This guest post is a special one because I had such a similar story. Kristin reached out to me years ago to say she was dreaming of travel but was afraid to leave her life to travel so I sent her a lengthy email to let her know all of her fears were normal, life on the road wasn’t perfect but I had no regrets. I love that she is passing on the encouragement.
My fingers hovered over the keyboard. Could I really do it? As soon as I did, I knew that it would all be real. The chain reaction would start, then the floodgates would open. I’d be standing right in the thick of it, learning how to swim.
I sat there at my desk and asked myself, “Are you really ready to buy the one-way ticket? Are you truly prepared for all the things that it will mean?”
I had been contemplating a solo journey for the better part of a year at that point. I knew I needed to shake up life but I didn’t feel ready. I was worried I’d walk away from a chance at a good, stable life with a solid career and relationship. I was afraid I’d never get those things again if I let go of them now.
But something just wasn’t right. I had felt it for far too long. I knew I needed to make a change and I knew exactly the direction I wanted to head in.
The answer that night was finally, “Yes. I’m ready.”
It took me a while to get to that point. I had long been fascinated with the idea of traveling in Asia. Ever since I got a taste studying in Taiwan four years prior, the desire to spend time there never really left me. After four years working at an investment bank, I was fed up and needed a change of scenery. I had some money saved up and I could afford to take a break. It seemed like the perfect time to quit and go.
At first, I thought about taking a month or two to get through Southeast Asia and figured I might be able to find various friends who could join me for a leg of the trip here and there. If I played my cards right I’d always have a friend with me. I’d avoid loneliness that way. It felt safer.
Then I started to realize, Southeast Asia is a bigger place than I thought. It turned out that, wow, Southeast Asia is actually huge.
Two months was not going to cut it. I needed something more like a year, at least.
Except that by considering at least a year away, I had to make much bigger changes. I would have to accept that nobody could take a year off with me, and that the trip would probably be a solo one. I would have to get rid of most of my belongings – my furniture, half of my clothes, my car – basically anything that wouldn’t fit in my old bedroom at my mom’s place. I’d need to put in notice to end the lease on my apartment and I’d miss a few weddings and birthdays. That I could stomach. That I could reasonably do, bit by bit. That wasn’t the hard part.
The hard part would be walking away from a four-year relationship.
All of these thoughts ran through my head as I sat looking at the perfect flight: $561 one-way from LAX to Bangkok.
I could just buy it, and then I’d have the motivation I needed to follow through. My credit card details had somehow magically appeared in the necessary fields. My passport details were sitting there too. All I had to do was click one button and it would be so.
So I did it.
The following months were full of fears, tears, excitement, detachment, and exhilaration at my newfound freedom, mixed with an occasional longing for the security I had let go of. I asked myself a lot of critical questions. I had doubts. Overall, though, I was excited. The plan was set in motion and there wasn’t anywhere to move but forward.
I boarded that plane alone, one-way ticket in hand, without any idea what awaited me on the other side.
I was excited, though. This was my big chance to be single for the first time in ten years. Prior to that I had skated from one relationship to another, never taking the time to get to know my needs and wants as an individual.
I was finally going to get the ‘me’ time I needed to really get to know myself.
Then He happened
Except after only two beautiful, euphoric months in, I met who I thought was Mr. Perfect, and he talked me into moving to Australia with him.
The following months were once again full of fears, tears, and detachment. The relationship became a power struggle. I was stuck once again in the very thing I had tried to walk away from.
How had I got it so wrong? Did I really just end up in the same situation? Burning through my savings, trying to salvage something that was doomed? Had I traded the golden opportunity to travel alone, following my own whims just for a stressful day-to-day existence, depending on someone else for my own self-esteem?
I left Australia after 9 weeks to return to Thailand, heart macerated, and determined to steer clear of anything romantic for a good long time.
It finally needed to be about me.
And then I fell in love
Finally the decisions all fell to me. Did I want to go right or left? Did I feel like having a coffee or a coconut? Did I want to go swimming or go for a motorbike ride? Did I feel like heading to Cambodia today or should I stick around Thailand longer? Every choice was mine, and the girl who had always been within me but never got a chance, began to shine.
I came to realize, I love talking to random strangers on busses. I am actually almost fearless when it comes to trying something new. On a trail, I’m the first one trekking along ahead, and when boarding a boat, I stick one leg on and swing the other leg over. I don’t want nor need to take anyone’s hand. I know my legs. I trust them. I look people in the eye when I talk to them, I hold my back up straight. I walk around with my head held high, like I know exactly what I’m doing.
I’ll never wonder what it’s like to hitchhike across China, to sip chai tea at 5000 meters in the Himalayas, or what people mean when they say “Thai spicy”. I won’t look at photos from Safaris in National Geographic and wish to know what a Zebra really looks like in person. Most of all, I won’t look back and ask myself why I never took a leap of faith, challenged myself, or tried something that terrified me.
And of course there are times when I’m scared, unsure, and feel dejected. Moments of doubt followed me from home and have stayed with me on the road, but they’re becoming fewer and farther between these days. I’m having more up days than down, and I feel more grateful now than I ever have before in life.
Grateful for the opportunity to finally fall in love with me.
Do you want to fall in love, too?
Ever since I started traveling and writing my blog, messages have come in from women all over the world asking how I finally took the leap of faith and started traveling on my own. They say that they’re scared, they worry they’re not strong enough, and that they’ll be lonely. In response I wrote down everything I’ve learned from the past three years of solo travels – I wrote the book I wish had existed when I was contemplating this life change that night so long ago – a handbook to just help make the process more manageable and less daunting.
Do you want to travel but you’re scared of the road ahead?
Kristin Addis is the solo female traveler behind Be My Travel Muse, a website for off the beaten path adventures. For the past three years, she’s traveled the world alone, hitchhiking in China, sleeping in a tent for over a month in Africa, and learning how to say ‘I love you’ in 12 Asian languages. She just authored the guidebook for solo female travelers, Conquering Mountains: How to Solo Travel the World Fearlessly. You can find more of her musings on Instagram and Facebook.