only child, being alone is very easy for me. I grew up without siblings so I spent a lot of time by myself. (All you only children out there can probably relate.) I don't think this makes me an anti-social person, in fact, I think I'm just social enough. I may be quiet or shy around strangers but once that initial conversation is sparked up, I like to listen and talk. But obviously, another reason is, there's no one in my life who could or would take this amount of time off to come with me. I'd like to think that someday, when I decide to take an extended break and do this again (which I'll definitely be doing), I'll have someone special with me. But for now, I wasn't about to miss out just because I'm alone. Being alone is what made this whole trip possible.
With the exception of about a year, I've lived alone for the last 8 years. I like my space, I like my privacy and most importantly, I like to have a choice of whether to be by myself or around others. But I think the older I've gotten, the more I want to be around other people. And to be clear, that's other people that I know and love, not just random strangers.
During my month in Rome I didn't have too many moments where I thought, I wish I had someone with me. That part of the trip was devoted to the "me" time I needed and I didn't really look at it as a vacation, but as more of a retreat. I was able to get the most of my time because I was spending my days either out and about exploring Rome, or staying in my apartment thinking, reflecting and writing. I don't think I would have accomplished as much if I had been with others during this time. But as soon as I started the second part of my trip, the traveling to new cities I've never been, I started to feel like I was now on a vacation and therefore there were times each day where I felt a bit lonely and wished I had a friend, a boyfriend or a family member along for the ride.
On my last night in Munich I wrote the following in a notebook:
This is it. This is the last night I'll be alone on my trip. And what am I doing with it? Laying in bed, looking at old pics and reminiscing. I feel like my journey to get to this journey was a long and difficult one. Maybe it wasn't so bad and I was the one making it difficult. Either way, I feel like it took forever to get here, to this peace, this serenity and this healthy state of mind. But here I am. I'm ready for the next chapter of my life. And it starts with my first trip back to Brazil and seeing my entire family together for the first time in years. After that, I return home to Ruby, to my friends and to a new job and life in San Francisco. I'll make new friends, hopefully find a nice guy to date and get to know the new city I'm calling home. But most importantly I'll be returning as an improved individual. Not a new Tina, but an improved Tina. Softer around the edges. Positive attitude. Calm, collected and focused, appreciating every minute of every hour of every day.
So why did I take this trip and spend all that time alone? That's why. That paragraph above and every single word, every single feeling and each and every moment that trip gave me. What else did I learn?
I learned that:
- You grow eyes on the back of your head, a ninja sense of awareness and magic spidey hearing (regardless of whether you understand the language or not.)
- You learn to enjoy the pleasure of your own company.
- You realize that doing exactly what you want and only what you want, is pretty fantastic.
- You learn to adjust and adapt, regardless of how strange or foreign the situation is.
- You hardly ever totally alone.
- You'll actually enjoy talking to strangers.
- You will have moments when you're uneasy or unsure but those moments will pass quickly.
For those of you contemplating a trip alone... I urge you to do it. Take the plunge. I promise, you won't regret it.