Solo travel – how do you find the courage?
I usually prefer solo travel or in groups of strangers. People often ask me this question: “How do you find the courage to do this?” I received this question so many times in the past few months that I decided to write a post about it.
What does adventure mean to YOU?
But first of all, what is an adventure? I’ve heard so many versions and answers to this question. When in London, I was attending “The Adventure Travel Show,” and I had the opportunity to see live Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the world’s greatest living explorer (recognized by the Guinness Book of Records). Sir Ranulph thinks that a genuine explorer is a person who is going to a region that has never been explored so far (by anyone, ever). While I very much respect the achievements of Sir Ranulph Fiennes, I must disagree with him on this problematic. Yes, being a pioneer necessitates, for sure, a significant amount of courage, planning, resources, and dedication. In his context, even lifelong commitment to this goal.
But at its core, an adventure is subjective for every human being. Take, for example, Alastair Humphrey’s concept of “microadventures.” This guy invented the term and brought adventure as a concept close to city life. Microadventures are for people with busy schedules, having maybe a family and wanting to dedicate also as much time as possible to family life. You can check out his website. I find it very inspiring.
“I’m far more interested in being a beginner than in trying to become an expert. Life is difficult and complicated for everyone. But is also very very short. I think it is important to focus on what YOU want from your life, rather than just chasing the conventions that society dictates”.
Alastair has a Youtube channel as well. Check this out:
Between these two extremes, there is a whole spectrum and types of travels, adventures, and adventurers. There is, in fact, all the rest of us, who understand and live adventures in our particular way.
My complicated relationship with the new and unknown
I don’t consider myself to be a courageous person, despite what other people keep telling me. On the contrary, I struggle a lot with fear in my life, and sometimes I can’t get over it.
So that you can better understand, I will tell you a short story about my life. I grew up in a small provincial town in the southern part of Romania, Wallachia. My parents separated when I was a child. I grew up living with my mother’s grandparents, mostly and with my mother. In this context, I inherited a transgenerational trauma from the family, linked with a tragic event that occurred many years ago. When my mom was a teenager, her sister died in a car accident. They were together in the same car, going to the University of Medicine in Bucharest for their first exam session of the first year at Uni. My grandfather was driving. The weather conditions were terrible, they had poor visibility, and the car impacted a truck that was illegally stopped on the first line of the national road.
This tragic event left physical and emotional scars on everyone in our family.
In Romania, there was still the communist regime 50-60 years ago. Of course, there were no therapists to help people process loss and grief. I think that my grandparents and my mother never fully recovered from this tragedy. So they were always super protective and cautions. I grew up in an environment that was aversive towards taking any risk or trying new things. It took me a while to learn how to drive a car and to do it without being extremely and continuously anxious that something terrible will happen.
So, how do I find the courage to travel solo?
Fast forward today, it still takes me a long time until I can allow myself to experience new adventures alone. Somehow I always had this internal drive to challenge my limits, but I struggle with high levels of anxiety before actually doing it. Solo travel makes no exception from this.
My ability to go on adventures alone comes from perseverance and acting despite the fear. I can allow myself to take the time to be comfortable enough with the idea. Then make small steps towards my goal and bear with the anxiety.
Also, planning helps me cope better with fear. It gives me a sense of predictability that is necessary for me to be able to form an idea of my future experience mentally. It also contributes to increasing my desire for the positive aspects of that experience through anticipation. This way, I am focusing less on fear.
So in the present, my adventures are mostly linked to traveling solo and trying new things in those destinations: meeting new people, cultures, and spending time in these new natural environments. I discovered that it helps me develop different perspectives on my life, and I always come back home with new learnings.
So yes, I think I also enjoy more being a beginner and allowing myself to learn and experience the unknown than trying to become an expert of what I am already familiar with.
Seeing both sides of the story
In the end, I am grateful for my family legacy. I believe it is, in fact, a gift. Because, you see, together with the trauma, I also inherited the immense love that my grandparents had for the great outdoors, for the mountains, nature, and for going off the beaten track trails. And so I am capable of testing my limits with prudence. By learning how to take risks and regulating the high anxiety levels, I brought back to life their love for exploration, which disappeared together with their beloved daughter, my aunt.
If there is one thing that I would like you to take with you from this story, it is that no matter where you come from, you can also build the courage to travel solo and meet new people on your way.
I don’t think that everything you set your mind to you will achieve. You have to know and consider your limitations. Staying grounded, conscious, capable of introspection, combined with perseverance and grit, will get you further than you have ever imagined. And if it seems hard, don’t run from it, do your best. In this way, you build resilience. You can apply this principle for every aspect of your life: physical fitness, business, personal development, you name it.
Solo travel or with new, unknown people is incredibly rewarding. You circle expands, you meet people who maybe you wouldn’t have had the chance to meet in another context. And you learn so much from them. It is worth it.
If you would like to follow my journey and read more about my adventures, feel free to subscribe to my newsletter, and keep in touch. 😉