Two seemingly unrelated incidents happened in the past 10 days.
First, I received the following random email:
I don’t know if you will remember this or not, but a few years ago, maybe in 2012, we had a very thought provoking discussion on travel and how many countries you visited. You told me about a market train that goes through India that I have yet to visit.
You advised me to travel by myself for the very first time, you said that I have to do that after I told you some stories of how I was raised and all.
It was great advice; it took me a while and some therapy, but I did go to Morocco by myself in 2013 and it was a life changing experience, then I followed with some more trips to really awesome places, and 2013 & 2014 were really good to me.
I stumbled upon your Instagram, I think it’s you, I recognized you from one of the photos. I’m 90% sure it’s you, if not then I apologize for wasting your time 😀
If it’s you, I wanted to thank you; we only talked once, but it was one of those times that a conversation made some hidden light shine bright inside. :)”
Needless to say, I was intrigued as I had no idea who this might be and had no recollection of this incident. I replied expressing my appreciation for the message and delight that I was able to affect some positive change, and enquiring about the sender’s identity. He later told me in what context we had met and where that conversation supposedly took place, and I sort-of-kind-of vaguely remembered.
Irrespective, this left me with two thoughts:
- The number of people we somehow affect with a word, a conversation, or an act is probably so many more than we are aware of. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to do that, and it’s a great feeling to be told about it. If someone affected you, let him or her know! It creates instant bonds.
- More importantly, this reminded me again of the importance and value of taking some time to travel alone. Ideally it would be to a place outside your usual area of travel or comfort zone, but even going in the same country to a new area you don’t know and spending time with yourself examining your thoughts and your reactions is one of the most rewarding experiences that few people for some reason dare to do. I do of course have some friends who do that; but most would absolutely not consider it, mainly for fear of being bored, of being perceived as alone, or even for fear of having thoughts they are afraid of facing. And yet, it is rather sad if you don’t think you can really enjoy your own company..What would that say??
The second incident is a conversation I had with a close friend of mine this past week, a successful woman who forged her own path with a lot of hard work. She told me that she is angry from the inside; she said she misses her real self. She does not recognise who she has been made to become, even if with her own approval. She said she misses dressing up as she pleases, walking the streets freely, cursing, dancing, and doing all the other things she now no longer permits herself to do for fear of harming her new identity.
I know from my own experience that it is very difficult being truly yourself, even though in the past couple of years I have been edging closer and closer to that: saying more of what I feel and think; caring much less what others think and how they judge; keeping in my regular circle only those I truly want to see, and those who I am happy spending my time with…but even in my small struggles with this, I don’t think I have ever experienced this sort of rage at being a completely different person than who I truly am. I have made big decisions about my personal and professional lives that were totally outside the norm, but all of which were for the purpose of being able to live as truly and genuinely as possible. But this sort of alienation from self was a little strange to listen to.
I advised her the same thing: while it might be very difficult for many reasons to give it all up (I don’t know why it’s even worth it to live like this, but I’ll take that as a given), people who are especially in such predicaments need to offer themselves the gift of traveling alone..to new places where no one knows you and no one cares, where you can be totally who you are, or even better, who you want to be…roleplay even, create stories and live them out, tell stories that are the stuff of movies…break the chains, let loose, explore your inner self, become best friends with yourself. The one thing that is worse than not being able to live as you truly are, is not knowing who you are in the first place. And that can only be done by traveling alone, thinking alone, reacting alone, expanding and freeing your mind, in a place where you are totally anonymous and where unexpected encounters are on every corner and path.
Travel alone! It’s the most precious gift you can give yourself!
(If you have any thoughts on or experiences from traveling alone, please share them in the comments.)